Like many other small countries, Israel has sharply defined scientific and technological policies aimed at enhancing its competitive position.​​​​
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    המחקר המדעי והישגיו אינם עוד עניין אינטלקטואלי מופשט בלבד... אלא גורם מרכזי... בחיי עם תרבותי... - דוד בן גוריון, תשכ"ב

    "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)

    Like many other small countries, Israel has sharply defined scientific and technological policies aimed at enhancing its competitive position. In science, it encourages the establishment of centers of excellence around outstanding scientists, while maintaining a level of quality across the broad spectrum of scientific fields. In technology, Israel strives for high performance through concentration on a limited number of areas.

    The percentage of Israelis engaged in scientific and technological inquiry, and the amount spent on research and development (R&D), in relation to its Gross Domestic Product (GDP), are among the highest in the world.

  • Beginnings

    Laboratory of Frutarom, 1946
    Laboratory of Frutarom, 1946 (Photo: GPO / H.Pinn)

    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 founder of political Zionism who actively promoted 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, cultural, 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 of the Mikveh Yisrael School (1870). The Agricultural Station, set up in Tel Aviv (1921), eventually became 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 departments of biochemistry, bacteriology, and hygiene were instituted in the mid-1920s at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. These provided the basis for the Hadassah Medical Center, today Israel’s most prominent medical research facility.

    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 Institute 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).

    The country’s scientific and technological infrastructure was already in place when the State of Israel was established in1948. At first, research focused on projects of national importance, and on this foundation commercially oriented industries gradually developed.​