Gov. Jerry Brown and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sign a memorandum of understanding in March to promote joint innovation in water conservation, alternative energy, agriculture and other areas. Photo courtesy governor’s office

California and Israel have a unique opportunity to work together to solve pressing world problems from water conservation to alternative energy, according to American and Israeli experts meeting Monday at the Rady School of Management.

Rady hosted the Cal-Israel Innovation Project, a day-long symposium inspired by the California-Israel Memorandum of Understanding, which was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in March to encourage joint efforts in water conservation, alternative energy and agriculture technology.

“There is great potential between Israel and California. We can create amazing things together,”  said Dana Erlich of the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles. “This is not just about one-plus-one, but creating something bigger than both of us.”

Glenn Yago, a senior fellow at the Milken Institute in Santa Monica, described California and Israel as “two promised lands” that can solve problems through innovative and disruptive technologies.

Examples of California and Israeli innovation mentioned Monday included:

  • Drip irrigation was invented in Israel and first used in the United States in avocado fields in San Diego County
  • The first large-scale solar power stations in the world were built in California and benefited from Israeli technology
  • California leads the world in lowering carbon emissions and Israel is pioneering alternative energy

Yosef Abramowitz, president and co-founder of Israel’s Energiya Global, described his company’s investment in solar-powered electric generating stations in Africa. The company recently finished a $24 million project in Rwanda that will supply 8 percent of that country’s power.

Yosef Abramowitz, president and co-founder of Energiya Global. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

He said Africa’s biggest development problem is lack of electric power, and public-private partnerships are needed to change that situation. “There’s not enough charity in the world to electrify the continent,” he said.

Energiya Global is looking for a “quadruple bottom line,” he said, by earning a healthy return for investors, having a positive environmental impact, providing humanitarian benefit and strengthening Israel’s image abroad.

San Diego investor and philanthropist Gary Jacobs described his Next Generation Technology, an incubator based in Nazareth, a predominantly Arab city in Israel. The incubator has helped start 28 companies, mostly by Arab entrepreneurs in the healthcare field. “We try to look at products that would do a lot of good in reducing the cost of medicine,” he said.

The event was organized by the Rady School’s US-Israel Center on Innovation & Economic Sustainability and culminated in the inaugural talk in the Stanley Foster Memorial Cal-Israel Innovations Speaker Series.

“We are pleased to host these important events and help develop a global innovation engine fueled by the respective strengths of these two technological powerhouses,” said Jeri Rubin, executive director of the US-Israel center.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.

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