MAYOR NUTTER leaves Friday on a 10-day trade mission to the United Kingdom and Israel. When his delegation gets to Tel Aviv, there will be plenty to see and learn.
Other cities look with envy at Tel Aviv, a sister city to Philadelphia. And no wonder: Israel attracts nearly twice the venture capital per capita of the U.S., and has 5,000 startups per capita, more than any other country despite a population of just 7 million.
Berkshire Hathaway, chaired by Warren Buffett, made its first investment outside the U.S. in 2006 when it paid $4 billion for an 80 percent stake in Israeli tool-maker Iscar Metalworking.
Israeli scientists have contributed to the advancement of agriculture, computer sciences, electronics, genetics, health care, optics, solar energy and various fields of engineering.
In her book Tiny Dynamo: How One of the World's Smallest Countries is Producing Some of Our Most Important Inventions, author Marcella Rosen profiles 21 Israeli startups inventing technologies to solve global problems.
Rosen, a former exec with the now-defunct Philly-based ad agency N. W. Ayer & Son, founded the website Untold News in 2010 to raise awareness of Israeli innovation. She said Israel is second to none in creating an entrepreneurial mind-set.
"In Israel, they're brainstorming ideas all the time," she said. "If you encourage people to disagree, to ask questions, to take risks, you create a framework where anything is possible and you add to that a can-do attitude; all of this makes a difference."
I'd say Philly could use something like Israeli Advanced Technology Industries (IATI), a 400-member umbrella nonprofit that creates business opportunities for high-tech and life-sciences industries in Israel and abroad; promotes existing and new legislation in the parliament; works closely with government; and supports community activity through tech education.
In a recent op-ed he co-authored in the Inquirer, Bruce Katz, co-director of the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program, said Philadelphia needs to do a better job of turning new ideas into new companies and new products. That's key to creating a start-up ecosystem that spawns spinoffs.
A 2011 study by Select Greater Philadelphia ranks the region as a top-five R&D center nationally, yet in measures of commercialization, Philadelphia falls to 11th in total venture capital and 12th in patent production.
Katz wrote that Philly could "supercharge" its economy by growing a "globally significant Innovation District" in University City.
Nutter and local business leaders will get a firsthand look at how that happens when they arrive in Tel Aviv. I hope to speak with the mayor and some of those folks after they return.