Israel’s at war – but keeps on innovating

The start-up nation solves problems to create a better world, even during war time


V Israel is fighting a war on many levels. The existential threat that erupted on October 7 has, appallingly, given a new lease of life to the BDS movement.

There is nothing more ironic than “enlightened” students thinking they know it all, setting up camp and boycotting anything and everything – including Jewish lecturers. But thanks to my position with the Technion, I see what students can achieve when they’re driven by intellectual pursuit rather than hate. While some outside Israel have been focusing on attacking Jews, inside Israel researchers have carried on solving problems to benefit everyone, worldwide.

Recently, for example, agricultural startup Bluewhite, based in Tel Aviv, has found a way to turn any tractor into a self-driving vehicle, helping solve a two-pronged problem.

First, no one wants to drive tractors these days; and second, the ever-increasing need for more food amid a growing world population necessitates round-the-clock operation, which has proved impossible. Automated tractors mean unlimited potential output.

Then there is the Sowillo Energy system that generates energy from the hot water wasted from showers and washing up. As the world becomes ever more concerned with the impact of climate change and increasing levels of greenhouse gases, this startup – led by Technion alumni Kirill Dedul and Pavel Gurevich – redirects the hot water that’s headed for the municipal sewer system to a special coil within a tank that is then used to create more hot water for the building. According to the United States’ Natural Resources Defense Council, hot water for homes and commercial buildings in the US alone generates 520 million metric tons of carbon emissions annually – comparable to the emissions from 113 million cars each year.

Would the students staging sit-ins boycott such an important worldwide cause because it comes from Israel? The question is rhetorical, because we all – unfortunately – know the answer, and it’s not the smartest. If they had their way and Israel was boycotted, this revolution in sustainability would – quite literally – go down the drain.

Or how about the solar lighting system by Solight? It’s on a mission to bring natural (yet filtered so as to mitigate the harmful effects of UV radiation) sunlight indoors to boost health and wellness. The patented technology, installed on rooftops, funnels sunlight indoors between 8am and 4pm, reducing the need for artificial light and enhancing the benefits that come from having natural sunlight beaming onto your face. These include boosting circadian rhythm, better concentration, bone growth and better eye health, as well as reducing depression. Sunlight is also said to speed recovery of hospital patients by up to 30 per cent.

And, of course, many of the mediums through which the boycotters are trying to cast Israel to the wilderness are themselves Israeli inventions. Most of the technology in mobile phones today can, after all, be traced back to Israeli engineering.

The moment Israel stops working to create a better world is the moment it ceases to exist – regardless of borders on a map.

Alan Aziz is CEO of Technion UK

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