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Israel Innovation Authority CEO Aharon Aharon resigns

Aharon who has led the government's tech investment arm since 2017 said he felt the job had run its course

Meir Orbach and Hagar Ravet 08:0831.08.20

Israel Innovation Authority CEO Aharon Aharon announced  on Wednesday his resignation from the government's tech investment arm after four years in the role.

 

“It has been three and a half years since I took on the role of CEO of the Israel Innovation Authority (IIA). During that time I built up, stabilized, and situated the authority as an efficient and effective public agency. We moved to Jerusalem, recruited excellent people, and turned the IIA into a target-driven organization that is tested and rewarded according to the results it delivered. With joint labor, we brought the IIA to the forefront of public activity,” Aharon said in a statement.

 
Aharon Aharon. Photo: Orel Cohen Aharon Aharon. Photo: Orel Cohen

“When I accepted the challenge of managing the Israel Innovation Authority, what stood before me was the immense capability of the Authority to positively influence Israel’s industry and economy. I have acted and continue to act tirelessly for this purpose. It is not for me to judge, but during this period, the Authority has achieved unprecedented accomplishments in terms of industry, economy and society in Israel, Aharon said. "The Authority is a highly professional entity, vital for preserving Israel’s comparative edge in the international high-tech and innovation industries, especially during this time of crisis."

 

“During the initial Covid-19 outbreak, the IIA officially functioned at 30% capacity (though many workers continued to work even though they were forced to take leaves of absence) and operated an emergency plan to process hundreds of grant requests. It was a testament to the caliber of the organization we built and I took great pride in our work,” he said in a letter to IIA employees. “That period strengthened my feeling that my job as the first CEO of the IIA had run its course.”

 

Aharon was first appointed to the position in 2016 and has been in the leadership role since 2017. According to an IIA statement, Aharon is set to remain in the role for an adittional 90 days during which the IIA board will select a suitable replacement.

 

“Since his appointment to the position, Aharon Aharon has led the Israel Innovation Authority to remarkable achievements and has positioned it as a leading public institution – the agency integrating innovation into the Israeli government and an entity with immense influence on the Israeli innovation ecosystem. Under the leadership of Aharon as CEO, the Authority has carried out important strategic transformations and has significantly expanded its activity into the fields of regulation, funding, and taxation – thus adapting to the changing world of innovation and its inherent challenges, Said IIA chairman Ami Appelbaum. "I wish him great success in his future endeavors, and I am certain he will continue to exert influence on Israeli innovation. The board of directors of the Israel Innovation Authority will act immediately to establish a recruitment committee which will select an appropriate candidate capable of continuing to oversee the organization’s important activities for the benefit of Israel’s economy and industry.”

 

Prior to his role at the Authority, Aharon served as the VP of Hardware Technologies and General Manager of Apple Israel. His previous roles were Co-founder, CEO, and chairman of Camero, a startup developing through-the-wall micro-power radars, active Chairman of the Board at Discretix, a startup providing solutions for data security, CEO of Seabridge, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Siemens and COO of Zoran. Prior to that, he held a number of senior management positions at the IBM Research Division.

 

Over the past year, the IIA was forced to cope with budget delays and other fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic. Last November, Calcalist reported that delays in the passing of the state budget had forced the IIA to postpone the issuance of grants to startup companies.

 

The IIA recently received an additional NIS 390 million ($116 million) budget that was aimed at increasing government investment in small and mid-sized tech companies. The extra budget enabled the IIA to extend the application deadline to its fast track grant program until November 2020. As a result of the increase, the IIA’s 2020 budget stands at NIS 2.25 billion (nearly $700 million) compared to NIS 1.7 billion in 2019.

 

In a May interview with CTech, Aharon expressed confidence that the IIA's 2021 budget would also be secure. 

 

“The authority proved that it is at the forefront of the response to Covid-19. Today, any government ministry knows that they must come to us for technological solutions. We work quickly and efficiently. We produce results,” Aharon told CTech in a special interview marking the pivot from crisis to exit mode in the Israeli tech sector. “There is no denying that the tech sector is the growth engine of the Israeli economy. In 2019 it employed 9% of the workforce, made up 13% of the GDP and 46% of total exports. Everybody is aware of that and nobody will risk losing that.”