In 2011 President of Israel Shimon Peres called on McKinsey & Company to examine how Israel can play a leading role in the global brain technology sphere. We spoke with two of the people who led this work – Chris Llewellyn, the Head of McKinsey’s Medical Products Practice in EMEA, and his colleague, Dmitry Podpolny – to get their perspective on the progress that has been made since then in the braintech arena, and Israel’s role in it.
“Essentially, the activity of Israel Brain Technologies (IBT) and the upcoming Israel BrainTech 2013 event, are the culmination of two years of development following our report ‘Meeting the Mind: the Neurotechnology Revolution.’” Says Llewellyn. The report’s findings showed the brain technology arena to be a space on the cusp of transformation into the mainstream, with Israel poised to play a leading role. One of the things missing from the space was “connectivity” – connecting the dots between all of the different players required (biological scientists, engineers, computer scientists, clinicians, investors and health systems) to make the potential real, and to make it a commercial reality. Llewellyn tells us that some of this connectivity actually began during the process of McKinsey’s work on the report. “While we were researching Israel’s brain technology space, talking to everyone who might have relevant expertise – from academia, government, defense and so on – they became aware of the breadth of other things that are already happening, and who knows what, and this alone began to help bring people together.”
In the report, the McKinsey team concluded that Israel was an ideal environment to help catalyze the braintech sphere and bring it into the mainstream, with a lot of relevant scientific know-how, technology such a nano, and a legacy of building technology-driven industries such as hi-tech and agritech.
In the two years that have gone by since the report was prepared, has the McKinsey team seen the emergence of the brain technology arena as predicted? “For sure it is starting,” says Llewellyn, citing as one example President Obama’s announcement of “The BRAIN Initiative” in April 2013. “Brain technology is the global conversation now, and there’s a lot of excitement around the different technologies coming out of this arena.”
The upcoming Israel BrainTech 2013 event in October in Tel Aviv is the culmination of both the McKinsey report and President Peres’s vision of Israel as a braintech pioneer. “This is the only conference of its type,” reflects Podpolny of McKinsey. “The idea is to bring people together who are working on braintech in different fields for more in-depth discussion – investors, researchers, entrepreneurs, and others – and to create those channels of cooperation which will enable braintech to continue to move forward and realize this field’s true potential.”