Immigrant Knowhow Creates New Products


A scale that weighs objects in motion, a novel electro-optical device to control the amount of light passing through it and an instrument for measuring the freshness of dairy products -- development of such hi-tech ventures is providing immediate employment to some 25 immigrant scientists in five new companies in the Kiryat Weizmann Industrial Park near the Weizmann Institute. If successful, the projects should create many additional jobs for both immigrants and veteran Israelis.

The companies were established in the framework of the Kiryat Weizmann Incubator for Technological Entrepreneurship, one of 20 such programs in Israel intended to tap the knowhow of immigrant scientists for the creation of new products, technologies and jobs. The Kiryat Weizmann Incubator, the board of which is chaired by Weizmann Institute Vice President Prof. Ruth Arnon, is a joint project of Yeda Research & Development Co. Ltd. and Africa-Israel Investments Ltd. Also helping is the Office of the Chief Scientist of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, which subsidizes the scientists' salaries and contributes to the cost of equipment and materials.

The proposals of immigrant scientists and engineers serve as the basis for each new company, which is formed in partnership with an industrial sponsor. "The industrial partner provides guidance in both technology and marketing," explains Dr. Shmuel Yerushalmi, General Manager of the Incubator for Technological Entrepreneurship and a former member of the Weizmann Institute's Electronics Department. "Out of the approximately 300 proposals received to date, our selection committee -- composed of Weizmann Institute researchers, industrialists, representatives of Africa-Israel Investments and myself -- chose the ones that had the most market potential."

"While the immigrants lacked certain Western knowhow, they were able on their arrival," Yerushalmi adds, "to catch up with their Israeli counterparts in a few months."

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