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Science Minister Yizhar Shai: We are thoroughly examining the civilian space industry

Director General of the Ministry Shai Lee Spiegelman: The Ministry of Science should be the most comprehensive agency in the field of innovation. The two said these things at the meeting of the high-tech managers' club - Silicon Club

Minister of Science and Technology Yizhar Shai and CEO of the Ministry Shai Lee Spigelman at the Silicon Club meeting. Photo: Ayelet Gerdman
Minister of Science and Technology Yizhar Shai and CEO of the Ministry Shai Lee Spiegelman at the Silicon Club meeting. Photo: Ayelet Gerdman

Last week, a high-tech "Silicon Club" forum meeting was held in Tel Aviv. The meeting was attended for the first time since taking office by Yizhar Shai, the incoming Minister of Science and Technology, as well as Shai Lee Spiegelman, the CEO of his office.

In one of his first public appearances since he was appointed Minister of Science and Technology and in his first two-way interview with Shi Lee Spiegelman, Director General of the Ministry of Science and Technology, the two who interviewed each other (and vice versa) talked about the importance of innovation and their plans to promote science and technology in Israel. When Minister Shay was asked which technological fields he intends to focus on, he admitted that his ministry is still exploring several directions, but found it appropriate to specify one field in particular - the civil space industry.

According to Shay, Israel has a magnificent space industry thanks to the late Prime Minister Menachem Begin. It all started in 1982 when Begin decided it was necessary to develop a space industry in Israel and talked to people around him. They laughed at him, they told him that you would make this space for powers like the USA or Russia, but he answered them by saying, "When we gave up Sinai, we gave up our strategic depth, then we need strategic depth in space" and after they laughed at him, they went to work and 30 years later, the State of Israel is Among the few countries in the world that has full space capability, starting with the ability to build satellites, launch satellites, maintain them in space, sell satellite services, etc. Most of the industry is military, but today there is a global trend called the civilian space industry.

Until 10 years ago the cost of sending a kilogram of equipment into space was a little more than 100,000 dollars and today the cost of sending the same kilogram into space costs only 3,000. Today, you can put in the same kilo much more computing, so the cost/benefit has improved significantly. Venture capital investors in the US and Europe invested billions in the field several years ago and now we are seriously considering entering the civilian space industry. Many more factors need to be convinced and we are not yet completely convinced either, but we are looking into it in depth, we talked to investors in Silicon Valley, we talked to astronauts who are building a civilian space station in the US and we will decide. So in 20 years, if you want to burst out laughing and look for the culprits who decided to invest in a civilian space industry, it's us. Or God forbid if the State of Israel misses this trend because it decided not to enter there and the whole world will be there then it is because we decided not to enter the field and the State of Israel may lose an entire industry as the autotech industry flourishes here today with hundreds of companies and tens of thousands of employees.

The government does not have a comprehensive factor for the field of innovation - the Ministry of Science should do this

Many bodies in the government deal with innovation, but there is no comprehensive body. This is what the Director General of the Ministry of Science, Shai Lee Spigelman, said as she was a guest with Minister Yizhar Shai at the meeting of the Silicon Club Forum that took place on Monday in Tel Aviv.
The most important thing is to generalize. Today, the handling of innovation is scattered among the Innovation Authority, the institutions of higher education, the Ministry of Science, Digital Israel, and more, but there is no comprehensive vision for the formation of strategic areas. This position, according to her, is intended for the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation. Minister Shai presented the overarching goals of the ministry under his leadership: "Preserving and strengthening the capabilities of the State of Israel in the fields of innovation, science and technology."

Minister Shay also commented on the way he and Spiegelman want to run the office: "We are two high-tech people with such a mentality that everything should be measurable and have an impact, you should underestimate the public officials, there are amazing people there. We have introduced a mentality that makes people look at us apprehensively in the corridors, today we were given a tour of the office. It was a surprise that the minister wanted to meet the employees of the ministry. First of all, introduce me to the chairman of the workers' committee."

"We learn a lot, meet with almost everyone who is willing to meet with us from the industry, the government, researchers, scientists, a very systematic and strategic process. We tried to consolidate, learn what the role of the Ministry of Science is in the law and the decision of the government that established it. How can we lead innovation in Israel so that it becomes a global leader in technological innovation and how do we determine the budget. Science, research and technology and innovation are the engines of growth, and to think together how we do it best.

The ministry has a number of roles that are defined by law, one of which is to come to the government and say here are the directions, here are the important things that the State of Israel as a country needs to decide it wants to be in in the next ten to twenty years. The mission of the office: "Preserving and strengthening the capabilities of the State of Israel in the fields of innovation, science and technology."
"We are starting to process plans that will be submitted for government approval." Shay also said: "In Israel in thirty years the concept of periphery will be erased. For that you have to start today. In the end, an opportunity was created."

The two also referred to the path they have taken in Israeli high-tech so far. Minister Shai: "When I knew I was a candidate for the position of minister, I said wow, I need someone to teach me what it's all about, what a government office looks like and how to work with treasury officials. This is how it turned out that Shai Lee Spiegelman then the director of Digital Israel picked up the phone to me in Digital Israel to brief me on the relationship between government ministries and innovation and we had several conversations. I didn't know then that he was a minister, and neither did she. On the day I received the appointment, I asked if you considered yourself a candidate to continue in the public service."

Spiegelman: "I grew up in high-tech, I was in a variety of positions at Microsoft Israel Ra'anana and the development center in Herzliya. At the age of 40, with four children I decided to do something for the public. I moved to the government sector and then they established Digital Israel. I was Yair Schindler's deputy chief of staff, and when Yair left I was offered to manage Israel digitally, and in the four years I moved from the Ministry of Public Affairs with 7 employees, we moved to the Ministry for Social Equality with 70 employees and a budget of half a billion shekels."
"Everything was a surprise. It's a difficult market to move to the public sector, Harel Locker said I won't survive two days. I want to do good things, there is a right, there is a role and it doesn't work out, there are accountants, officials and others who will get in the way."
Spiegelman then asked Shai: "What made you go into politics after two exits, and partnership in venture capital funds in Israel and around the world?"

Yizhar Shai: "I was on this wonderful side of these wonderful people (Silicon Club AB members). Most people do something beyond work. It was not a simple decision because it meant leaving a comfortable and fun life in which you have control over what happens around you, the agenda, how you dress."

"It was a matter of a combination of circumstances that I met Benny Gantz, we were friends, he convinced me that Israeli high-tech needs representation in the Knesset and the government, there are some high-tech veterans in senior positions, but they do not represent the sector. Benny Gantz convinced me that I could do something for the benefit of the innovation economy, a term that includes not only classic high-tech but also agrotech, medical equipment, and dozens of other fields. Little by little we built a whole complex that talks about the opportunities in the economy, and the meaning for the periphery. To be honest, I hesitated until the last minute. I was the last to join the Resilience Party."
In conclusion, Spiegelman said that before the minister and before her are big tasks, among others, those related to Corona, but also a better connection between high-tech and the government, "and that we will succeed in advancing the government's policy to the right worlds."

In response to Minister Shai's question, what would you like to happen at the end of your term, CEO Spigelman replied: "I hope that we make the right decisions that will help make Israel a more digital country, that we succeed in promoting the issue of digital health and that we introduce more populations to high-tech."

The article was captured on the CHIPORTAL website (Part a', Part II')

More of the topic in Hayadan:

One response

  1. Successfully.

    How does "we're not completely convinced yet" go with "in 20 years if you want to burst out laughing and look for the culprits who decided to invest in a civilian space industry, it's us."?

    Answer: Why not pretend to really examine the issue in depth, and especially its correct prioritization against other areas of innovation, even after the decision has actually been made (probably because it's a very sexy issue)?

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