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Mission Log: Day 5

In Israel, if your venture or research failed, you’re considered experienced. Not a failure.

We’re sitting in a very modern conference room on the 16th floor overlooking Tel Aviv, at the offices of IMED, a medical habitat in the heart of Tel Aviv, situated on the urban campus of Tel Aviv hospital (Ichilov), discussing the conditions that make medical innovation work in this hospital setting, from bench to bedside. The conference room is modern and intentionally uncluttered, featuring a concrete-like conference table and blonde wood sitting. Directly outside is Mixer, a work lounge. It’s lunch time and the place is buzzing with people. Set on our table is a tempting spread of sandwiches, because in Israel innovation starts with a happy belly and coffee.

We’ve come here to meet Benjamin Soffer, CEO of Ichilov Tech, the university innovation arm/TTO that also runs the IMED accelerator, and with COO Omer Muzaffi. Ben’s LinkedIn says “Seasoned professional with a vast history of working in the research industry and a demonstrated ability to create, impact and transform organizations.”

And that’s the entire point. If you want to drive innovation, you actually have to transform organizations. Ben talked about a particular set of conditions that must exist, or else. IMED is one example of this. It brings together the clinical staff from the medical center, a physical working space, and investment from inVITA VC. But that’s not all, and not nearly enough. Ichilov has 2300 active clinical trials, and he believes that institutions that can’t demonstrate their impact on society and business, won’t be around. Therefore, institutions must become playgrounds for innovation. But what are the right conditions?

At a macro level, Ben discussed some of the elements that make Tel Aviv rank 7th in the world in global tech ecosystems (Philly is ranked 27th). It starts with feeders, which are the universities, government funding, and army technology units veterans. Other important attributes include a culture of ideation; improvisation (an essential Israeli quality); creating the right environment and paths for ideas to be tested and commercialized rapidly; and global dissemination of knowledge and ideas because Israelis study, teach, and work globally (which is not seen as a brain drain but rather the opposite). He also notes with caution the correlation between geopolitical risk and the decline in innovation.

These necessary conditions were echoed earlier in the day when we visited with professors Dan Peer, Adi Barzel, Anat Globerson Levin and others. Dan Peer is an internationally renowned scientist and also serves as the VP for Research and Innovation at Tel Aviv University (TAU) which is rated 7th in the world in Entrepreneurship (higher than leading universities such as Yale (tenth place), UCLA (eleventh), and Princeton (twelfth). TAU boasts 16 thousand graduate students, PhDs and postdocs, an enormously fertile ground for innovation. He was describing TAU Ventures which offers seed funding of $150,000 to $1 million for cutting-edge projects by students and alumni as an example of the conditions that exist to commercialize innovations from within the university.

If you're curious about ways to impact your organization by adopting and adapting the Israeli framework, stay with us and let's get immersed and learn to apply it together. This is likely to increase entrepreneurial success in our region. Will you join us?

Our mission trip ends here on day 5. But the PICC will stay focused on innovation and commercialization through events, programming, and a soon to be announced trip to Israel, designed to immerse academic, government, and business leaders from our region in the Israeli innovation framework to implement in their own organizations.

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