The Center For Israeli Innovation introduces the world to Israeli innovation

By Shoshana Rice
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It’s true, Israel has quite the intriguing political climate and religious history, but it’s time we give more attention to another extraordinary side of the Holy Land. Barely 70 years old and the size of New Jersey, the tiny newborn country ranks in the top ten most powerful innovative countries in the world and nearly surpasses the entire United States of America in economic areas such as research and development, spending, and concentration of high-tech companies (israel21c.org).

The Center for Israeli Innovation By Taglit in Partnership with the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange provides an opportunity to talk about the fact that this sliver of controversial land has over 4,000+ operating startups. Through the center’s lens, visitors can learn about Israel as an international leader in technology, engineering philanthropic and groundbreaking inventions for agriculture, medicine, transportation, security, and outer space.

Israel's vast achievements given its size, age, desertscape and security threats, make a deeply fascinating topic. The tour starts with a short video and an eloquent guide, prompting visitors to analyze and theorize how and why the nation spawned such an impressive and inspiring scene.

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After the guide’s introduction, visitors have time to browse exhibits with short videos and diagrams detailing Israel’s recent innovations. From Biobee, (a healthy pest control using bumblebees), to the Iron Dome, the inventions reach across seven categories, including medical and health management, safety & security, smartphone apps, etc. You can even take a water break at Water-Gen, an invention creating drinking water out of the humidity in the air, potentially aiding the two-thirds of the world living in water-stressed situations. Then following the exhibitions, each group meets a leading Israeli entrepreneur who presents his or her personal and professional story and answers audience questions.

© Shoshana Rice

A fun and interactive experience admiring this awe-inspiring national phenomenon, the center can appeal to tourists and locals alike of all ages and backgrounds. In the city center next the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange on Ahuzat Bayit St 2, come to learn about Israel’s revolutionary strides in different fields and leave empowered by the young nation’s influential immensity.

For further insights, we interviewed the Innovation Center director, Shir Zilberstein.

What was the motivation or inspiration for creating this type of center?

Each startup begins with a need. Taglit Birthright had an unmet need to show groups the innovation side of Israel; it was a crucial missing piece of their tour. Some Taglit organizations would invite themselves to a startup company or hub, but it wasn’t feasible to send so many groups. Also, they desired a place that could provide a broader perspective of Israeli innovation. So we invented that place. The center was originally intended for Taglit participants, but curiosity and interest arose quickly, exposing even greater potential for the center and its reach. Now beyond our thousands of Taglit groups, we also host governmental and business delegations from all over the world, a variety of private and group tourist organizations, and all kinds of people who want a glimpse into the Israeli innovation scene.

Also this center gives us the unique opportunity to examine a bigger picture, talk about the dynamics of our economic ecosystem, what makes us our society so fertile for innovation, etc. We’ve also formed a huge entrepreneur volunteer network of over 350 people to share their stories.

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What demographics does the center usually attract?

A lot of people within Israel’s innovative community want to come, like Israeli startups, education programs, and soldiers, and we do love hosting them when we can, but we try to prioritize the international community. We’ve had many business and political groups, including diplomats and government officials trying to better understand Israeli society. For example we’ve hosted consultants from American congress, a governmental party from France, the Prime Minister of India, investors from China, India, and Latin America on business delegations, managers of a big bank from Mexico, and others. We also host a lot of international Jewish organizations like Hadassah Women, the Jewish Federation, and tons of Jewish and non-Jewish tourist groups.

It’s also open to the general public, you just have to call and we’ll add you to a group or create a private tour depending on availability.

What is your favorite part of the exhibit?

One of my favorite and most promising companies is called OrCam. The founder also founded Mobileye, (a car collision avoidance system, also on display in the center), the largest exit in Israel’s high-tech industry, (selling for 15.3 billion U.S. dollars), and his new project is also highly associated with tikkun olam. When choosing the companies presented in the center, we see great importance on their impact on people’s lives. We believe in the Jewish value of tikkun olam, making the world a better place, and Orcam is definitely one of those companies.

It’s a small instrument that the visually impaired can put on their glasses. The instrument can read for them – taking whatever text they look at and sending it through a little speaker in their ear. It can even recognize people’s faces. This allows the visually impaired to independently do some of the very basic things we all take for granted, like reading street signs, going into the right shop, choosing the right credit card, and recognizing their friends and families. We have the real product here in the center to demonstrate how it works.

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What are the main ideas or sentiments you hope visitors will walk away with?

We want to spread awareness that we’re creating something special here. We hope to show visitors another side of Israel, because Israel is so much more than its political and societal problems. Both in spite and in light of our strenuous circumstances, we create wonderful things here. We want people to see the fertile ground around them.

For more information or to setup a visit, email innovationcenter@taglitbri.com or call 054-333-1971.

You can also check out their website at http://www.taglitinnovation.com/

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