Herzliya, Tel Aviv, and Ra’anana are the places most Israelis think of as the country’s high-tech centers, but that perception is likely to change in the coming years. Beersheba is set to become the country’s new tech center, and last week, the center of that center – the Beersheba Advanced Technologies Park (ATP) – was officially inaugurated, in a gala ceremony featuring top figures from government, business, and academia.
The park’s establishment is so significant, said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, that “it will change the history of the State of Israel” and of Beersheba. Speaking on September 3 at the official opening of the park, which will eventually include almost two dozen buildings with 190,000 square meters of office and shopping space, Netanyahu said that Israel was launching “the economic anchor that will turn Beersheba into a national and international center for cybernetics and cyber security.”
ATP is actually not the first high-tech “industrial zone” in Beersheba; it was preceded by Ben Gurion Universty, which has a large tech development program of its own, and is working with companies like Deutsche Telekom on R&D. Speaking at the event, Ben Gurion President Rivka Carmi said “the opening of the Advanced Technologies Park (ATP) in Beersheba will be remembered as the turning point in the development of the Negev. We have always been at the geographical heart of Israel. Now we are on our way to becoming the true center for innovation and growth.”
ATP is a joint public-private partnership of Ben Gurion, the Beersheba Municipality, and construction and development firm KUD International LLC and Gav-Yam Negev. ATP is designed to be a city within a city, explained Gav-Yam CEO Avi Jacobovitz, with shopping, transportation, and a hotel. So far, he said, the company had invested NIS 1 billion in the project.
“This is not just a holiday for Beersheba but for the State of Israel,” said Beersheba Mayor Ruvik Danilovich, “this is an historic change which will turn Beersheba into a knowledge center, and a boundary-breaking technological anchor.
While there will be a variety of companies and technologies at the ATP, the emphasis will be on cybersecurity development. Building of the ATP was completed this summer, and the first companies to move in — among them Deutsche Telekom, and EMC² RSA — have established cybersecurity R&D labs. Three more cybersecurity R&D labs and incubators — operated by Elbit, Oracle, and Jerusalem Venture Partners — will be set up in the coming months. In addition to industry, the government’s National Cyber Bureau is set to move to the ATP.
JVP’s incubator is set to begin operating in several months, said Gadi Tirosh, General Partner at JVP, and Beersheba is the right place for it. “We reviewed over one hundred new Israeli cybersecurity start-ups since the beginning of this year, in some of the most interesting areas challenging the world today,” said Tirosh. “As Israel strengthens its position at the epicenter of global cyber-innovation, the convergence of multinationals along with the IDF intelligence units signifies a new age in cybersecurity coming out of Beersheba.
“The JVP incubator aims at harnessing the research and innovation emerging from this unique ecosystem for its new generation of cybersecurity companies. It’s not about fighting the last war, it’s about foreseeing the threats of the next one,” added Tirosh.