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Partners For Change: Science And Technology

[We must] maintain our ability to compete with Europe and Japan in emerging technologies like biotechnology, superconductors and computer-integrated manufacturing.

Science and technology have no boundaries, nor do the American and Israeli commitment to education, research and innovation. Whereas the United States is competing with Japan and Europe, it is cooperating with Israel. Joint research is conducted on both a formal and informal basis between the two governments, nongovernmental institutions, private industry and individuals.

Recognizing the potential for greater cooperation, President Clinton established in March 1993 a U.S.-Israel Science and Technology Commission. Its mission is to encourage high-tech industries in both countries to engage in joint projects; foster scientific exchanges between universities and research institutions; promote development of agricultural and environmental technologies and assist in the adaptation of military technology to civilian production.

U.S. Firms' Investments in Israel Pay Dividends

American companies wanting to expand their research and development efforts, establish manufacturing for new, sophisticated technologies and employ highly-motivated and trained engineers and scientists can find what they are looking for in Israel. Projects that are not always cost-effective in the United States, moreover, are often affordable in Israel. Israeli companies, meanwhile, find that American firms can offer experience, capital, mass manufacturing and marketing expertise. The shared culture, ease of communication and common goals the two countries enjoy facilitate the establishment of successful partnerships.

Many of America's high-tech giants have consequently either invested in Israel or set up subsidiaries there. These include: IBM, Motorola, National Semiconductor, Intel and Microsoft.

Some of the technologies originating in Israel and now used worldwide include:

  • Software developed for Intel's Pentium processor; Intel's overdrive chip (the 486-DX2); Intel's Math Coprocessor; and the Intel 8088 Central Processor Unit.
  • National Semiconductor's 32-bit Microprocessor and a second Microprocessor used in many laser printers.
  • Motorola's low voltage and fast 24-bit Digital Signal Multimedia Engine and Chipset for Fiber Optics Distribution Data Interface.
  • The disk compression and antivirus components of Microsoft's DOS-6 operating system.
  • A bidirectional Windows operating system and Hebrew Windows developed for Microsoft by Kivun Computers.

Industrial Research and Development

One of the best ways to stimulate the economy is to invest in research and development. Recognizing the resources available in Israel for collaborating to achieve this goal, the United States and Israel established the Binational Research and Development Foundation (BIRD) in 1977. BIRD provides grants to joint U.S.-Israeli product development teams in the high-tech field, typically sharing costs. Grants are paid back, with interest, if revenues are shown from the R&D project. Products developed from these ventures have netted sales of more than $1 billion in each country, tax revenues of more than $200 million in the United States alone and created an estimated 20,000 American jobs.

BIRD provides grants for the development and subsequent commercialization of innovative, nondefense technological products from which both the Israeli and American company can expect to derive benefits commensurate with the investments and risks. Most grant recipients are small businesses involved with software, instrumentation, communications, medical devices and semiconductors.

Since its inception, BIRD has funded more than 300 joint high-tech R&D projects. For example:

  • BIRD funded two projects involving GTE Spacenet of Virginia and Gilat Communications Systems that involved the creation of a unique satellite-based telecommunications service for large retail businesses.
  • Massachusetts-based Basicnet, the largest office products distribution organization in the world, developed a new product to meet the management needs of both commodities and hardgoods distribution in partnership with Relational Technology Systems Ltd.
  • Coherent, Inc. of California and Holo-Or Ltd. combined to develop a new high-power laser for medical and industrial use.
  • Stratus Computer of Massachusetts teamed with Manof Systems to create and market a software package that provides banks with a single communications gateway to networks such as telex, fax, electronic data interchange, and domestic and international payment networks.

Basic Science

The Binational Science Foundation (BSF) is a grant-awarding institution that promotes research cooperation between scientists from the United States and Israel. It was established by the two governments in 1972 and has awarded more than 2,100 research grants, involving more than 1,800 scientists from 298 institutions located in 43 states. Active grants include:

  • Hebrew University and the New York State Department of Health -- Genetic code and cell physiology.
  • Tel Aviv University and the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory -- Experimental search for the pentaquark.
  • The Weizmann Institute and Virginia Polytechnic Institute -- Heavy metal contamination of ground water.
  • Ben-Gurion University and MIT -- Effect of ignition system characteristics on flame initiation in gasoline engines.

The benefits to the United States from BSF-sponsored studies include the extension and elaboration of research to achieve milestones that might not have been reached otherwise; the introduction of novel thinking and techniques that led American researchers to move in new directions; confirmation, clarification and intensification of research projects; access to Israeli equipment and facilities unavailable elsewhere and early access to Israeli research results that sped American scientific advances.

BSF documented no less than 75 new discoveries that probably would not have been possible without foundation-supported collaboration. These advances included the development of new methods and techniques, the discovery of new phenomena and major theoretical breakthroughs.