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Diversity in Innovation

Israel is often referred to as the “Start-Up Nation” owing to its fast-paced innovative culture and the fact that it has the largest number of start-up companies in the world per capita. Major multi-national corporations, including Google, Microsoft, and Coca-Cola, have chosen to open research and development centers in Israel to harness the local talent, innovation, and creativity.

Last week, the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation inaugurated its cutting-edge Innovation Center to educate about Israel’s history as a “Start-Up Nation” and showcase diverse Israeli companies engaging in groundbreaking efforts to better the world.

As the Center states, “At any given moment there are 5,000 start-ups in Israel working in the fields of agriculture, water, cyber technology, security, space, mobile, industry, food, smart transportation, clean energy, film, games, medicine, science and research.”

The Center aims to educate visitors about the diverse people behind Israeli innovation. The late Shimon Peres, former president of Israel, was a leading figure in developing Israel as a global innovation center. He believed innovation could be a tool to promote peaceful relations within Israel and its neighbors. For example, today the Peres Center operates a program called “Starting-Up Together” to train young Israeli Arab and Jewish entrepreneurs. The program gives participants access to capacity building training, mentoring, and networking opportunities.

The high-tech sector may be one of the key drivers of Israel’s success and prominence on the world stage, but Israel’s Arab population continues to struggle to gain access to opportunities in this field. Last week, we highlighted the rise in Arab enrollment in higher education. With this realization and the fact that the Arab population has much to contribute to high-tech fields, there are inspiring efforts underway to change these trends. For example, Tsofen is an Israeli NGO that aims to help Arab communities develop high-tech centers and provide training for Arab populations across Israel. They both assist hi-tech companies in recruiting efforts and integrate academic graduates into Israel’s high-tech industry through mentoring opportunities, industry exposure, and access to start-up accelerators.

Tsofen was founded with the goal of developing a more inclusive high-tech sector. The result of this important work is the development of more self-sufficient Arab communities and the exposure of Israel’s diverse citizens to one another. Organizations like Tsofen are helping to create a society that fulfill the aspirations of visionary leaders like Shimon Peres.

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