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This has been a year of great accomplishment and great challenge for the Weizmann Institute of Science. We continue to have a scientific faculty second to none, backed by a stellar group of graduate students and post-doctoral fellows representing over 20 nations.
No organization has a more dedicated, more competent worldwide group of top staff. The more closely I work with our President, Ilan Chet, the more I am inspired by his leadership, vision for the Institute, and ability to stimulate philanthropy. I am also blessed with a wonderful group of deputy chairs and strong committee chairs, and with the remarkable chair of the Executive Council, Abraham Ben Naftali. Together, we are strengthening the Board of Governors and trying to enliven it with young leaders.
We face one pervasive challenge: in the past three years, support from the Israeli government has dropped from over 50 percent of the Institute’s budget to some 36 percent today - and falling. Ilan Chet has managed this fiscal problem with minimum disruption to the core mission of the Institute. Yet, further cuts could present a real challenge to our continued leadership in science.
When friends of the Weizmann Institute - and of Israel - ask me for some good news from our region, I have no difficulty in responding. The irrepressible energy and boundless ingenuity of Israeli inventors and entrepreneurs are there for all to see, but to none are they more evident than to those of us immersed in science and research.
Israel is home today to about 500 communications technology companies, 200 in medical instrumen-tation, 100 in fabless circuit design plus a number of circuit production giants, and 50 in digital printing and imaging. It has become a veritable superpower in data security, with some major companies in the field and about 80 start-ups. There are hundreds of companies developing an impressive range of programming applications - for trading in foreign currency options, for Internet applications and a great deal more. In my own field of plant science, the long tradition of Israeli innovation is being carried forward by a growing number of biotechnology companies devoted to advanced crop improvement and the production of plant-derived products. In drug design and development, Teva Pharmaceuticals leads as a major player in the world arena and is Israel's largest and most successful commercial company ever. All this, and more, in a country of less than 6 million people!
What drives this phenomenal technological dynamism and entrepreneurship? Of the many reasons I could cite, one is most relevant to our endeavor: the strength of Israeli scientific education and technological training, in which the Weizmann Institute of Science plays such a dominant role - through its emphasis upon basic research (the root of its multivaried achievements since its earliest days), its practical inventions, its science education programs and its network of graduates throughout Israel.