This event has become the Nobel Prize for alternative fuels and it’s akin to the Nobel Prize for peace because the work that is being done here is meant to produce a cleaner, better and safer world.
I want to welcome all of you to this annual event. There are 140 guests here from 36 countries, seven auto-makers, energy companies, technology companies, including 130 Israeli startup companies.
We have here government ministers and officials from Israel and from around the world, researchers and scientists. I want to welcome the Chairman of Keren Hayesod, Moodi Sandberg; the Head of the National Economic Council, Professor Eugene Kandel; the Minister of Science, Yaakov Peri; the Director of Alternative Fuels Administration, Eyal Rosner.
I want to recognize and thank the benefactors of tonight’s prize, Eric and Sheila Samson; you are doing extraordinary, extraordinary work. And I want to also welcome the Chairman of the Prize Committee, Professor Yitzhak Apeloig.
This event has become the Nobel Prize for alternative fuels and it’s akin to the Nobel Prize for peace because the work that is being done here is meant to produce a cleaner, better and safer world. It will also have cheaper energy, more efficient energy, and that’s something that has [unclear] political consequences, environmental consequences and economic consequences.
Now since we’ve started this program, there has been a palpable change. I asked Professor Kandel how many startup companies did we have, how many companies did we have in Israel dealing in this field two-and-a-half years ago. The number was 45. Today with the startups and the established companies, that number is 200. It’s grown four-fold, four-fold in two-and-a-half years and I think that tells you, I think, everything. What we need of course is the collaboration between government, industry and academia.
I stress the importance of this collaboration and there is the flow of people from one sector to the other, but I think this is so valuable and so important. And it mirrors the changes that are taking place in the world.
We established last year here JAFA, the Joint Alcohol Fuel Alliance. It includes China, Brazil, Israel, Australia, US participants; and it’s advanced efforts to develop alcohol-based alternative fuels. And we’ve seen a lot of progress in related areas. We’ve seen natural gas in the US from shale. We’ve seen methanol in China, hydrogen in Japan, expanded use of electric and hybrid vehicles.
In this regard, I want to congratulate the two Samson Prize winners, Professor Michael Grätzel of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne; and Professor Thomas Meyer of the University of South Carolina. They have done, you have done ground-breaking research in the development of effective and inexpensive solar-based methods in order to convert solar energy into electricity, allowing solar energy to be harnessed for transportation.
I think this is one of the great challenges that face us. Now I know that people don’t really believe that our dependence on oil for transportation is surmountable. I beg to disagree. I’m convinced it is. It requires a continuous effort, continuous. It shouldn’t be subjected to the volatility in oil prices. It has to have a determined, long-term effort that the kind of things that we are doing here in this forum and that you are doing in your respective organizations requires. But it also requires feats of brilliance. It requires the leap of imagination and technology and science. Not everything moves incrementally. Sometimes it moves in rapid jumps, rapid climbs, what we call a step-function. And I think all of you are contributing to climbing those steps and I think it can be done.
I often give the example of the world’s dependence on salt. They had salt wars in the 19th century. Salt was the preservative for food. It was the indispensable commodity. The world depended on it. And one day, somebody invented refrigeration, and that dependence was gone, gone forever. I think the same can be done with our dependence on oil in transportation. It will give people a choice. It will give consumers freedom. It will give us cleaner air. It will give us a safer world.
I want to congratulate our two honorees for giving us a better future. Thank you and congratulations. Mazal Tov. Thank you.