Few places on Earth invoke the kind of economic envy that Northern California’s Silicon Valley does. So much so, that hopes of being the “next Silicon Valley” have spawned scores of wannabes worldwide such as Silicon Oasis (Dubai), Silicon Cape (Cape Town) and Silicon Sloboda (Moscow). In the U.S., “Silicon Beach” is coveted by five cities, among them Miami.
Obviously, all these places share the same ambition: to attain the lucrative concentration of fresh talent, disruptive ideas and venture capital that has driven Silicon Valley’s technological innovation and financial success over the past 50 years. The problem is that there’s only one, and will always will be only one, Silicon Valley.
Should places like South Florida, with the means to foster technological innovation locally, abandon their ambitions? In a word, no. Some, like Israel’s Silicon Wadi, have gone beyond pretension: The Economist ranked it second in the world to Silicon Valley in the concentration of home-grown, high-tech companies, with U.S.-based global firms such as IBM, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Google, Cisco and others having research facilities there.
Did Silicon Wadi happen overnight? No, it took about 40 years, with roots established even earlier than that. Did the Israeli government help? Yes, with low-interest loans and substantial grants, many notably from Israel’s military. Was academia involved? Indeed, Israel’s Technion – Israel Institute of Technology – and its Weizmann Institute of Science are ranked among the world’s top 20 academic institutions in computer science. Venture capital? Yes, that helped accelerate the region’s success, too.
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