Taking you through some of Israel’s firsts

  • Innovations2
1952 High-school dropout Stef Wertheimer sets up a small metal shop and tool-making company in the backyard of his home in Nahariya. His company, ISCAR, is today one of the world’s largest manufacturers of carbide industrial cutting tools used by carmakers like Ford and General Motors, employing 6 000 people in branches in 50 countries.
by Martine Bass | Apr 19, 2018

1955 Israeli physicist Dr Harry Zvi Tabor develops a new type of solar heater (“dud shemesh” in Hebrew) to produce hot water for households.

1963 Hebrew University professor Raphael Mechoulam discovers the chemical structure of the active compounds in cannabis, which is later used to treat seizures, among other disorders.

1964 The National Water Carrier is completed, bringing water from Israel’s north to the parched south. The development is a major step forward in enabling Israel to turn the Negev Desert into the centre of crop production.

1967 Michael Sela, Ruth Arnon and Dvora Teitelbaum begin experimenting with synthetic substances to reduce the symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis. Thirty years later, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves Copaxone, the drug the three developed along with Teva Pharmaceuticals.

1973 Avraham Bachri and Moshe Dolev invent the Rav Bariach geometric door lock, the cylinders of which connect throughout the door frame. The Pladelet (Hebrew for “steel door”) was the first steel security door introduced to the market, and by 1978 was the best-selling steel door in Israel. Today, RB-Doors has sold more than four million steel doors throughout the world.

1974 Intel sets up a chip design centre in Haifa, its first outside the US. The first PC microprocessor, the Intel 8088 chip was designed in Israel in 1978 and went on to dominate the desktop computer market.

1976 A team of Hebrew University librarians, systems analysts and computer programmers launch an effort to create the world’s first automated library system, known as Aleph.

1977 AfiMilk introduces the world’s first electronic milk meter.

1979 Weizmann Institute professor Michel Revel discovers a novel way to treat multiple sclerosis by experimenting on foreskin. His research leads to the development of Interferon-beta (Rebif), one of the leading drugs to treat MS.

1983 Mario Moshe Levi and Yaakov Nakash launch Bio-Bee Biological Systems at Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu, which cultivates bees, wasps and mites for pest control and natural pollination on farms across the world.

1985 Professor Shlomo Navarro of the ministry of agriculture’s Volcani Agricultural Research Organisation develops the GrainPro Cocoon, a large, hermetically sealed bag for crops that doesn’t require pesticides.

1990 Former Israeli Defence Forces medic Bernard Bar-Natan develops the Emergency Bandage, which instantly controls massive bleeding with a patented pressure applicator and prevents infections in trauma situations.

1991 Haim Shtalryd develops the first modern baby breathing monitor and begins marketing it through the company, Hisense. The Babysense monitor can detect and prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, the leading cause of death in infants under a year old in the US and Europe.

1993 Check Point Software is founded by Gil Shwed, Shlomo Kramer and Marius Nacht, who create the first firewall to protect corporate and personal data online. Benny Landau’s Indigo launches E-Print 1000, revolutionising the digital printing industry; and husband-and-wife team Imad and Reem Younis launch Alpha Omega, now the largest Arab high-tech company in Israel, creating the industry standard for devices that act as a GPS inside the brain for deep brain stimulation procedures for neurological disorders.

1996 Technion professor Moussa Youdim publishes a paper claiming the compound, Rasagiline, can fight Parkinson’s disease. Three years later, Israeli drug company Teva Pharmaceuticals develops Azilect and begins marketing it in Europe (2005) and the US (2006).

1997 Israel opens its first reverse osmosis desalination plant, in Eilat. Since then, five more desalination plants have opened along Israel’s Mediterranean shore: in Ashkelon, Palmachim, Hadera, Soreq and Ashdod. They provide about 60% of domestic water needs.

1998 Four young Israeli technology pioneers – Arik Vardi, Yair Goldfinger, Sefi Vigiser and Amnon Amir – sell their messaging programme, ICQ, to America Online for $407 million (R5 trillion). The free messaging programme took them less than two months to build. Their first investor was Arik’s father, Yossi Vardi, considered one of the godfathers of Israel’s high-tech industry.

Given Imaging, the developer of the PillCam miniature camera in a capsule, used for diagnosing and treating gastrointestinal diseases, is founded. Dr Gabi Iddan, who worked in the missile division of Rafael, came up with the idea when he realised that missile technology could be miniaturised to create a medical product. The company revolutionised GI diagnostics, and in 2013 was sold to Irish company Covidien for $860 million (R10.2 trillion).

1999 Amnon Shashua and Ziv Aviram launch Mobileye, a system to prevent accidents by warning drivers of a dangerous situation, using research Shashua developed at Hebrew University.

2000 M-systems launches the world’s first flash drive, the DiskOnKey. The device, which is smaller, faster and has significantly more storage capacity than a floppy disk or CD, is as ubiquitous today as the paper clip. Founder Dov Moran sold the company to SanDisk in 2006 for $1.6 billion (R19 billion).

2001 Mazor Robotics creates a guidance system that enables spine surgeons to create a three-dimensional blueprint of the spine from a CT image. The robotic spine and brain surgery products are based on technology pioneered by Professor Moshe Shoham from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

2003 Brainsway is founded to develop a medical device for transcranial magnetic stimulation as a non-invasive treatment for depression.

2004 After an accident leaves electronics engineer Amit Goffer a quadriplegic, he founds Argo Medical Technologies to develop a system that will allow wheelchair users to walk and climb stairs.

In biotech, work began to develop Exelon, the first drug approved for treating mild to moderate dementia associated with Parkinson’s disease.

2007 Technion chemical engineering professor Hossam Haick begins developing the NaNose nano-artificial nose to detect various types of cancer and other diseases non-invasively through breath analysis.

2008 Driver navigation app Waze is founded by Israeli programmers Ehud Shabtai, Uri Levine and Amir Shinar using real-time updates and road conditions to reduce commute time and gasoline consumption.

Hebrew University Professor Oded Shoseyov invents a system for turning animal or human waste into odourless powder without water or electricity.

Amir Peleg launches Takadu, a software platform that marries big data and the Cloud to monitor water networks. His system gives cities, municipalities and countries the capability to check their water infrastructure and detect leaks and burst pipes, saving millions of litres of water.

2010 Amnon Shashua and Ziv Aviram launch OrCam Technologies to develop wearable assistive technologies for people with visual impairment. In 2018, OrCam is valued at $1 billion (R12 billion).

Israeli inventions during 2010 include Danny Peleg’s Hydrospin, a small rotating wheel that turns within a water pipe in order to generate an electrical current as a perpetual source of clean energy; and David Levy’s potato that can grow in hot, dry climates.

2011 A test of the revolutionary Iron Dome missile defence system intercepts a short-range rocket for the first time in history.

SesameEnable is developed as the world’s first smartphone for people with severely limited use of their hands.

HomeBioGas introduces the first highly efficient, easy-to-assemble system to turn organic household waste into clean, renewable cooking gas and liquid fertiliser.

Jerusalem start-up Agilite introduces the Injured Personnel Carrier, enabling rescuers to carry or evacuate an incapacitated person on their back, hands-free.

2015 Kadimastem’s stem-cell technology – with the potential to treat neurodegenerative diseases, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) – goes into development by Professor Michel Revel, who developed the multiple sclerosis drug, Rebif.

Consumer Physics introduces the prototype of SCiO, the world’s first consumer-grade molecular sensor. The tiny spectrometer allows you to get instant relevant information about the chemical makeup of foods, plants, medicines, diamonds and more.

2016 Neurology and radiology experts at Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa use the Exablate Neuro guided magnetic resonance system, developed by Insightec, to cure a woman’s essential tremor without incisions or anaesthesia.

2017 In a world first, two Israeli patients receive injected laboratory-grown bone tissue developed by BonusBioGroup.

2018 The first direct proof of the existence of dark matter in the universe is revealed by Tel Aviv University astrophysicist Rennan Barkana, based on radio signals emanating from outer space.


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