by Roy Keidar
Nobel prize laureate in economics, Michael Spence, recognized that “Leapfrogging is a matter of concocting a recipe, not focusing on each component separately.” Most people agree that it is critical that Israel close the gap between its economic potential and its performance, in order to become one of the leading countries in terms of quality of life. How can this be done? One potential solution is for Israel to take advantage of emerging global trends that have substantive long term economic potential. In order to effectively stay ahead of the game, Israel should take on a unique and global development policy, aimed at: identifying trends early on, developing the right capabilities to produce economic value, and building these capabilities on a large scale. Prominent global trends today include global warming, the development of alternative sources of energy and the aging population in Western societies. Another important trend that holds particular relevance for Israel is the emerging technological revolution of ‘do it yourself’ that has the potential to change the way we manufacture and produce. It is critical that Israel not only ride this wave but lead the current.
The Reut Institute, a non-for-profit, non-partisan organization based in Tel Aviv has taken the first step in leading this current by setting the stage for Israel to be at the cutting edge of the next technological revolution. Reut has established the XLN (Cross-lab network) project which aims to place Israel at the forefront of the global technological revolution of ‘do it yourself’ production. XLN is a network of communal technological spaces across Israel where the public can master the process of ‘do it yourself’ manufacturing and production through a close encounter with 3D printer technology, Computer Numerical Control machines and other equipment. The logic behind the project is that the potential leaders of this technological revolution will have an entrepreneurial spirit but may lack certain essential basic skills and direction. An open communal lab can become fertile grounds for training, collaboration and eventually generating new initiatives that have the potential of placing Israel at the forefront of this emerging technological revolution.
Innovation can also occur through the encounter between a ‘community of knowledge’ (ie. professionals, students) and a ‘community of need’ (ie. people with disabilities or other essential needs). This encounter may very much happen in the communal space. While the first group carries significant knowledge but needs ideas, the second one possesses needs that require solutions. The so called ‘friction’ between the two creates innovation, in which the two groups benefit.
The first communal technological space is about to be launched in Tel Aviv with the hopes of developing more hubs around Israel in the near future. Israel’s large concentration of talented and innovative people, matched with groundbreaking entrepreneurship positions Israel well to lead this technological revolution.
Roy Keidar is the CEO of the Reut Institute located in Tel Aviv, Israel. The views expressed in this article are those of the author.
The launch of the first Cross Labs Network (XLN) laboratory will take place on Wednesday September 12th, 2012, (25th of Elul 5772) at Reut’s offices at 126 Yigal Alon, Tel Aviv at 18:00. The public is invited.