Editor's note - Kristen Rupert, Executive Director of the AIM International Business Council, traveled to Israel earlier this month as part of Governor Charlie Baker's trade mission.
Governor Charlie Baker’s recent trade mission to Israel took place at a propitious time for US-Israel relations.
The first two (of an order of 50) F-35 fighter jets were delivered by the US to Israel while the Massachusetts trade delegation was participating in meetings in Tel Aviv. These state-of-the-art, manufactured-in-the-US, stealth aircraft were flown from the US to an Israeli airbase in the Negev where they were greeted by Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter, US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro, and a large crowd of US and Israeli military personnel.
Against this backdrop of goodwill between the US and Israel, Massachusetts executives spent four days in panel discussions, informational briefings and networking sessions with Israeli counterparts in the digital health and cybersecurity sectors. A few examples:
Two panels on cybersecurity, featuring chief security, tech and information officers from Harvard, the Federal Reserve, Raytheon, IBM, Akamai and Beth Israel Deaconess, addressed the challenges of staying ahead of the “bad guys.” Lessons learned: think of cybersecurity as an investment and not a cost for your company, continue to add security features for log-ins and data access, and communicate regularly to employees—nearly all of whom carry a mobile device—about the critical importance of protecting company and personal data.
On research and innovation, Governor Baker and Israel’s Chief Scientist spoke at a half-day session, convened by GE, about complementary strengths in Massachusetts and Israel. Both leaders spoke about the value of collaboration among government, private industry, and universities. Massachusetts is historically strong in technology and our defense legacy is helping us grow a cybersecurity ecosystem. Israel spends more per capita on research and development than any country in the world and the government funds start-ups in all industries at all stages. Both Israel and Massachusetts have strong talent pools from which to hire—yet both are struggling with the need for additional skilled workers.
Governor Baker stressed the “powerful possibilities” of collaboration between the Bay State and Israel. Strong ties already exist. Many Israeli doctors and health-care researchers trained or practiced in Massachusetts. More than 200 Israeli-founded companies are thriving in the Boston area. Thrice-weekly non-stop flights between Boston and Tel Aviv already carry university professors, students on internships, private industry leaders, medical professionals and government officials.
Several Memoranda of Understanding focused on cybersecurity and technology were signed by Massachusetts government officials and their Israeli counterparts during the trip. Now back home, trade mission delegates are already talking about how to launch and nurture additional collaborations and encourage Israeli start-ups to come to Boston.
Governor Baker said it best when he invited company founders to consider Massachusetts “your home away from home.” Certainly the recent trade mission reinforced the strong desire by Israelis and Bay Staters to work even more closely together over the next few years.