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Prof. Sivan in a Globes interview: “Taxpayers do not enjoy the Army’s added value”

Link to the original interview in Hebrew https://www.globes.co.il/news/article.aspx?did=1001285058
Reporter: Omri Zerachovitz / Globes news
Date: 11- May-19

Prof. Yesha Sivan, innovating expert, describes the influence of technological changes and how they affect the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). Prof. Yesha also explains why the IDF should explore the commercialization of its knowledge.

In recent years, we have experienced changes in the nature of innovation, or what Sivan calls “innovating innovating.” For example, organizations used to invest 10%–20% of its energy in new products using both business development and research, while modern-day organizations invest 80%-90% of its energy and resources for the same purpose (Google, for example).

Prof. Yesha Sivan, the founder and CEO of i8 ventures (http://i8.ventures), a business platform focusing on “innovating innovating”, and a visiting professor of digital, innovation, and venture at the Chinese University of Hong Kong Business School, says that the current pace is a new example of the change in innovation. That is, things are moving faster thanks to digital power that enables links among different technologies and ultimately, the creation of an innovating system.

How does such change affect an organization like the IDF?

On the one hand, the IDF, like other organizations, is dealing with the change. On the other hand, the IDF, unlike civil organizations, has special challenges due to its nature—namely, an organization that deals with national security.
Probing questions arise in this era of innovating innovating. For example, how do we deal with the relatively short lifecycle of most technologies? What does it mean to reduce the development price in a ratio of 1 to 1,000 that facilitates the possibility of an enemy having innovative technologies that only countries could previously access? The problem is that embracing new innovation methodologies in large organizations is a relatively slow process. However, the IDF does manage innovation processes through the Administration for Research and Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure, or “Mafat” in Hebrew, in a very deep and conscious way.

Does the current era require a change in the army’s concept of intellectual property?

This is an extremely interesting issue. In the past, Israel has turned a blind eye to ideas developed within the army, assuming that these ideas would evolve into companies—such as Check Point—that would promote Israeli industry. In the last several years, although we have seen that ideas born in the army have become small companies, especially in the cyber field, many of them produce value primarily to foreign investors. These are companies that could move out of Israel, so the country could lose thousands of local jobs instead of producing more jobs, as companies such as Check Point have provided.
This situation causes two problems: First, how does the local taxpayer enjoy the added value created by these ideas on a national scale? The second problem relates to employees within different army units that are lured by attractive offers, as the knowledge they have acquired during their service is of great relevance.
“I believe that the IDF must deal with this question since this is interrupting units like 8200 in its routine work (and in the future, it might touch other technological groups as well.) The army has difficulty retaining young soldiers since the civil market is already offering doubled paychecks for the same job.
The private market could thrive with the commercialization of intellectual property since companies that use the army’s technology would enjoy a successful image in the eyes of the public. In addition, the army would also have the money to help retain their employees.

What special opportunities does the current era offer to the army?

Innovation allows the army to offer young soldiers fascinating employment opportunities that will attract the best of our younger generation, which is the true potential of innovation. Such opportunities might appear as small issues, but they are a big challenge for the IDF, which is currently failing to retain its people in the system.

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