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InnoStars Talks: “Failure is part of success!”

9th June 2022

Several experts have tried to identify the secret components of Israel’s success, making it the country with the highest number of start-ups per capita. Adi Barel, the Managing Director of EIT Hub in Israel, offers a glimpse into the success story whose next chapter includes a closer co-operation with Europe. EIT Hub is at the forefront of sharing the know-how between the two regions with dedicated programmes and unique opportunities.

“People here are very keen on taking high risks and they are not afraid to fail. Failure is part of the culture. Failure is part of success! An Israeli entrepreneur can fail three, four, five times and will still try. Failure is not shameful… it is something we are proud of. This is the Israeli culture” – says Adi Barel with a confident smile, while she shares the complex set of factors that have made Israel a tech superpower.

She sure knows what the “secret sauce” of the success is, as the Managing Director of the EIT Hub in Tel-Aviv, she has a deep understanding of the business world, especially the start-up scene, which has skyrocketed in the past years, earning Israel the “Start-up Nation” title.

Barel goes on to explain that the two regions, Israel and Central Eastern Europe have a lot to offer to each other. The EIT Hub was established in 2019 with this specific purpose: to create synergies between Israel and Europe. In the last 2,5 years, there have been several successful projects and programmes that have proved that Europe, including members of the EIT Health community, can learn a lot from Israel and apply best practices and know-how to boost innovation.

Innovation: Over 60 years in the making

One of the areas concerned is the tech field. “We have realised that a lot of traditional industries don’t tend to do innovation activities, don’t tend to implement technology in their system.  In Israel, we have know-how from over 60 years of doing open innovation. One of our main programmes is ’Disrupt Me’ which offers European corporates to come to Israel and scout and implement technology based on Israeli know-how. We’ve worked with 14 leading European corporates in 2,5 years of operation” – she explains, adding that the Hub has several other programmes in its portfolio, based on different needs, not only for corporates and entrepreneurs but hospitals and universities too.

Ecosystem management is another field in which Israel has a great experience. “We have another programme – that could be of interest for the EIT community and the partners – during which we bring 20-25 ecosystem managers from Europe to Israel, each year, for a very intense training about how to best manage an ecosystem… including how to run a good accelerator programme, what the new trends are in accelerator management, how to attract funds and how to build an ecosystem from scratch” – Barel says, adding that EIT Health industry partners have other options too: apart from plugging in into one of the Hub’s programmes, they can build a consortium or a project around Horizon calls as well. Israel has recently joined Horizon Europe after „long and tough” negotiations, and the main goal is to encourage more Israel-EU comprised consortia.

Eyes set on Europe

„Our goal is to encourage the European region and EIT Health partners to join and benefit from what we are doing here. We are part of EIT. Our first clients are the EIT community and partners” – she highlights, adding that such collaborations are of mutual benefit since Israeli entrepreneurs are keen on reaching out to the European market, which is advanced in terms of regulation and is also a goldmine of talents.

The CEE region has especially caught the attention of Israel, and there are great examples of collaboration. Novartis, for example, is not only managing its CEE site from Israel, but the global healthcare giant often seeks new talent and solutions from Israel and Central Eastern Europe. Novartis, EIT Health and EIT Hub Israel have joined forces for the programme ‘ChallengEIT’ launching in June 2022, in which selected start-ups will have the opportunity to test and grow their technologies with full support from an EIT & Novartis team of global mentors to reach a successful Proof-of-Concept.

“Necessity leads to innovation”

It is worth analysing Israel’s road to success, however, there are some unique factors that played a significant role in its journey. Adi Barel says that Israel had to develop ways to survive out of necessity, since it was a “small island”, with no natural resources. “Necessity leads to innovation” – she says.

The fact that it is a small country, has also been encouraging young entrepreneurs to think globally. This leads to “big dreams, a different way of communication and culture within a company”.

Barel adds that compulsory military service is also a defining experience professionally: after young girls and boys leave the army – after 2 and 3 years respectively – they have solid work experience.

“The Israeli military is very advanced on technology, we have some tech elite units, and many of the veterans of these units are the start-up founders” – explains Barel. Many successful CEOs then are happy to share their experience and mentor young entrepreneurs simply because they want to help. Barel believes that the strong sense of community, which is typical of Israeli society, has also been an important factor in the country’s development.

Thankfully, sharing best practices, learning from each other and intensifying collaborations is becoming a global “trend”. Adi Barel is hopeful about the new generation. “I see a lot of similarities between the younger generation in Europe and Israel… they are very global and very open-minded.”

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