Innovation in the food and beverage sector: models of the Israeli ecosystem

There are some sectors of global business for which the challenge of innovation almost seems a contradiction. These are sectors most linked to the tradition of consumption, which it would appear are now stratified into markets generally considered mature. Food is probably the most obvious example, but this is not the case.

At Technology Forum 2013, which will take place May 24-25 in CastelBrando (Cison di Valmarino – Treviso), the presentation by Eyal Shimoni will demonstrate how successful innovation can be introduced and consolidated even in the apparently very inert “food and beverage” sector. Shimoni, Professor of Biotechnology and Food Engineering at Technion, the Israeli Institute of Technology, is the well-known CTO of the Strauss Group, Israel’s leading food and beverage group. A giant with 14,000 employees, 26 production plants in 19 countries around the world and over two billion dollars in annual billings, it has made quality of life the center of its mission. Starting from the most elementary of all foods: water.

But the excellent performance of the Strauss Group and Eyal Shimoni as its CTO is rooted in a much broader context. In fact, it is no accident that the group’s headquarters are in Tel Aviv, in the heart of a country that is often defined the “start-up nation”. A country that today offers itself as a model of an innovation ecosystem because it brings together with maximum efficacy the four ingredients of any innovative action: research (both theoretical and applied), business (as shown by the Strauss example), finance and institutions.

And it is these last two worlds—finance and institutions—that the other two speakers from Israel at the Technology Forum represent, with presentations by Nava Swersky Sofer and Manuel Trajtenberg.

The former is the Chairperson of NanoIsrael, the prestigious international conference and fair of nanotechnologies, and Co-Chairperson of the Center of Excellence for Commercialization of Research in Israel. But what makes her professional experience unique is the ten year period she spent in California as a venture capitalist, an experience Ms. Swersky Sofer successfully brought back to her home country, applying it to the nanotechnology sector.

Manuel Trajtenberg is an economist, but above all one of the leading R&D and innovation experts in the world. It is a passion he has pursued from the period of his PhD from Harvard in 1984, with his dissertation, “Economic Analysis of Product Innovation”. What makes Israel a model ecosystem for innovation is that there, people like Trajtenberg are called upon to serve and guide public institutions: a former advisor to a number of government ministries, advisor to the World Bank and Chief Scientist at the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Labor, this world expert in innovation is currently the Chairman of the Budgeting and Planning Committee of the Council for Higher Education. Because ecosystems are based first and foremost on expertise.