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Is Israel Falling Behind in the AI Race?

A new study says this just might be the case.

Ai artificial intelligence

Israel may be known as Startup Nation for all of its high-tech success stories, but it is apparently lacking in one very important and newly expanding field – Artificial Intelligence (AI). This is what the researchers from RISE Israel, in collaboration with Google, say their study determined.

It’s a bit hard to swallow. The idea that Israel, a country known for innovation in just about every aspect of life, from agriculture to defense, seems absurd. Especially in a field that will dominate just about everything high-tech within just a few years.

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However, the people from RISE Israel say that this is what they found.

For example, fewer than 700 graduates with second degrees in computer science, mathematics and statistics join the workforce in Israel each year. However, about 50% of total investment and of the number of financing rounds in Israeli technology companies in 2023 were in AI companies,

Israel remains a strong player in the global AI scene, ranking 7th according to the Tortoise Global AI Index, which considers implementation, innovation, and investment. However, the AI landscape is rapidly evolving, with new competitors emerging. While Israel held 5th place in 2020, it slipped to 7th by 2023. Meanwhile, countries like Singapore, which have heavily invested in national AI initiatives, have seen a significant rise, jumping from 10th to 3rd in the same period.

When assessing the state of the Israeli AI landscape, Rise considered two perspectives. The first, is Israel’s competitiveness in producing cutting-edge AI innovation and globally leading tech companies in the field. The second, adoption, focuses on the implementation of artificial intelligence in Israel and its potential to empower Israeli society and economy.

The survey found that higher representation of academic high-tech training among founders of AI companies, with 47% of those with such backgrounds compared to 39% in other high-tech companies). The AI industry is dominated by founders with strong technical backgrounds. In fields like Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Computer Vision, over half the founders have academic training in high-tech fields. This is even more pronounced in newer “Gen-AI” companies, where over 60% of founders boast such credentials.

“This trend suggests a potential ‘entrepreneurship gap,’” said the researchers. “With such high demand for technical talent, fewer people with those skills may be available to launch new ventures. This underscores the need for initiatives that encourage and support non-technical founders in the AI space.”

RISE Israel chairperson Prof. Eugene Kandel said, “The AI revolution is a fact, and Israel cannot afford not to be a leading country in this field. Besides the importance of maintaining Israel’s competitiveness in the global race, adoption of AI has the capacity to improve the quality of life of Israeli citizens dramatically.”

RISE Israel (formerly SNPI) is a non-profit independent think tank that promotes a competitive, sustainable, and innovation-driven economy.



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