Life Sciences, Agriculture and Food: Enhancement of Innovation Systems

An innovation system we should consider is that engaged in life sciences, agriculture and food. In these fields, Israel possesses a range of advantages and even boasts several success stories; however, they have yet to sprout a surrounding sophisticated innovation system. Specifically, key elements that contribute to the success of the ICT system in Israel, such as a widespread financing infrastructure and multinational corporate activity, are as yet not sufficiently developed in these fields. By developing the lacking elements, it may be possible to leverage these fields' existing comparative advantages to a complete system. In particular, consideration should be given to Israel's ability to create a comparative advantage based on interface with technological strengths in the ICT field. This is especially so in those areas which already present growth potential such as medical equipment, digital medicine, personally tailored healthcare and precision agriculture.

The field of medical devices is one of wide-spread activity with approximately 570 Israeli companies[1] that have already yielded several success stories, especially in the medical aesthetics sub-sector in which Israeli companies lead the world market. A further field evolving in Israel in recent years, and one in which Israel possesses valuable assets that can be leveraged is that of digital health. These include firstly, Israel's technological leadership in the field of data processing and secondly, the information, unique in its scope, stored in Israeli medical files. Government action such as the national program for digital medicine and the Mosaic Initiative seek, among others, to enable Israeli industry and academia to maximize the advantages these assets have to offer.

Israeli scientific excellence contains significant potential for the pharmaceutical field. Although necessary for success in this field, such excellence is by itself not sufficient for success. Several research institutions of world acclaim operate in Israel, most prominent among them the Weizmann Institute that was ranked sixth in the world among life science research institutes by the respected 'Nature' magazine.[2] However, research excellence has yet to crystallize into a complete industrial eco-system and commercial successes are few. Nonetheless, recent years have produced the first signs of maturation of the Israeli pharma industry. In particular, we have witnessed a considerable number of companies reaching the clinical trials stages and it is to be hoped that this trend will continue and grow.