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Dr Henri Rothschild at inaugral event of Winnipeg Chapter of Jewish Business Network at Fairmont Hotel, October 19.
Photo by Rhonda Spivak.

Students from Winnipeg's Jewish Business Network, with Matan Hazonov, National Director of JBN (centre-left).
Photo by Rhonda Spivak.

(Left) Yossi Smoller, advisor from the office of the Chief Scientist, Israel's Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labour.
Photo by Rhonda Spivak.


by Rhonda Spivak, October 24, 2010


While most in the Jewish community view Israel as politically “isolated”, “alone in the world”, and locked out of every club,  Dr.  Henri Rothchild ,who was recently in Winnipeg says that in the world of innovation and science “Israel is a very sought after partner.” 

While the Middle East political conflict is “real;” Rothchild,  who lives in Montreal and is the  President and CEO of  Canada-Israel Industrial Research & Development Foundation (CIIRDF) says that  the forces of innovation that are at play in the world are "just as real". In fact, Rothchild predicts that years from now our era will be recorded in history as one where the “most powerful changes in innovation and science have occurred,” and “Israel is a dominant force” in this realm.

One of the most important developments that is not well-known is that in June 2010 Israel was chosen to head the largest research and development network in the world, the EUREKA organization, a pan-European inter-governmental initiative that supports European innovation  and more than 300 collaborative projects in a variety  of  industries totalling investments of  over 1.5 billion euros every year.

As Rothchild  says “EUREKA is a like a mini-United Nations of industrial innovation, and when Israel was chosen to assume the presidency this year, there was no controversy, no walk-outs and no boycotts.”

Israel, the only non-European member country, has been among the most active of the 40 members since joining the program in 2000.  [One example of a successful pairing since Israel joined Eureka is between the Israeli agricultural company Veterix, and DeLaval, a Swedish milk industry giant. Veterix developed a capsule that sits in the stomach of a cow to monitor the health of the animal from within, and worked with the Swedish firm to co-develop the idea.]

According to Rothchild,  "One week after the Flotilla controversy [when Turkey threatened to cut diplomatic ties with Israel], EUREKA’s website was calling for projects between Turkey and Israel…The Turks want Israelis as [innovation] partners ...because it wants to play with the best.”

The Chair of EUREKA is Israeli Cheif Scientist Dr. Eli Opper, and on October 27, 2010 in Tel-Aviv there is a  EUREKA conference which will provide European Industries with unprecedented exposure to Israeli and entrepreneurship (for more information on EUREKA, go to

Rothchild was the keynote speaker on October 19 at the Fairmont Hotel at the inaugral event of the Jewish Business Network [JBN] (for more info on the JBN inaugral event,  see related article ).  Rothchild  also gave a briefing on the morning of October 20 in the Kanee Foyer at the Asper JCC, put on by the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg. Shelley Faintuch of the Jewish Federation of winnipeg was involved in arranging to bring Rothschild to Winnipeg for the  Centralia business conference, and Rothschild arranged for five Israeli start up companies to attend the conference.  

Rothchild, who was born in France is also the President and CEO of  ISTP Canada [International Science and Technology Partnerships Canada] , and Precarn, another science and technology company, listed several reasons why he believes Israel has been at the forefront of developing innovation and successful start-up companies. 

The first reason, in Rothchild's view, is that Jewish culture and talmudic tradition is “based on questioning assumptions” and looking at an issue from different perspectives.

“The reason that Jews have won so many Nobel Prizes in Science is not because we’re smarter than anyone else.  If you look at debates that take place in the Knesset, you’ll see that. But in Jewish culture it’s imperative to question and challenge assumptions. That’s what the talmud is all about,” says Rothschild.

He noted that even before the State of Israel was born,  the Jewish community had established three scientific institutions of  higher learning, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, The Technion Institute in Haifa , and the Weitzman Institute in Rechovot.

The second reason Israel became so technologivcally advanced, according to Rothchild, "has to do with the leader of France Charles De Galle", who “was the father of Israeli innovation.”

In 1967, when DeGalle decided that France would “stay neutral”, Israel, which up until then had relied on French military innovation to equip the IDF, decided that “no one else should ever be able to control its defense capability,” and  thus began building its own capabilities.

“The interconnectivity of Israeli society doesn’t have a parallel,” says Rothschild.

Another factor in Israel’s success in innovations is “the army,”  Rothchild told the Winnipeg Jewish Review in an interview following the event.
“In the army, you’re not only learning how to fight but how to work in teams [which is important for successful scientific collaboration]. You can’t be a soldier in the IDF without knowing technology. It gives practical experience.”
An additional reason, according to Rothchild, that Israel is so technically savy is " that some 25 years ago, Israel created the office of the Chief Scientist , which is a highly well-structured institution that draws from all talent pools, including the army, and supports innovators through the Incubator  ["hammamah”] Program."
The Incubator Program was developed as a “result of the Russian aliyah”, an aliyah that brought  a lot of brilliant new immigrant scientists , who would need assistance in bringing their inventions to the point where they could be marketed.
The Incubator  Program, which started in 1994, is a mentorship program that absorbs a large portion of the risk for developing companies in early stages, money plays a minor role, and provides entrepreneurs with physical premises, financial resources, tools, professional guidance and administrative assistance.

Start-up companies looking for guidance in their very early stages are matched up with established “incubator” companies that mentor the young company. In exchange for its services in mentoring the start-up the mentoring company will take equity in the new start-up company.

“No other country in the world has developed an Incubator Program as successful as Israel’s,” says Rothchild. 

Rothchild also notes that “no one has more partners than Israel in the field of science and technology. Israel has 24 bilateral agreements."

Rothchild predicts that looking ahead in the next ten years, “we are going to see a budding Canada –Israel relationship’” given that Israel has so much to offer in the realm of high-tech and innovation. This will happen because  "both sides will benefit."

Also, it will happen because Canada, like other developed countries, realize that scientific knowledge  and innovation are the keys to economic growth."That's why governments around the world are pouring money into research and development," says Rothschild.

 For example, he noted that recently an Israeli delegation visited Nova Scotia to discuss marine technology, an area where Israel has expertise.

He suggested that Israel’s Incubator Model could be applied to Manitoba,  for example to the R & D of the Institute of Bio Diagnostics, to help start-up companies take off.

Shelley Faintuch of the Jewish Federation of  Winnipeg was involved in arranging to bring Rothschild to Winnipeg for the  Centralia business conference at the Winnipeg Convention Centre, and Rothschild arranged for five Israeli start up companies to attend the conference.  [The Centralia conference will be covered more extensively in a future article.]

A day after Rothchild made his presentation, the Winnipeg Jewish Review interviewed Yossi Smoller, an advisor from the Office of the Chief Scientist, in Israel’s Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Labour, who was in Winnipeg for the Centralia conference.  Smoller said that under Israel’s Incubator Program, when young start-ups can not get private investments, “Israel’s government decides to take the risk, and provide incubator services, so that the new company is attractive to private investors.”

According to Smoller, “The statistics are that for each $1 the Israeli government invests in the start-up, the private sector invests $5.”
Smoller says that the Incubator Mentorship Program is successful “because we conduct due diligence, and there is a second tier of due diligence where we nominate experts that do an evaluation of the company [that wants incubation services]. The success rate is impressive. About 30% of the companies we support will survive at least ten years.”
Smoller adds that, “We invest $500,000 per company and this secures $2.5 million from private investors…We create 65-75 start-ups per year. The incubators are private companies and the government gets royalties from sales.’’ 

The CIIRDF (, run by Rothschild, promotes collaborative R & D between firms in Israel and Canada through promoting and marketing the benefits of joint Canadian-Israeli R & D collaboration, matching companies in one country seeking a research partner in the other, and supporting projects by contributing up to 50 percent of the joint R & D costs.

Precarn ( is an independent not-for-profit company that supports the pre-commercial development of leading-edge technologies, working with Canadian companies wanting to commercialize their new ideas to get an edge in global markets.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.