Tel Aviv leaders urge Australia to change attitude towards innovation

Ramesha Perera
Fri 05 Jul

Three months ago, a small, privately-owned spacecraft made history, when it found its way to the moon. Beresheet’s landing was a failure - the 1.5 metre robot crashed onto the moons surface after its engine malfunctioned. 

But the Israeli company behind it - SpaceIL - is now using the experience to inform future space missions, and students. The team is aiming to inspire a new generation of innovators - and cement the country’s reputation as “the StartUp Nation”. 

It’s this culture of accepting failure and encouraging risk-taking that many Israelis credit for the country’s success in tech and innovation. And it’s prompted a group of prominent Australian women leaders to call on Australia to change its attitude towards innovation.

Among the Israeli measures some of them say Australia should consider adopting- a government authority that pumps hundreds-of-millions of dollars into high-risk tech innovation and startups. More than 30 women leaders from top Australian businesses and universities, as well as from the public sector, visited Tel Aviv last month to learn how a country with fewer than nine million people became a major player in cutting-edge innovation and technology. High tech exports are worth more than $50 billion a year to Israel, making up around 50 per cent of its total exports. 


Chief Executive of the Business Council of Australia, Jennifer Westacott, who co-led the delegation through the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce, said Australia could learn from Israel’s approach to inventing.

 

“We’ve got a bit of a view that innovation is a scary word,” she said.
“We’ve got to change that view and make people understand if we innovate, we create more jobs, we create better jobs, we create more highly paid jobs.”


Delegation co-leader Christine Bartlett, who is Chairman of the Smith Family and non-executive director of Mirvac, iCare and Clayton Utz, said Israel had created a business eco-system around “investment and invention” through its tech arm-investment, the Israel Innovation Authority. The Authority provides around AUS$722 million in grants to high-risk startups, research and development projects. 

 

“That model I think is something we could readily adopt in Australia and get alignment with government on seed funding, to get small startups that initial investment, to get them started and on their way,” Ms Bartlett said.

 

Around 70 per cent of the Authority’s investments fail.

Paul Israel, Executive Director at the Israel-Australia Chamber of Commerce in Tel Aviv, said the difference between the Israeli and Australian approaches was “the attitude of investors and the government to failure.”

There were around 6000 startups in Israel at any given time, and around 1000 failed each year. 

 

“A big part of our delegation is helping the Australian leadership understand the importance of failure and how to accept it,” he said.

 

The Landing Pads program in Tel Aviv and four other major cities is one of the governments initiatives to support the startup ecosystem.  Australian Landing Pad manager in Tel Aviv, Omri Wislizki, said the program ran a “boot camp” for Australian startup founders, to help them expand their businesses globally. Around 250 Australian companies have participated over the past three years, including 65 in Israel, mostly from the cyber and agri-tech sectors.

Read the full article at 9News

Image: When the Beresheet spacecraft crashed during landing the company behind it used the experience to inspire a new generation of innovators. (EPA/AAP)