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Israel

Importing Digital Chutzpah in times of COVID-19

17th May 2020

EIT Hub Israel goes online to scale up digitalization

By Irith Fuks

Since February 2020, the world has been disrupted by the COVID-19 virus. Many companies had to rapidly switch their strategies and find new approaches for functioning and staying relevant in these Corona times. This was also the case for the EIT Hub Israel, a global outreach programme of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT).

Originally, the EIT Hub Israel had planned for the ‘Connect and Experience’ programme, which invites European Ecosystem managers to learn and engage with the Israeli ecosystem. However, the COVID-19 disruption made the Hub reconsider how to provide new online value. Yoni Levenfeld, Project Manager of EIT Hub Israel says: ‘The night before the onboarding for the programme, Israel had closed its borders. We knew we had to act fast, and by the next morning we deferred the delegation and came up with a new online plan’. From this low point, the Hub reacted quickly and came up with a meaningful alternative. The Hub has been providing useful resources and practical skills to combat Corona and to maintain relevance for European and Israeli companies. The Hub introduced a series of webinars called ‘Hacking the Corona virus’, ‘Master your online Hackathon and ‘Managing digital Ecosystems’, which helped to adapt and create an online bridge between Europe and Israel where both countries could learn from each other’s digital experiences and skills. Here is how the Hub shaped its programme of Webinars and its Hackathon.

 ‘Quick and dirty’

The Hub used the innovative Israeli mindset to adapt quickly to the new situation, EIT  Hub Israel Manager, Adi Barel: ‘Reacting quickly and short term thinking is in the core of Israeli culture. We learned that there was a demand for supportive tools to work remotely and we acted on it immediately to secure innovation and business continuity’. The Hub came up with ‘Hacking the Coronavirus’, a webinar series providing the latest content from top Israeli speakers and organizations, offering immediate response to COVID-19 business challenges. Altogether, the series of these 5 webinars supported the connection between European and Israeli ecosystems. A total of 400 people participated, 80% Europeans and 20% Israelis.

The first webinar of the series brought Israeli leaders in their field to provide tools and help optimize digital platforms. It was presented by Tommy Barav (SuperTools) and Mike Silberg (ISCL). In the second webinar ‘Space up your team’, Neta Vizel (Organizational Consultant) and Moshe Tzvi Wieder (Brix Software) shared how to effectively manage your team remotely, based on practices from space. In the third webinar, Or Haviv (Hub Eilat) taught participants how to incubate start-ups remotely. Helen Gottstein (Loud&Clear) conducted the fourth Webinar and engaged participants in ‘Sharpening your online message’. Lastly, the Team8 leaders, Nadav Zafrir and Assaf Mischari, together with Adam Finkelstein and Daniel Krivelevich from Sygnia guided the participants in maintaining cyber security in a rapidly evolving landscape.

Claire Nassiet, Education Manager at EIT Health participated in the Webinar ‘SPACE Up your team’, and described how it increased her communication dexterity: The webinar has led me to propose new channels of communication and to confidently propose to re-think the tools we use to decrease emails and ensure smooth communication. It gave me the tools to think in solutions and and not only express problems.’

 

Focus on creating the ripple effect

The initiatives above were a useful first response but the Hub wants to engage deeper than this. The EIT Hub Israel organized together with Startup Nation Central, an online Hackathon Masterclass to provide innovation leaders with the best tools to lead their own online events. This masterclass powered by BLEE Hackathon, offered its 27 participants the ability to work in mixed teams consisting of Europeans and Israelis. Therefore, it served as a digital bridge between Europe and Israel. As Adi Barel said: ‘Even though this is a time where we can’t go to conferences, and network in the traditional way, we still want to meet new people. It is a unique situation, and we tried to innovatively have a short term response and connect Europeans and Israeli’s online’. 

This three session-workshop offered participants practical tools for planning online startup events, such as hackathons, ideation, and matchmaking. The workshop brought together EIT partners, staff and Israeli participants, half of the participants were Israeli, and half of the participants were European. This allowed them to co-design online engagement. One of the participants stated: ‘it absolutely smashed the skepticism about going online, and boosted my confidence about the synergy by adopting the online aspects to the original plan.’

Creating methods out of disruption

As we know the COVID-19 outbreak will change the way we work and collaborate. In order to be able to hold and manage innovation ecosystems in the future, the EIT Hub Israel created the ‘Manage your digital ecosystem’ workshop focusing on adjusting resources and skills to digital ecosystem development.

The main goal was to create a digital layer for the world bank model to support all ecosystem managers online, by providing an online toolbox and a newly transformed model to manage their online ecosystems. Diverse and inspiring Israeli speakers facilitated the different elements contributing to an effective innovation ecosystem creating together this much needed ‘digital layer’. The training contains 4 inspirational meetings with top Israeli mentors who already have adjusted their way to the new world successfully.

The first session, ‘The new World Ecosystem Model’ was given by Nili Shalev (ISERD) and Romi Davidor (Israel Innovation Institute). The second session shed light on the complexity of raising funds during COVID-19 and how to effectively engage an online audience by Guy Katsovich (LA Fusion), Laly David (OurCrowd), and Dvir Andre Tzanua (BLEE Hackathon). The third session explored open innovation, ideation and commercialization by Lior Weizman (SAP), David Shem Tov (Technion) and Ayelet Cohen (HUJI Innovation). In the last training participants presented their takeaways from the new digitize modeled, while sharing their experience as digital pionners. Additionally, guest speaker Yael Malatsky (CityZone) revealed skills to connect people in ecosystems in her talk: ‘How to be the GLUE of your ecosystem’. The course helped them to design, develop and maintain their future-proof online ecosystems. One of the participants said: ‘I understand what makes Israel stand out as a start-up ecosystem. High aggregation of people with a creative approach in how to do business as usual’.

The Israeli EIT’s rapid response which includes teach-the-trainer sessions, can be seen as the most efficient way to prepare for an adaptation to new ecosystems. Stay tuned, for the new and improved model of EIT Israel Hubdates!

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