By Amit Acco, Partner |
The semiconductor industry in Israel has a long and rich history that dates back to the 1960s. Over the years, Israel has become a global hub for semiconductor innovation, with major international players like Intel, IBM, and Broadcom setting up research and development (R&D) centers in the country.
One of the earliest pioneers in the Israeli semiconductor industry was Dov Frohman, who is credited with inventing the EPROM (erasable programmable read-only memory) while working for Intel in California in the early 1970s. Frohman later moved to Israel, where he co-founded Intel’s first non-U.S. R&D center in 1974.
Since then, Israel has produced a steady stream of semiconductor innovations, with local companies like Tower Semiconductor, Mellanox, and Mobileye making significant contributions to the industry. In 2020, the Israeli semiconductor industry generated $35 billion in revenue, making it one of the country’s largest export sectors.
One of the key factors driving the success of the Israeli semiconductor industry is the country’s highly skilled workforce. Israel boasts a large pool of talented engineers and scientists, many of whom are graduates of the country’s top-tier universities like the Technion and Hebrew University.
R&D and innovation
Another important factor is the government’s support for R&D and innovation. The Israeli government provides a range of incentives for companies engaged in R&D, including tax breaks, grants, and loans. The government has also established a number of technology hubs and incubators to support startups and promote innovation.
One of the most notable examples of a successful Israeli technology hub is the “Silicon Vally” in Tel Aviv. This area, which encompasses a cluster of high-tech companies and startups, has been dubbed the “Startup Nation” due to its thriving startup ecosystem. Silicon Wadi is home to a number of successful semiconductor startups like Habana Labs, which was acquired by Intel in 2019 for $2 billion.
In addition to local talent and government support, the Israeli semiconductor industry has also benefited from the contributions of foreign experts. Many international companies have set up R&D centers in Israel, bringing with them a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and knowhow.
Foreign Experts with Work Visas
Foreign experts often arrive in Israel under the B-1 work visa, which allows them to conduct short-term business activities like attending conferences and conducting market research. In recent years, however, there has been a push to expand the B-1 visa program to allow foreign experts to work on R&D projects in Israel for longer periods of time.
The contribution of foreign experts has been particularly important in areas like artificial intelligence (AI), where Israel has emerged as a global leader. Many of the top AI startups in Israel have been founded by international entrepreneurs, and major companies like Google and Microsoft have established R&D centers in the country to tap into its talent pool.