In preparation for the Silicon Club meeting which will deal with the subject of “Disorder Management” (to be held tomorrow, June 29, 2020) and in which he will participate as a lecturer, we are pleased to host Yizhar Shai, the incoming Minister of Science and Technology. In the first interview with Chiportal since taking office, we asked Minister Shai to share his views on the industry’s response to the Corona crisis and its plans for the future. Among other things, Yizhar says: “I intend to strengthen the connection with the high-tech and innovation ecosystem in order to create a unified interface for industry contacts with the government and to create a horizontal understanding in the various government ministries regarding the needs of the Israeli innovation industry.”
As a manager of high-tech companies and an investor in your past, how do you see the role of the Ministry of Science and Technology as a supporter of the high-tech industry in Israel?
The Ministry of Science and Technology is responsible for building the national strategic plan in the fields of research and development, setting national priorities and making recommendations to the government on national technological infrastructures. The Ministry employs the National Council for Research and Development, which examines the various alternatives and submits its proposals to the Israeli government from time to time. Hence, the firm should be in constant contact with the Israeli innovation industry, hear opinions, voice and conduct a continuous process of mutual fertilization and learning, while encouraging Israeli research and innovation. In addition, I intend to strengthen the connection with the high-tech and innovation ecosystem in order to create a unified interface for industry contacts with the government and to create a horizontal understanding in the various government ministries regarding the needs of the Israeli innovation industry.
2. When most of the money intended to support the high-tech industry is in the Ministry of Economy, what is your ability to really influence the industry?
I work closely with the Ministers of Finance and Economy in everything related to encouraging the innovation industry in Israel. We have joint projects with the Innovation Authority and as mentioned above, since the firm is entrusted with drawing up a long-term policy, it requires many collaborations and work interfaces.
3. The corona crisis that has hit us all by surprise could lead to a local and global economic crisis. What changes do you expect to happen in high-tech and / or the business world as a result of the crisis or do you think everything will return to normal?
The crisis has created a severe demand problem for most high-tech companies, even those that have been able to adapt to working remotely and / or under the limits of the Corona. In addition, there is a significant decrease in the volume of investments in Israel and around the world. I anticipate that the recovery will only come when long-term solutions are found that will enable the economies of the countries of the world to return to full-scale functioning and trends of growth. Until then, there has been a decline in salaries, reductions in manpower and recruitment. At the same time, it is important to remember that it has already been proven in the previous crisis of 2008 that massive investment in R&D produces engines of growth and employment. Therefore, it is important to continue to support companies in the early stages and also entrepreneurs can assume that it is time to embark on entrepreneurship, create innovative ventures and grow the next generation of innovative companies.
4. In a recent survey conducted by the Innovation Authority, more than 50% of companies reported that without raising capital, their activities would be stopped within 6 months. Do you think the state (ie the Ministry of Finance, the economy and perhaps even your ministry) should support startups that have run into financial difficulties as a result of the crisis or is this the responsibility of the companies and their investors?
In conditions of market failure it is certainly the role of the state to select areas where it produces incentives and removes barriers. Undoubtedly, investing in the early stages is one of these areas.
5. She has often been cited as working for the integration of populations and sectors in high-tech and is also interested in bringing high-tech to the periphery. What are your plans in this regard?
The Ministry of Science and Technology is involved in many activities that make science and technology professions accessible to youth and marginalized populations across the country. I intend to deepen these activities and at the same time create a connection between the thousands of companies active in the innovation industry and the thousands of groups that are in different frameworks that the firm supports. In addition, we are currently preparing programs to encourage the establishment of innovation centers in the social and geographical periphery of the country, while creating collaborations between the private and public sectors for this purpose.
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