Global Entrepreneurship Week was marked in Israel by awarding of third annual Prime Minister’s Prizes for Initiatives and Innovation.

 Israel rewards innovators with $18,000 prizes


Global Entrepreneurship Week logo

By Avigayil Kadesh

As part of the 2012 Global Entrepreneurship Week (November 12-18), Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu bestowed two Prime Minister’s Prizes for Initiatives and Innovation and two honorable mentions at a ceremony at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

The November 13 award ceremony was one of 35,000 events in 125 countries participating in Global Entrepreneurship Week  – the world’s largest celebration of innovators and job creators.

The Prime Minister’s Prize was created three years ago to encourage Israeli initiative, innovative thinking, imagination and creativity that could significantly impact global society, environment, science and technology.

 Israel rewards innovators with $18,000 prizes

PM Netanyahu with the prize winners (Photo: GPO)

Prime Minister Netanyahu said: "These two great forces – initiatives and innovation – push society and life to new heights. We are facing a very promising and, in a certain sense, a very challenging period. The development of the world of the Internet has reached the cyber world very quickly; the cyber world reaches the world of cyber-attacks. There must also be defenses; new things come from this defense – new industries and new understandings. We must advance these from within both the Government and the Prime Minister’s Office. I believe that this is not only within us, it is also our future. Therefore, we established this Prize. Initiatives and innovation advance humanity, the State of Israel and society. The pace of change, applications and initiatives is increasing. This attests to the creativity of the Jewish people, the State of Israel and Israeli citizens."

In the for-profit category, the Prime Minister’s Prize was awarded to Yoni Bloch, CEO and co-founder of Interlude Interactive Video Technology, a next-generation online video experience. The prize for the non-profit went to Prof. Rivka Yahav for her holistic early-intervention program for preschool classrooms. Each comes with a 70,000 NIS ($18,000) award.

Prof. Oded Shoseyov received an honorable mention for his work as founder and chief scientific officer of CollPlant, a company focused on regenerative medicine and tissue repair based on its proprietary processing technologies for human collagen.

An honorable mention for the non-profit sector went to Dovi Weiss, chief scientist of Time to Know, an interactive core curriculum and digital teaching platform for one-to-one computing classrooms. For the past five years, Time to Know has been used by Israeli teachers of fourth- and fifth-grade math and reading/language arts.


Bloch, an Israeli rock musician, started Interlude in 2009 to provide a unique flexible platform for clients to create personalized interactive videos. Users choose what they want to see and hear in the video while it is playing.

The Tel Aviv-based company has won some high-profile accounts. For Madewell, Interlude made a video that lets users choose among the fashion house’s seasonal pieces to dress and accessorize a model. The Fox network used an Interlude video to promote its hit TV series "New Girl." Bank Leumi’s Interlude video let viewers choose among humorous options for a hapless couple’s romantic vacation, in order to introduce the bank’s vacation loan program. The platform is also used for many music videos.

 Israel rewards innovators with $18,000 prizes

Home page of Interlude Interactive Video Technology

TechCrunch calls the product "very impressive." Mashable calls it "a genius way to get fans hip to a new artist." Research has shown that viewers spend much more time watching Interlude videos, with a much higher retention and engagement rate than for non-interactive videos. When they are done, users can save and share their unique version of the video across social media platforms.

Early intervention without stigma

Yahav, a senior lecturer at the School of Social Work at the University of Haifa and director of its Interdisciplinary Clinical Center, was cited for her system to identify and treat environmental and developmental problems in young children, including sensory-motor, language, emotional and behavioral difficulties, within the context of the regular kindergarten classroom.

The system has been successfully used since 2004 in kindergartens throughout Israel, and Yahav recently presented a lecture about it at a major conference in San Diego.

"It’s important that this model be recognized in Israel and beyond," she says, pointing out that her program is holistic and non-disruptive. Therapeutic professionals come into the school to identify and evaluate children needing early intervention, and work with the classroom teacher to incorporate treatment in the context of the classroom on a daily basis. There is no stigma from being pulled out for evaluation or for therapy sessions. "Not taking them out of the classroom is critical," Yahav says. "Until we did this, the professionals weren’t in the kindergarten."

Yahav is a clinical social worker and psychotherapist who is head of the board of directors of the Israeli Psychotherapy Association. Among other programs she has introduced was an emotional therapy for Haifa’s children during the Second Lebanon War; therapy for children of Ethiopian descent with emotional difficulties; an interdisciplinary program providing developmental supervision for at-risk children from before birth to kindergarten age; and therapy groups dealing with loss and bereavement.

The committee that selected this year’s winners was chaired by National Economic Council head Prof. Eugene Kandel. Members included Tami Hauspeter, adviser to Netanyahu and initiator of the Prime Minister’s Prize for Initiatives and Innovation; Intel Israel General Manager Maxine Fassberg; Ben-Gurion University Dept. of Business Administration Prof. Dafna Schwartz; Dr. Harry Yuklea from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology; Itamar Medical Co-Chairman Dr. Giora Yaron; and "Start-Up Nation" co-author Saul Singer.