Dan Schectman's record is impressive. Over a 30-year career at the leading 'Technion - Israel Institute of Technology', the Nobel Prize winner has seen 10,000 graduates pass through his classroom. The 75-year old says many former students have gone on to create thriving startups, a factor which has led to Isreal becoming a global hub for innovation and technology. It's an ambition that Mr.Schectman believes is possible for other nations, including Ukraine.
"The most important natural resource you have in Ukraine in human ingenuity. If you invest in human ingenuity, if you invest in a good, basic education (for) everybody. That means getting the best to teach. That means raising salaries for teachers. That also means choosing the best people to go to colleges for becoming teachers ", Schectman said, during an interview recorded recently at the Kyiv International Economic Forum.
The stories of successful Ukrainian startups have become ever more frequent in recent years. Names like Looksery, PetCube, and home energy management firm Ecoisme are recognized as among the most successful. Yet, the local market for entrepreneurs is limited, forcing many to seek work within the outsourcing sector or with companies headquartered in the US Fears of a 'brain drain' in Ukraine are often just that, as global brands establish offices in the region. Yet, Mr. Schectman says the government should do more to help startups - a win-win strategy for all involved.
"If you have a good idea, you can apply for some funds from the chief scientist (in Israel). There is a committee that goes through your idea. If they decide it's good, then you'll get the money. In most cases , if you're successful and your company brings money, you have to pay back the investment over years from your sales. If you fail, it was a gift! "
Even without state help, Ukraine has the fastest-growing number of IT professionals. Yet, Mr. Schectman believes more could be done to deter budding entrepreneurs from leaving the country for better working conditions abroad.