Sam and I flew in last night (Tuesday), direct from Heathrow. I spent much of the flight reading Ari Shavit’s astonishing book, My Promised Land, lent to me by Richard Roberts. Greeted at the airport and steered through immigration, we were driven across to the Dan Tel Aviv. Remarkably insightful account of the world I briefly touched on when we took a brief family holiday from Cyprus in 1958.
We were soon taken under the wing of Chris Sveen, Chief Sustainability Officer of UBQ Materials – and, apparently, the first CSO in Israel. He has lived in many countries, from Colombia to Denmark where he now lives, but his knowledge of the country’s history and of Hebrew proved tremendously helpful as Israel unrolled its beauties, mysteries and horrors.
Our first full day involved a fascinating session with the top team of UBQ Materials. We are subject to a non-disclosure agreement, but I can report that the collective intelligence and humour was very striking. In the evening we were taken to the restaurant on top of the Azreali Towers, with a fine view of an extraordinary computer game being played out on the facade of City Hall. On our way back, we stopped off to watch – and Sam soon took control of the keyboard and had things in overdrive.
Sad to have missed out on meeting Professor Oded Shoseyov, whose father just died. He chairs the UBQ Scientific Advisory Board – and has a mind-boggling science CV. Take a look at his TEDxJerusalem talk here. One thing I learned was that his PhD was on the flavours and aromas associated with wines. He also has his own winery, Bravdo.
Afterwards, we were taken around Jaffa at night, which was a stunning contrast to Tel Aviv proper. The main port of entry, apparently, for the cedars of Lebanon bound for Solomon’s temple. I could almost see Richard the Lionheart cruising by in search of safe landing grounds, though the main historical figure seemed to be a statue (or at least large figurine) of Napoleon. Who probably had similar interests.
Today we were driven 90 minutes either way to the kibbutz where UBQ’s factory is located, in the Negev. We were challenged to spot where the desert began and the cultivated land ended – almost impossible without a trained eye. Much discussion of how the need for irrigation – and for micro-irrigation in particular- drove the development of the country’s plastics industry.
UBQ is still in stealth mode, but I can’t wait for the wraps to come off – a gloriously cutting edge clean technology story, in the most unlikely of sectors.