Building Innovative Ecosystems
Edited by John Sibley Butler and David V. Gibson
Chapter 5: The Land of Milk, Honey and Ideas: What Makes Israel a Hotbed for Entrepreneurship and Innovation?
Uzi De Haan and Boaz Golany INTRODUCTION 1 A recent article in The Economist (2009) calls Israel, Singapore, and Denmark the ‘lands of opportunity’ and refers to them as role models to show how entrepreneurship can thrive and flourish in different cultures. The article lists some of the factors that helped make Israel a hotbed for innovation and entrepreneurship: the massive entrance of large multinational corporations (many of which are US based) that have established R&D centers in Israel; investments and actions taken by the Israeli government to educate scientists and engineers; the special role played by the universities in general and the Technion in particular; and the influx of many well-educated Jews who left the former USSR after the fall of the Berlin Wall. But the main reason for Israel’s flourishing innovation and entrepreneurial activities in the eyes of The Economist’s editors is the fact that Israel is an embattled state located in the middle of a sea of Arab hostility. Hence, innovation is perhaps the only way for the state to compensate for its constant inferiority in population, land, and other natural resources (except the human resource). Columnist Thomas Friedman addresses the same issue in a thoughtprovoking article (2008) entitled ‘People vs. dinosaurs.’ Friedman compares the differences among Israel, which has been investing in its people, and some of its neighbors (notably, Iran), which rely largely on oil made of fossil bones. Friedman poses the same question – what makes Israel so special – and provides answers that are...
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