- Reduction comes as other nations invest more in technology
- Finance Ministry says reports of budget cuts are ‘inaccurate’
Israel’s faltering industry of tech startups is facing another hurdle amid mounting questions regarding government commitments to funding young companies.
A senior official in the technology industry said the chief scientist’s office didn’t receive a 240-million-shekel ($63.5 million) round of additional funding to finish the year as had occurred in the past. Without this sum, which is 15 to 20 percent of the usual annual budget, the office can’t grant further financing to startups for the remainder of 2016. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.
“Israel’s innovation industry is at a crossroads,” Avi Hasson, chief scientist and head of the Innovation Authority said in a letter to technology companies, a copy of which was sent to Bloomberg. “Will we succeed in keeping our global leadership position by taking our industry to the next level, or will we allow the challenges and problems to drag us back down?”
Israel’s Finance Ministry declined to confirm the shortfall in funding. In an e-mailed statement Tuesday it said local reports of the cut were “inaccurate” and stressed that the 2017-2018 budget includes programs to boost the high-tech industry and attract businesses to Israel. The statement did not elaborate.
Financing funneled to the chief scientist and Innovation Authority “allow for the commercialization of technology developed in universities, encourage entrepreneurship and directly support the growth of the industry,” Yaky Yanay, co-chairman of Israel Advanced Technology Industries, said in an e-mailed statement.
Growth in Israel’s tech sector, which accounts for about 50 percent of industrial exports and is considered a major engine of economic growth, has been slowing amid a shortage of engineers and stagnating investment in R&D.
“At a time when the entire world is increasing its research and development budget dramatically, in order to encourage advanced industries, Israel can’t allow itself to cut funding to the sector,” Yanay added.