BOG 2021: Hi-Tech’s “First Lady” Wins Ramniceanu Prize

Dr. Orna Berry recognized for outstanding contribution to Israel’s economy and industry
24 October 2021
Dr. Orna Berry receiving the Ramniceanu Prize certificate from TAU President, Prof. Ariel Porat. Photo: Chen Galili

The Hugo Ramniceanu Prize in economics was awarded last week to Dr. Orna Berry—a hi-tech entrepreneur, data scientist, policy maker and industry executive. The prize honors the late Hugo Ramniceanu, a long-time president of the TAU French Friends Association, entrepreneur and industrialist.


Orna Berry, a TAU alumna, is a pioneer of Israel’s science, technology and venture capital industries with over 35 years’ experience in the field. Among other influential public roles, she was the first woman to serve as the Chief Scientist at Israel’s Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor. Referred to by colleagues as “the First Lady of Israeli hi-tech”, Berry is also well-known for her extensive volunteer work in promoting diversity and employment equality.


Innovation Through Struggle

In a moving acceptance speech, Berry shared the story of her struggle with an aggressive form of ovarian cancer. Even in this challenging process, true to her entrepreneurial nature, Berry saw an opportunity for growth and improvement. “During my treatment we initiated a collaboration with other countries in sharing clinical research data of ovarian cancer patients. I hope that we shall find methods to improve the efficiency of its early detection and treatment.” To this end, Berry said she will donate the prize money to the gynecological oncology department at Sheba Tel HaShomer Medical Center, with the purpose of advancing the application of data science and artificial intelligence in the field. The research will pool data from clinical studies and use machine learning to help doctors improve treatments and achieve breakthroughs in digital innovation.


Throughout the struggle, Berry continued to serve as a board member of Ramot, TAU’s technology transfer company, and even launched the TAU Ventures Fund.


Berry added that what she counted among her greatest successes were increasing Israel’s R&D spending, and amplifying collaboration between the academic, military and industry sectors. “Following Winston Churchill I may say, never ever ever ever give up,” Berry concluded, thanking the Ramniceanu family for recognizing her achievements.


The Engine Behind The Start-Up Nation

Hugo Ramniceanu’s daughter, Dr. Monique Barel, attended the ceremony virtually from France. “My father created this prize to celebrate entrepreneurship. The Jerusalem Post wrote that you, Dr. Berry, are the engine behind the start-up nation. We are very proud that you have been awarded this prize,” she said in a recorded speech. 


Speaking at the award ceremony, TAU President Prof. Ariel Porat said: “Dr. Berry epitomizes the connection between industry and academia that we at Tel Aviv University will be working to deepen and expand, as part of our overall University strategy. Clearly, the founder of the Prize, the late Hugo Ramniceanu, understood that the economy and academy are twin engines for a nation’s prosperity, and he created this prestigious prize to combine these two spheres.”


Awarding of the Ramniceanu scholarship. From left to right: Mr. Gregory Ramniceanu, scholarship recipient Itai Cohen, TAU Dean of Students Prof. Drorit Neuman, and Prof. Ruth Amossy. Photo: Chen Galili


​Also speaking were Prof. Francois Heilbronn, the President of TAU French Friends, attending from France and Dr. Amiram Appelbaum, Chairman of the Israel Innovation Authority & Chief Scientist at the Ministry of Economy and Industry.


The Hugo Ramniceanu Prize has been awarded annually for over 30 years to distinguished individuals advancing progress in Israel's economy at TAU’s Board of Governors meeting. 


The Hugo and Valerie Ramniceanu Scholarship in Economics was awarded at the ceremony to Itai Cohen, a TAU student of economics, management and philosophy in the presence of Gregory Ramniceanu, Hugo’s grandson.




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