Scientific research and its achievements are no longer merely an abstract intellectual pursuit...but a central factor...in the life of every civilized people...
David Ben-Gurion, 1962
Israel is a small country in the big world of science and technology. Like many other small countries, it has sharply defined policies towards scientific and technological activities aimed at enhancing its competitive position. In science, Israel encourages the establishment of centers of excellence around outstanding scientists and in areas of vital concern to the development of the industrial sector, while endeavoring to maintain a minimal international level of quality achievement across the broad spectrum of scientific fields. International cooperation continues to play a major role in this effort by facilitating the extension of scientific resources and expert knowledge at Israel's disposal. In technology, Israel strives for high performance mainly through specialization, concentrating national efforts on a limited number of areas.
The percentage of Israel's population engaged in scientific and technological inquiry as well as the amount spent on research and development (R&D), in relation to the size of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP), are among the highest in the world; and, relative to the size of the labor force, Israel has by far the largest number of publishing authors in the natural sciences, engineering, agriculture and medicine.
The history of scientific research in Israel is an integral part of the story of the return of the Jewish people to its homeland. Theodor Herzl (1860-1904), the first to actively promote the idea of a modern Jewish state in the Land of Israel, envisaged it not only as the physical home of the Jewish people, but also as a major spiritual and scientific center.
The desire to transform the land, then a barren and disease-ridden region, into a modern state was a key factor in subsequent scientific inquiry and technological development. Agricultural research dates back to the end of the 19th century with the establishment (1870) of the Mikveh Israel School. The Agricultural Station, set up in Tel Aviv (1921), eventually developed into the Agricultural Research Organization (ARO), today Israel's major institution of agricultural research and development.
Medical and public health research was initiated prior to World War I with the founding of the Hebrew Health Station. It received a major boost when the Institute of Microbiology and of departments of biochemistry, bacteriology and hygiene were instituted (mid-1920s) at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which provided the basis for the Hadassah Medical Center, today the country's most prominent medical research institution.
Industrial research was pioneered at the Dead Sea Laboratories in the 1930s, and advances in basic science and technology were begun at the Hebrew University (est. 1925), the Technion - Israel Insititute of Technology (est. 1924 in Haifa) and the Daniel Sieff Research Center (est. 1934 in Rehovot), which later became the Weizmann Institute of Science (1949).
When the State of Israel was established (1948), the country's scientific and technological infrastructure was already in place, facilitating further advancement. At first, research focused on projects of national importance, and on this foundation commercially oriented industries gradually developed.
Source: Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs