“Action Stations – All aboard”

Israel’s Hi-Tech Sector Soaring Bringing Palestinians on Board

 

By David E. Kaplan

This may not be the much touted “deal of the century” but it is Israel’s deal of 2019 – “so far” – and its only March!

Based in Santa Clara California, Nvidia’s acquisition of Mellanox is the “second largest ever” in the Israeli high-tech industry after global behemoth Intel bought Mobileye – the vision-based advanced driver-assistance systems providing warnings for collision prevention and mitigation – in 2017 for $15.3 billion.

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Success Story. Mellanox headquarters in Yokneam in the lower Galilee, Israel. Yokneam is known as Israel’s “Startup Village” because its high-tech hub is surrounded by forest and small communities.

This deal augers well for sustaining Israel’s hi-tech global branding.

Jensen Huang, founder and CEO of Nvidia, said the company was “excited to unite Nvidia’s accelerated computing platform with Mellanox’s world-renowned accelerated networking platform under one roof to create next-generation datacenter-scale computing solutions.”

Huang said he was “particularly thrilled to work closely with the visionary leaders,” of Israel’s Mellanox “and their amazing people to invent the computers of tomorrow.”

Nvidia will continue investing in local Israeli “excellence and talent,” calling Israel “one of the world’s most important technology centers.”

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Eyeing The Future. A technician works in a Mellanox lab in Yokneam, Israel, March 4, 2019.\ AMIR COHEN/ REUTERS

The acquisition will unite two of the world’s leading companies in high performance computing (HPC). Nvidia and Mellanox will together power over 250 of the world’s TOP500 supercomputers and have as customers every major cloud service provider and computer maker.

Nvidia, will pay $6.9 billion cash to acquire Mellanox (MLNX) -twelve years after the Israeli company’s IPO on Nasdaq.

Mellanox develops and sells high-speed communications equipment using InfiniBand and Ethernet technologies.

Billion Dollar Man

Founded in 1999 by its CEO Eyal Waldman, Mellanox surpassed in sales an impressive $1 billion in 2018.

This will be Waldman’s second exit in two decades. He sold the Israeli chip company Galileo Technology Ltd – which he co-founded – to Marvell in 2000 for $2.7 billion. Marvel Technology, like Nvidia, is also based in Santa Clara California.

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California Dreaming. ‘Sailing into the future’ is the design of Nvidia’s Santa Clara headquarters in California. (Courtesy).

A kite boarder and a scuba diver, Waldman, studied electrical engineering at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa.

Responding why Mellanox is important in this marketplace, Waldman explains:

“So, if you look at the world today, the most important asset or resource on the planet is DATA. A long time ago it was real estate; then it moved to energy and now its data. It is the most important asset people can gather and own; the more data you have, the more powerful you become.”

Eyal Waldman is living testimony!

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In The ‘Genes’. When in Israel, hi-tech visionary Eyal Waldman wears jeans to his Mellanox office in Yokneam.

The Times of Israel describes Waldman as a CEO that is “perpetually in a rush, tends to eat fast food, gets joy from his success but spends as much time as possible with his family.”

Asked to describe himself, “I’m just a normal guy.”

The name “Mellanox”, Waldman reveals, comes from combining the sound of “Xerox” with “Millennium” – because the firm was founded in 1999 – and “Ella”, the name of his wife at the time.

While Nvidia redefined modern computer graphics and sparked the growth of the PC gaming market, Mellanox’s solutions include adapters, switches, software and silicon that accelerate application runtime and maximize business results for a wide range of markets including high-performance computing, enterprise data centers, Web 2.0, cloud, storage, and financial services.

Waldman said the company shares the same vision for accelerated computing – a great fit given our common performance-driven cultures. This combination will foster the creation of powerful technology and fantastic opportunities for our people.”

By ‘people’, Waldman, includes Palestinians as Mellanox is one of several companies with Palestinian employees in the West Bank and Gaza, a source of pride for the firm.

I think a lot of employees became millionaires overnight, and I’m very proud of that. In Israel and in the Palestinian territories, we have employees in Gaza, Rawabi, Nablus, Hebron who also have Mellanox shares, and I think we will all benefit from this sale,” Waldman told Israel’s Channel 12.

The word is out: Working together is “a win-win for all”.

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Six Billion Dollar Smile. Mellanox CEO Eyal Waldman (left) is beaming as he shakes on the deal with Jensen Huang, founder and CEO of Nvidia.

Building Bridges

We need engineers for high-level programming and together with the Palestinians we can build a large Silicon Valley for the Middle East,” said David Slama, senior director for Palestinian Authority activities at Mellanox Technologies. “We’re missing talent that the Palestinians have on their side. Together we can build a bridge that develops great products for the whole world.”

Instead of outsourcing abroad for engineers, Slama says Israeli companies should look no further than the Palestinian Authority areas, noting that some 3,000 Palestinian information and communication technology graduates enter the market each year.

Setting an example, Mellanox and ASAL – a software and IT services outsourcing company based in Ramallah that employs some 250 technical experts around the West Bank and the Gaza Strip – began cooperating at the start of the decade. Mellanox was among the first Israeli companies to outsource to Palestinian software developers in the West Bank and Gaza. Today, more than 120 Palestinian engineers and software developers work for Mellanox.

Pulsating Palestine

Addressing the elephant in the room – namely the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – Tahboub says “it is not a social stigma” to work with Israeli companies. “On the contrary,” he asserts

“Political news is not only what the Palestinian people are all about. We want to have an export-oriented economy based on knowledge and innovation. This is our biggest vision. Innovation, technology and entrepreneurship is the way for the future,” he says. The latest Palestinian Mellanox employees are based out of the Rawabi Tech Hub, in Rawabi, the first planned city built for and by Palestinians in the West Bank, just 20 kilometers outside Jerusalem.

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Roaring Rawabi. Palestinian Mellanox employees are based out of the Rawabi Tech Hub, in Rawabi, the first planned city built for and by Palestinians in the West Bank. Over $1.4 billion has been invested in the city by developer and Palestinian businessman Bashar Masri.

Rawabi is in the middle between Tel Aviv and the Jordanian capital of Amman. “It could absolutely be a hub for innovation not just serving the Israeli and Palestinian markets, but serving the whole region,” asserts Tahboub.

Behind the high-tech “Rawabi City” – Palestine’s first planned city – is Palestinian entrepreneur, visionary, and property developer Bashar Masri who is also the founder and Chairman of the Board of Massar International.

Massar’ is an Arabic word meaning “path” and symbolizes the vision of its founder – to create a company that would successfully link the very best of local professionalism in Palestine with international standards.

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Men On The Move. Looking to plot Palestine trajectory into a prosperous future are CEO of Wataniya Palestine Mobile Telecommunication Public Shareholding Company, Dr. Durgham Maree ( left) and Bashar Al Masri (right) in the new city of Rawabi in the West Bank, June 2018. Courtesy

Says Al Masri:

 “We are relying on our historic enemy, Israel, to be our best friend in moving forward. Israel is riding high. Israel is a super-advanced country. If we piggyback on their economy, I hope they will benefit, and they will benefit, and we stand to benefit exponentially. It’s a win-win situation for all of us.”

 

 

A Wee Dram Of Milk & Honey

By Rolene Marks

Israel is the “land of Milk and Honey” – and I am not speaking about biblical references!  It is all about the single malt whisky. Known as “the water of life”, Israel is about to join a small, elite group of countries that is licensed to distill whisky.  Not bad for a desert dwelling country!

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Secrets Out The Bottle. The first 100 bottles of Israel’s first malt whisky made by Tel Aviv’s M&H Distillery were auctioned off on a Scottish whisky site in August 2017 (Courtesy M&H Distillery)

Buying the cow?

Distilling whisky is quite a unique and specialised skill, and there are four main producing centres in the world. Scotland, Ireland, Japan and the USA have traditionally been responsible for sharing some of the finest scotches, whiskies and bourbons (yes, there major differences) but a tiny, powerhouse may be ready to challenge them.

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Inside Story. Inside Israel’s Milk & Honey Distillery.

Enter the Milk & Honey Distillery. Neatly nestled amongst the warehouses and buildings of Tel Aviv, this veritably hidden gem was borne out of the dream of six hi-tech entrepreneurs whose passion for whisky spurred them on to open their own distillery.

Speaking in an interview with a leading hi-tech publication, CEO Eitan Attir quipped “Founding the distillery was like buying a cow when you want milk.” The next logical step was to set up a company which they established in 2012. Construction of the distillery began in 2014 and the actual distillation started in 2015.

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The Distillers. High-tech entrepreneurs who share a passion for whisky, (l-r) Gal Kalkshtein and Eitan Attir (Photo by Kirk D’Souza)

In order to comply with strict Scottish standards, the Milk & Honey Distillery must ensure that they are involved in the distilling process from start to finish and that their single malt spirit matures for a period of three years.

Spirited Dedication

The Milk & Honey team spent two years studying the intricacies of producing top-notch whisky. Master Distiller, Dr. James Swan, who is also an expert on producing whisky in warm climates recognized the exciting possibilities that Israel has to offer and helped the team come up with a truly winning formula.

While in colder climates in can be claimed that a wee dram can warm the cockles of your heart in icy weather, Israel’s summer climate (and hair curling humidity!) presented a whole new challenge.

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The Israeli Whisky Revolution Happening Now. Visitor’s pub at Israel’s Milk & Honey Distillery. (Photo by Lior Goldsad)

This dedicated distillery did the research and discovered that maturation happened much faster that their colder climate dwelling counterparts.

Israel also offers five geothermic regions, allowing for the opportunity to experiment with maturation in other areas, such as the mountains, the desert, and of course – The Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth.

Couple this with opening a distillery in Tel Aviv – the city that never sleeps and is a vibrant hub of good food and booze appreciation – and the result is a winning formula.

While Milk & Honey may offer other products, it is the whisky that occupies a point of pride and in May 2017, they launched Israel’s first single-malt.

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All Over The World. The ‘spirit’ of Israel is global.

This marked quite a historical moment not just for Israel but for appreciators of fine single malts around the world.

Sadly, no whisky was imbibed while writing this article.

Off to pour a wee dram now.

L’Chaim!

 

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Tel Aviv “the city that never sleeps and is a vibrant hub of good food and booze appreciation.”

Coca Cola Cozying Up To Clover

Israeli consortium bids for South African food & beverage behemoth

By David E. Kaplan

Contrary to those half-witted South African politicians who advocate keeping their distance from Israel, are the astute in the country’s business community who think the positive opposite. The operative word is “THINK” as this week reveals a proposed marriage of South Africa’s beverage giant Clover with Israel’s Coca Cola.

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The Coca-Cola bottling plant in Bnei Brak, Israel. (Nir Keidar)

Of course, a deal is only a deal when all is signed – but why keep this news ‘bottled’ up – when the champions for enterprise and entrepreneurship in both South Africa and Israel are so enthused to see ‘golden’ opportunities above ground rather than the usual mineral subterranean variety.

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‘Clover’ an iconic brand in South Africa.

 

Heading a consortium called MilCo, Israel’s Central Bottling Company (Coca Cola Israel) submitted a bid to acquire control of Clover, in a deal that values the South African public traded company at $359 million (NIS 1.3 billion). The consortium is offering the SA food producer’s shareholders R25 per share, which will amount to 59.5% of the SA food producer.

Interestingly, while Clover traces its history back to 1898 with farmers meeting in the lush pastures of the Natal Midlands to discuss the establishment of a butter factory, only a year earlier in 1887, 208 delegates met at a hotel in Basel Switzerland where the modern Zionist movement was birthed under the chairmanship of Theodor Herzl.

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Delivering The Goods. Early Days as the precursor to Clover, the Natal Creamery Ltd. starts its milk distribution from Pietermaritzburg in 1902.

Trajectories of both affirm that with determination, passion, grit and self-belief, the impossible becomes possible.

While Clover Industries produces milk and juices, has 8,000 employees and owns 13 production facilities throughout South Africa, the Central Bottling Company is the fourth largest manufacturer of consumer products in Israel. It owns a number of leading brands, headed by Coca Cola Israel, Tara Dairy, and other beer and soft drink brands.

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….and Today. Clover delivery trucks in their multitude.

Eran Elsner, who manages the Central Bottling Company’s overseas business, said, “The Central Bottling Company group believes that its activity is synergetic with the activity of the company in South Africa. There is a reciprocal contribution of knowledge and experience between the Central Bottling Company group and the overseas companies, which is channeled towards innovation and business development, while providing added value to consumers, who are always foremost in our considerations.”

Other members of the MilCo consortium are Ploughshare Investments, which will buy 10.9%, and IncuBev, which will buy 8.3%. The latter is an international business focused on the food and beverage sectors in sub-Saharan Africa.

A barometer of the excitement following the announcement, Clover’s share price jumped 19% to R23.80 on Monday morning after the JSE opened.

At the same time in Israel, CBC, whose subsidiary companies serve more than 160-million consumers worldwide, made the following press release:

CBC is Israel’s leading manufacturer and distributor of beverages and, through its foreign subsidiaries, has manufacturing and distribution operations in Turkey, Romania, and Uzbekistan. CBC, which is also the owner of the Tara dairy, Israel’s second-largest milk processing dairy, produces and distributes its own brands and Müller brands, and it operates the license for the Müller brand in Romania.”

CBC also owns Gat Foods, a “grove to table” juice operation with customers in more than 70 countries. In addition, CBC works closely with its international franchisors, including The Coca-Cola Company, Carlsberg, Anheuser-Busch InBev, the Müller Group and Diageo.

Further South African participation in the bid is Brimstone Investment Corporation (Brimstone) cementing its plans to further expand into the food sector.

“In addition to a long history of being one of South Africa’s most popular brands,” says Brimstone CEO Mustaq Brey, “Clover runs South Africa’s largest chilled and frozen goods distribution network and is well placed for further expansion. This made it an attractive investment proposition for the foreign direct investment which South Africa desperately needs if we wish to achieve the economic freedom our country deserves.”

Brey added that all of Brimstone’s investments are geared towards transforming the South Africa’s economy by creating shareholder value on a sustainable and responsible basis. “In this transaction, MilCo is adopting an owner-operator approach and a long-term investment horizon with a view to grow the dairy category as a whole, thereby benefiting local farmers and other suppliers throughout the value chain.”

Building for the Future

Clover has a “strong portfolio of brands and best distribution system in South Africa,” said Richard Izsak, CBC’s chief of staff and Israel Country Manager and Strategic Planning Director for The Coca-Cola Company’s Eurasia Group. “We want to build the company for the long term.”

While foreign takeovers of South African listed-companies have been a rarity in recent years, State President Cyril Ramaphosa has made clear that international investment is a centerpiece of his plans to revive the economy. The challenges are immense – weak economic growth and high unemployment and as warned by the US and the UK, “ongoing corruption scandals are a barrier to investment” as recently reported in South Africa’s Sunday Times.

This is not deterring Israel that has faith in South Africa.

Regarding the economy, says Izak, “CBC is investing for long term, even if there are some ups and downs in the short term.”

It’s the more the “downs” than “ups” that are keeping away much foreign investment, however Israel is ready and willing to invest.

Despite political currents and the diplomatic obstacles, the “Startup Nation” continues to enjoy a prosperous relationship with South Africa.

“South Africa is a country of unquestionable business potential,” said the head of the Israeli Economic Mission to Southern Africa Amit Lev in 2018 to the SA Jewish Report. “While it can be difficult at times, the trade relations between South Africa and Israel are mutually beneficial and have potential to improve both countries significantly.”

Noting that Israel’s trade with South Africa is low relative to business engagements with other countries – accounting for only 1% of overall trade – Lev expressed that “with the right approach and resources, there is an opportunity to make a difference in the markets of both Israel and South Africa.

Lev discounts the impact of BDS as a challenge for business. While these threats must be addressed, “our success stories outnumber such problems.”

There are many advantages to carrying out business in South Africa. “Besides being a portal to the rest of Africa,” said Lev, “the country has a growing economy, a sophisticated banking system which is compatible with Israel’s, and it is a member of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) group.

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South Africa-Israel – Working together for a better future

“Also, the country is a top agriculture producer, and the issues it is currently facing regarding water are ideal for the implementation of business infrastructure and solutions from Israel. Israel has so much to share with South Africa in the water, hi-tech and agriculture sectors, and the opportunity for Israel here is immense.”

Reflecting on the economic achievements Israel has notched up in the past 70 years, “Now is the time for Israel to mature its economic sector and move into its next 70 years of success. By creating multinational corporations, growing its trade network around the globe, exposing itself to more opportunities and inviting others to be a part of the growth, Israel can be enhanced and make giant steps in this magical movement of economy.”

While the business relationship between South Africa and Israel is promising, the Coca Cola bid for Clover indicates that the future could be even more promising.

ANC politicians – take note!

Turning Non-Arable Lands Into Fruitful Fields

With Israel in the vanguard of making deserts bloom, read latest report from Israel’s Ministry of Economy and Industry how it has literally planted the seeds of its AgTech success.  This may well be of Interest to South African farmers as the Israel Trade Office will  be hosting an AgriTech RoadShow from March 25-28 in Pretoria, Limpopo and Stellenbosch. Charles Abelsohn contributed to this report by the Ministry of  Economy & Industry.

 

 

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Field Of Dreams. Technology in Israel Spans Multiple Sectors.

 

Even prior to statehood, Israel’s pioneers set out to cultivate the land, tackling the challenges posed by limited natural resources by setting up agricultural communities such as kibbutzim and other farming cooperatives to ensure that any future state would flourish. The country also took it upon itself to fulfill the dream of its first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, by making the desert bloom, developing agricultural techniques for arid regions which would turn non-arable lands into fruitful fields.

Over 70 years later, Israel is now tackling some of the 21st century’s biggest global challenges – including feeding a planet with an ever-growing population – with a thriving AgTech sector that is carrying on the country’s longstanding tradition of integrating ingenuity and innovation with cutting-edge agricultural techniques.

What helps explain Israel’s global renown as an AgTech powerhouse? Israel’s strong tech ecosystem, coupled with its deep historical focus on agricultural resourcefulness, has provided the perfect setting for the AgTech sector to flourish. Underscoring the Israeli government’s commitment to supporting AgTech innovation, the Israel Innovation Authority offers R&D support for promising AgTech companies, granting between 20%t to 50% of approved R&D budgets to aid the development of new products and technologies.

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Fertile Ground

One of Israel’s greatest success stories in the field is Netafim, a company founded in the Negev Desert in 1965. The company rocketed to international prominence with the introduction of the world’s first commercial drip irrigation system. Now the world’s foremost irrigation company, Netafim remains a global leader in sustainable farming and crop management solutions, operating in 110 countries with 4,300 employees, 29 subsidiaries, and 17 manufacturing plants. Netafim’s innovative solutions played a pivotal role in putting Israeli AgTech on the map, setting the stage for a slew of new companies in the field, including 750 active startups and other firms in the food tech and AgTech sectors, with $189 millionin food tech and AgTech investments in 2017. With a focus on biotech, crop protection and irrigation methods, AgTech investors see the Startup Nation as fertile ground for some of the most inventive technologies and solutions in the sector.

Simcha blass
Simcha Blass

Simcha Blass is more than deserving of the title “Father of Modern Drip Irrigation”. Simcha Blass (November 27, 1897 – July 18, 1982) was a Polish-Israeli engineer and inventor who developed the modern drip irrigation system with his son Yeshayahu. Instead of releasing water through tiny holes easily blocked by tiny particles, water was released through larger and longer passageways by using velocity to slow water inside a plastic emitter. The first experimental system of this type was established in 1959 by Blass who partnered later (1964) with Kibbutz Hatzerim to create an irrigation company called Netafim. Together they developed and patented the first practical surface drip irrigation emitter.

Modern drip irrigation has arguably become the world’s most valued innovation in agriculture since the invention in the 1930s of the impact sprinkler, which offered the first practical alternative to surface irrigation.

Today, Netafim manufactures and distributes crop management technologies, including monitoring and control systems, worldwide. To put things into perspective, Netafim controls over 30% of the global drip irrigation market in the world and the company’s recorded revenues were over $822 million in 2015.

Says South African farmer Bruce Nicholson, “I’m new to Netafim Drip system; I’m actually got a passion for it now. Where before my average yield was 87 tons per hectare, now, the same sugar cane fields are yielding  over 110 tons per hectare – this is a huge inspiration for anyone.” Furthermore,  using special probes with the system “it tells you when your profile is full, so that if you go over the profile you are wasting energy. With this system our energy savings is pretty on-the-nail.”

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Among the country’s hundreds of cutting-edge companies:

  • Taranis is a leading AI-powered precision agriculture intelligence platform that uses sophisticated computer vision, data science and deep learning algorithms to identify crop threats on a granular level, enabling farmers to effectively monitor fields. The system allows farmers to increase crop yields and create a more sustainable farming ecosystem through intelligent insights and oversees millions of acres in Argentina, Brazil, Russia, Ukraine, and the United States.
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The Young And The Smart. Going places is Israeli precision farming company Taranis.

Evogene is a biotechnology company aimed at improving crop performance using a unique computational predictive biology platform. The company’s platform leverages big data analytics to generate deep insights to help improve crop yields, combat diseases, and protect against pests. Clients include Syngenta, DuPont, Monsanto, and Bayer.
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ADAMA Agricultural Solutions is a global crop protection company, with an innovative fungicide mixture for soybean rust. The company is the first global crop protection company to be publicly traded on the Chinese stock market.

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The Middle And Far East Connection. The new R&D Center complements ADAMA’s operational hub in China, which includes its new formulation facility in Huai’An and Sanonda facilities in Jingzhou. Together with ADAMA’s advanced operational hub in Israel, the new Center is a cornerstone for positioning ADAMA as the world’s leading Global-China crop protection company. ADAMA’s customers will benefit from the best of Chinese and Israeli R&D, formulation and manufacturing, which will allow the Company to bring differentiated products to farmers around the world quickly and efficiently.

While Israel’s AgTech success has played a key role in supporting the country’s growth and development, its benefits are borne out around the world: from Africa, where farmers are harnessing Israeli drip irrigation technology, to China, which inked a $300 million trade agreement that will boost exports of Israeli energy and agricultural technologies, and beyond. China isn’t the only country looking toward Israel to make great leaps forward in agricultural solutions: Israel has also built partnerships with developing countries including India and Vietnam, leveraging the country’s deep expertise in the sector to integrate AgTech solutions and train local farmers in efficient, sustainable methods of crop production and irrigation. In Africa, the Israeli Ministry of Economy and Industry, in cooperation with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, recently launched an initiative, Tikkun Olam Ventures, that will link local communities to Israeli AgTech solutions, with an eye toward aiding 5,000 farmers over the next five years.

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Sustainable Sudan. Mashav, Israel’s international development agency is helping to provide African nations with sustainable agriculture.

With a robust innovation ecosystem and a storied history of creative agricultural solutions, there’s no telling what new Israeli AgTech solutions will take root in the years to come.

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Drip Irrigation. Helping to grow food in parched globe.

 

The Trade Office will be hosting an AgriTech RoadShow from March 25-28 in Pretoria, Limpopo and Stellenbosch. For more information, please email Johannesburg@israeltrade.gov.il

 

Southern Comfort. Israel’s Netafim Drip system explained by South African farmer Bruce Nicholson and revealing his experience with the system. “Even our fertilizer is put through the drip system.”

 

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Smart New World

Israeli ingenuity and Innovation are changing the nature of global transportation

By David E. Kaplan

60 seconds – that’s all it took to help change the world!

Sitting in the Hilton Tel Aviv Grand Ballroom amongst 500 invited guests at the opening of Israel’s 2018 Smart Mobility Summit on the 29th October, I could not help feeling proud both as an Israeli for what my country is achieving for all mankind, and as a former South African, for the contribution of its Jewish community in enriching the State of Israel.

A prime example of both is the vision and passion of philanthropists Eric and Sheila Samson.

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Prime Movers. Visionaries supporting Smart Mobility – Eric & Sheila Samson

With the lights dimmed, a movie rolled onto a giant screen accompanied by dramatic music and narration:

Welcome to the dawn of a New Age – the age of Smart Mobility. We are about to award the world’s biggest prize for innovation in the fields of alternative fuels for transportation and Smart Mobility. The Eric and Sheila Prime Minister’s Prize is awarded yearly to outstanding individuals who have made critical advancements in the field. Eric and Sheila Samson are top international business leaders, philanthropists, they are highly devoted and committed to the State of Israel. For seeing the importance of Smart Mobility, they have devoted an enormous amount of energy to create this outstanding prize that encourages the industry and helps change the world of transportation. In the name of Israel and the world, we wish to express our gratitude for your contribution. This prize and initiative will not only help reduce the world’s dependency on oil but will also help revolutionize transportation as we know it, making it greener and above all, safer.”

Transforming Transportation

It began a little over six years ago “with ONE phone call to my friends Eric and Sheila in South Africa,” said Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the opening of the 2018 Annual Smart Mobility Summit.

Aiming to reduce 60% of Israel’s oil consumption by 2025, the Prime Minister revealed his concerns to the Samsons that “we have to free the world from the stranglehold of oil and the biggest culprit in the consumption of oil is transportation.” Therefore, persisted the PM persuasively, “we have to work on transforming transportation.” In pursuance of this vision, the PM appealed to the Samsons to consider sponsoring an annual prize that would not only help reduce the world’s dependency on oil but would further help revolutionize mankind’s modes of transportation.

Peering upon the large audience from across the globe that included delegations from 36 countries, including all the states of Europe, Israel’s Prime Minister bellowed proudly:

 “It took only 60 seconds for Eric and Shelia to answer with one word – YES!”

The result was the 6th Prime Minister’s Sheila and Eric Samson Prime Minister’s Prize for Groundbreaking Innovation in The Field of Alternative Fuels for Transportation. The 2018 co-recipients of the prestigious award were Prof. Doron Auerbach of Bar-Ilan University and Finland’s Dr. Peter Lindfors of Neste Oil. The annual award is the largest prize worldwide in the field of innovation of alternative fuels for transportation. Auerbach was recognised for his contribution to breakthroughs in the field of battery development that included the development of advanced batteries for electric vehicle applications. “Every electric car anywhere in the world is partly powered by our research,” said Auerbach in accepting the prize. “I feel great pride for Israel,” he said, “but it is the storage of power that remains our greatest challenge and our focus is to dramatically improve both the power and storage capacity of batteries to power the cars of tomorrow.”

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Fully Charged. The Prime Minister’s Prize co-recipient, Prof. Doron Auerbach of Bar-Ilan University (centre) for his innovative work on batteries flanked by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Israeli Minister of Science and Technology, Ofir Akunis (right).

Lindfors and his team developed innovative methods to produce biodiesel from organic waste, including organic oils and used cooking oils, that produce millions of tons of biodiesel annually to power trucks and boats and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 90%.

We have smart people in Israel and we welcome working in partnership with smart people all over the world,” said the Prime Minister to rapturous applause as he invited the best brains globally to partner Israel.

“It’s the smart way to go in embracing the smart world of tomorrow.”

Computer on Wheels

In classic schoolmaster mode, Netanyahu relished answering his own question: “So what is Smart Mobility?”

The Prime Minister has a knack of simplifying the complicated, so all can understand. Much of the world has discovered this by his eloquent performances in the General Assembly at the United Nations.

“Our great-grandchildren are not going to believe the way we get around today in bulky hulks:

  • that weigh tons
  • that 95% of the time we don’t use
  • that takes up valuable space
  • that guzzles gas
  • that pollutes the atmosphere
  • that drives one crazy stuck in traffic
  • that can injure us or worse!

They will look at our current modes of transport as we look back at our great-grandparents moving around on a horse and cart.”

Amused, the audience were nevertheless nodding in agreement.

The PM presented a brief overview of Israel’s history in the motor industry.   “When I was a young soldier in the IDF fifty years ago, Israel believed it should invest in the traditional car industry and built its first and only car. It was called the Susita.”

Apart from the name of an ancient biblical city, it was also a play on the word Sus meaning ‘horse’ in Hebrew.

“Not a surprise, it failed because we could not compete in building the chassis, the engine and the tires. Now however, fifty years later, the industry has changed, but so has Israel. Very soon, 85% of the cost of a car will be software and its derivatives – meaning a car is becoming more and more a ‘computer on wheels’. NOW ISRAEL CAN COMPETE and explains why today we are literally the driving force behind the cars of tomorrow.

While Israel does not have car manufacturing plants or vehicle assembly lines it is well positioned in providing next-generation technologies for what the Prime Mister refers to “Computer on wheels”.

With the global transportation industry in dire need of innovation, Israeli startups are navigating their way to becoming leading suppliers of next-generation technologies in the mobility market.

“We have about 500 startups engaged in this new technology,” said Netanyahu, “and Israel is now one of the top three great centres in the world for Smart Mobility.”

To the audience’s amusement, “I can also reveal we are not number three!”

The explanation proffered by the PM of Israel’s rapid trajectory is its mastery of ‘The Big Three’:

   Capacity to process Big Data, Connectivity and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

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All Fueled Up. Co-recipient of the PM’s Prize for Alternative Fuels is Finland’s Dr. Peter Lindfors of Neste Oil (centre) who with Israeli PM on his side (left), expounds on the nature and scope of his team’s research and achievements.

Eighth Wonder of the World

The Prime Minister was followed by Israel’s Minister of Science and Technology, Ofir Akunis who said, “It is not a secret anymore, we can say it out loud – Israel is the Eighth Wonder of the World.” Rattling off a host of countries in Europe, North and Latin America and Asia where Israel is partnering with companies in a vast range of ‘Smart Technologies’, Kunis asserted:

 “We are changing the world. Israel is investing in the future and our Ministry could not ask for a better partner in this critical mission than Eric and Sheila Samson who have made this possible through their contribution towards the Prime Minister’s Prize. We know from our history, knowledge is strength and when used properly, we can make the impossible – possible!”

Unfortunately unable to travel to attend – although the Prime Minister endearingly bellowed, “We look forward to seeing you both in Israel soon; this country needs you” – the Samsons were represented by close family associate, Michael Silver, who shares another common passion close to Eric and Sheila’s heart – Beth Protea, a retirement home built by South Africans for South Africans. (See LOTL article ‘South Africa Flower Flourish in Israel’ https://layoftheland.online/2018/10/09/south-african-flower-flourishes-in-israel/). A major donor of this “pride of the Southern African community in Israel”, Silver serves as the retirement home’s’ Chairman, which in 2017 celebrated its 25th anniversary.

In an interview with LOTL after the presentations, Silver responded to the question of what he thought Eric and Sheila would be feeling from their home in Los Angeles if they could have seen how the evening unfolded:

 “They would be delighted and proud – not for themselves but for the State of Israel – of how an initiative that began six years ago has emerged into a global phenomenon supported by the government of Israel and attracting the finest brains from around the world to find solutions to a problem that has plagued the world far too long – to find alternatives to fossil fuels to drive the world – excuse the pun – into the future.”

Asked what message he would later be sending Eric and Sheila, Silver answered, “It was an illuminating evening and they were missed dearly.”

In truth, they were only missed in a physical sense as their presence was palpable throughout from what they set in motion.

Israel today is in the vanguard of the innovative field of Smart Mobility, bringing each year to the the mobility sector ever more advanced technology – from connected cars and autonomous vehicles, to alternative fuels, intelligent transportation systems and smart city solutions.

With the vision and support of Eric and Sheila Samson, Israel is in the driver’s seat with its eye fixed on the road ahead.

 

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A ‘Flowering’ Success. Representing Eric and Sheila Samson at the award ceremony in the Grand Ballroom at the Hilton Tel Aviv was Beth Protea Chairman Michael Silver (right), seen here with Rael Gordon (left) and Lyn Bach, Director of Culture at Beth Protea (centre).

 

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Israel At 70. Marveling at the miracle of Israel today were guests (l-r) Hilary Kaplan, Suzanne Flax from London, Ira Silver from Keren Hayesod, who co-sponsored the Smart Mobility Summit, and Robert Kaplan from Cape Town, a board member of Keren Hayesod.