Medical Device Daily Israel Correspondent
ZICHRON YA'AKOV — The second Israel Innovation Summit at the International Convention Center (Haifa) in late March was a carnival of technology from across the spectrum, with everyone catching a gold ring.
Joseph Gilor, CEO of Olive Bay (Haifa), founder, head of program committees and driving force behind The Israel Innovation Summit, opened the gathering by saying: "We brought together over 180 breakthrough technologies from start-up to global enterprises in ten areas of specialization during this two-day event."
And Doron Birger, president/CEO of Elron Electronic Industries (Haifa) and chairman of the Israel Innovation Summit, emphasized the summit's focus by characterizing Israel's global position as "the most important technology hub outside of the USA."
And Birger told Medical Device Daily, "We can only assure that this innovative spirit will thrive in Israel by supporting education and socioeconomic opportunity at all levels, which, thus far has resulted in over $12 billion in venture capital invested in Israeli technology development over the last decade — the highest percentage of GDP in the world."
Thus the Innovation Summit bestowed an honor on a leading and innovative community and education sponsor, the Israel Venture Network (IVN) "to leverage that the human capital that we owe our industries to will continue to grow," he said
Eric Benhamou, IVN founder and chairman, told MDD: "Our intent is to forge scalable, systemic solutions, with a three-pronged thrust to confront and cure social, educational, and employment crises that are currently jeopardizing the very foundation of Israel's technological success, the growth of its human capital into the next generation."
He added: "The members of our venture philanthropy network of technology entrepreneurs and business executives are typically dissatisfied with the conventional way of philanthropy, and look for a way to use their expertise in the help of Israeli society."
Benhamou — widely recognized as a networking high priest and elder statesman of telecommunications — chairs 3Com (Marlborough, Massachusetts) and Palm (Sunnyvale, California), among other board positions, and is a member of the U.S. President's Information and Technology Advisory Committee.
He took the time to come to Israel to receive the tribute recognizing the significant accomplishments of the effort that he has led and grown during the last six years since he founded IVN.
Benhamou told MDD: "Education is society's key to breaking the lock of poverty. We need to open up these barriers if we are to secure Israel's hard-won place in global enterprise." And he lamented, "Today, an alarming 60% of Israeli students do not pass the matriculation exams at the end of high school essential to go on to higher education. It is painful to think of the tragic loss and potentially fatal consequences to the nation, to the world, of this shunting of young minds from opportunities to contribute."
"One of IVN's main endeavors is the EI [Educational Initiative] that infuses its collective business acumen substantively for improving the effectiveness of Israel's struggling school system. IVN works directly with teachers, principals, municipal leaders and the Ministry of Education officials at all levels," said Benhamou.
IVN members are encouraged to work their networks, to bring influence, as well as personal managerial expertise into their highly professional and committed hands-on business consulting at all levels from grassroots, individual entrepreneurs to regional efforts.
Itsik Danziger, a leading member of Israel's technology community, is a board member of IVN, chairing IVN's EI Municipal Intervention in the Galilee Panhandle. Danziger told MDD, "The Second Lebanon war [this past summer] brought to the fore the hardships suffered by the communities of northern Israel, prompting our immediate action here and in other peripheral areas."
He said, "IVN, together with our strategic partners — the Sacta-Rashi Foundation [Ben Shemen, Israel], the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, and UIA Federations Canada [Toronto] — aims to strengthen the effectiveness of the local education system by implementing innovative concepts such as a 'Municipal Information, Measurement and Evaluation Unit'" that helps the local education systems to implement good working practices, such as annual and five-year plans, agendas, measurable objectives, setting milestones to achievements, and data-based decision-making.
"We have gotten such positive feedback from municipal leaders that we are extending our efforts into other regions in need, especially in the periphery," added Danziger.
Benny Levin, chairman of dbMotion (Tel Aviv), winning awards for its online health management network solutions, told MDD, "IVN has determined that it can be most effective in supporting the Northern regional economy by developing its most significant component, small and medium sized businesses. We are implementing a micro-financing program with a mentoring program for those businesses with untapped potential working together with MATI Small Business Centers throughout Israel and via local business consultants. We believe this united program will maximize current and long-term impact by reinforcing networks and empowering local resources for local and nationwide goals."
Levin, IVN vice chair and chair of IVN's Economic Reconstruction Initiative (IERI), created in response to last summer's Lebanon war, said, "During the past seven months, the IERI has already identified and entered over a dozen businesses into our hands-on mentoring process. We expect to assist about 150 businesses with an average of 4-50 employees."
Another of IVN's programs focuses on those individuals aiming to make entrees to help cure and prevent societal ills.
"IVN's Social Entrepreneur Fellowship Program recognizes, supports and mentors social entrepreneurs. These are the innovators of social benefit, society's change agents. We give both financial and professional support and bring the tools and power of the corporate world, to help the success of their efforts," said Benhamou.
In giving the award to the IVN, Birger said, "We hope that honoring the IVN this year especially, will be a symbol and a wake-up call for many to apply their technological skills and business acumen to the problems of society, in a networked interactive way. We can do what laser- or high-frequency ultrasound surgery has done: bring more healthful benefits, less pain, and faster recovery, to the body that supports the human capital for our industry."