It was nine years ago, when I began my job as ICA manager, that I first met Mrs. Yael Maor, the director of the Dead Sea Arava Science Center in Kibbutz Ein Gedi. A small caravan housed one researcher with a number of test tubes and a small centrifuge … It was my first meeting with Dead Sea R&D to later become the Dead Sea Arava Science Center (DSASC).
The DSASC Chairman Prof. Moses and CEO Mrs. Yael Maor define their goals as the development of the Dead Sea (the lowest place on Earth) and the recruitment of researchers who will investigate the secrets of the Dead Sea. Their dream was to set up a research institute, which would both decipher the possibilities inherent in the Dead Sea and turn the region into a sea of hope and vision. This place would provide high-income scientific employment, absorbing scientists and enabling them to establish their homes in the Dead Sea and Arava area. Local youth, who have studied at universities, will be able to return home for their livelihood and a decent quality of life.
A decade later one can look back and be proud of the forty research scientists and of the seventy research assistants, engineers and technicians who thrive at the Center. The DSASC has also established an impressive home at Masada. Its other branches in Eilot and Hatzeva have already received laboratories and we hope that before long the Mitzpe Ramon branch will also have a home and a laboratory. ICA can certainly be pleased for its participation.
As for impressive achievements, it should be noted that there is more to do and improve.
The Institute needs to sharpen its message and understand that it is not just an ordinary academic body. It is vital in achieving applied goals, such as developing employment opportunities, increasing staff numbers and creating autonomous income.
To do this, the Center needs a director-general who knows how to harness researchers for these purposes. It must strengthen and expand its ties with other research institutions in Israel and worldwide. Moreover, it has to establish a commercialization unit for knowledge and patent registration and for commercial development collaborations. This requires strong, independent managerial leadership with a broad vision and notable executive ability.
Today, most of the Institute’s budgets rely on support from the Ministry of Science for the regional Council and research grants. The mobilization of resources, especially the income from the establishment of commercialization units and the provision of research services, must be diversified and expanded.
Mrs. Yael Maor, the DSASC director who has run the institute since its inception, is ending her position and a new director is expected to take up this position. I have already stated that ICA can be very proud of its role to date. However, from now on, ICA must closely examine whether the new director will recognize my position or will remain in the current management pattern that in my opinion does not fit the current state of affairs. Should the latter prevail, I would recommend that ICA be content with its assistance and allow the Center to continue on its own pathway.
A new director will be elected in January. Prof. Yona Chen, ICA’s representative on the DSASC board, and I were partners in formulating the threshold conditions for the new director. We hope that the most suitable applicant will indeed be chosen.
Next month I plan to send a summary of scientific publications, commercial moves, and information on the scope of knowledge and patents that have been registered.