We need to start understanding the desires and needs of the consumer and the marketplace.People in Israel and around the world understand that the future of every society depends upon identifying and focusing on its relative advantages.

It is recognized that one of the strongest relative advantages of Israel is the innovative power of its academia and industry. However, an important element of innovation is the ability to focus, which by itself is sometimes a controversial subject between academia and industry.

This week we will have the opportunity to discuss this issue when academia, industry and government research bodies meet in Haifa at the Israel Innovation Summit 2007

The summit offers a look into the future in selected high tech and Life Sciences topics, and acts as a forum where Israeli breakthrough technology will be introduced and discussed by top experts. It’s the second year that we’ve been able to bring together talent both from this country and from abroad to discuss the innovation challenges that face us all.

I believe that today – and even more so tomorrow – making advanced technology available at a reduced cost to the general public, and not just the defense industry or very sophisticated labs or hospitals, is one of our greatest opportunities. Therefore, the next step for innovation coming out of Israel must be to understand the desires and needs of the consumer and the marketplace.

Israel’s advanced academic research will continue, and the Technion and other universities will achieve recognition and more Nobel prizes. Defense research centers like Rafael will carry on responding to the needs of the defense market, and biotechnology gene research will continue to develop because of available talent. But it’s all contingent upon our ability to adequately support research and educate the students who will be tomorrow’s researchers.

The key to Israel’s future economy will be to find innovative means to shorten the time that currently exists between successful research and the final product that is brought to mass consumer use.

It is essential that we become more innovative in identifying consumer needs even in markets like China and India, and focus on R&D to meet these needs.

We get many innovative ideas, but unfortunately too many are driven only by a more advanced technology instead of the consumer’s real desires.

One of the initial drivers of innovation is personal creativity, but this same creativity driven later by the ego of the innovator becomes the major cause for failure.

Adequate management must better determine when it’s the right time for a startup company to remain independent, and when it becomes essential to merge. The innovators’ ego must be overcome in order for the company to reach the major global markets and for the entrepreneur to continue to “dream” of the further innovations that will enable us to keep our relative advantage. Let us remember we do not have a relative advantage in the size of the local market!

Now, I must confess my own bias because of my dreams, but also surely because of real need. We are strong in IT, medical and genomic research, but we are very weak in clinical research. It takes far too long for the patient to benefit from the wonderful achievements of our academic research.

This deficiency can be remedied by creating the tools for the physician in his clinic to use the latest research applicable to his patients.

In my opinion, the only way to shorten the time and create the adequate tools is to adopt a very innovative business model, a subject for a long symposium by itself.

I have no doubt that the lectures that are going to be given this week at the Israel Innovation Summit will send the message all over the world that Israeli innovation is stronger today then it was before.

There are more opportunities than ever to take advantage of the scientific research here and translate it into successful industrial applications. It’s up to us to take advantage of those opportunities – for the benefit of all mankind.