It’s pretty clear that Leonid Bakman is a big-picture sort of guy.
A successful entrepreneur, he’s got a history of developing “seed-stage” high-tech companies in Israel, but in recent years, he’s shifted from the micro world of commercial ventures to the macro world of turning Israel into a world leader in science, technology and industry.
Bakman is the founder and executive director of the Israel Science, Technology and Innovation Policy Institute (ISTIPI), a non-governmental organization that is attempting to foster innovative thinking, new business models and collaborative efforts that bring together academia, government and business.
Or, as ISTIPI states in its promotional material, the goal is to position “Israel as a global innovation centre.”
Although Israel is known as “startup nation,” more has to be done to ensure the country can play with the big boys, develop its human capital and create wealth that benefits a greater percentage of the Israeli population, he said.
If Israel is to be known for its advances in science, technology and innovation, “it should be developed properly,” he added.
Bakman, who serves as a consultant in science, technology and innovation strategic development and policy design to the National Economic Council of the Prime Minister’s Office, was in Toronto last week to solicit support from Canadian businessmen. Accompanied by Allan Reitzes, a former head of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, he met potential supporters and partners, with the pitch of participating in ISTIPI’s innovative projects.
He also had meetings with the policy adviser to Ontario’s Minister of Economic Development and Innovation, with Anne Golden, president and CEO of the Conference Board of Canada, and with academics.
Bakman explained his strategic outlook during a visit to The CJN. Israel has some successes in high-tech industries, but it cannot rest on its laurels. Someone, such as ISTIPI, must take the initiative and create an environment in which the private sector and government co-operate in developing new areas of growth in high tech that create innovative products and allow more Israelis to share in wealth creation.
Take agriculture, he suggested. There has been a revolution in production in recent years, and Israel has had its share of innovations, but what is absent is a “platform” to bring together stakeholders “under a unifying vision to promote this ecosystem.” That could mean bringing together people to take advantage in seed technology, land use, water use, the employment of fertilizers, computer technology and other innovations in ways that currently may not be contemplated.
Another area with the potential for great advances is health. Diagnostics and health management, “all is data driven,” Bakman said.
A way has to be developed that will bring together disparate areas like genome analysis and personal health records so more effective treatments can be developed, he said.
ISTIPI’s goal is to “develop a platform that brings interests together,” he said.
ISTIPI has already helped launch a pilot project looking at innovations in health care and is co-operating with the government of Israel to set up a similar pilot program in the area of agro-tech.
Reitzes, a consultant to a number of large Jewish organizations, believes Diaspora participation in ISTIPI’s programs “is good for Israel, the Jewish community and the world.”
The Israeli economy benefits from innovation, and people around the world are better off if food or health management is more accessible, he said.
“We need to tell positive stories about Israel,” Reitzes said, “what it’s able to do and how it benefits people all over the world.”