Already close collaborators in areas like defense and agritech, Israel and India will soon be working together on health technologies, through the good offices of the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation.
Following a deal signed last Wednesday, Israel’s Economy Ministry is to join the IFC’s TechEmerge program, which seeks out innovative tech solutions for the developing world.
Under the deal, “TechEmerge will identify top health technology innovators and match their services with interested healthcare providers in India,” the IFC said. The organization runs programs throughout the developing world to help modernize and develop economies.
Companies chosen for the program will receive funding, as well as guidance on how to succeed in the Indian economy. The Israeli firms will build up new business relationships, while Indian health providers will get access to advanced medical technologies.
The agreement was signed at the second annual Foreign Trade Conference, sponsored by the ministry’s Foreign Trade Administration. The FTA hosted hundreds of entrepreneurs and investors who came to meet representatives of the 41 Israeli trade delegations spread around the world.
According to the IFC, India is in great need of advanced medical tech to reduce the cost of care. The vast majority of the country’s hundreds of millions of households pay for healthcare expenses out of pocket; with advanced care expensive and the average Indian earning less than $5,000 a year, many people go without the care they need. With that, the Indian healthcare market is expected to grow to $280 billion by 2020.
While Israel’s biggest trading partners have traditionally been in Europe and the US – and more recently, in China – Israeli trade officials believe that there is a lot of opportunity for Israeli tech firms in emerging markets. According to Ohad Cohen, head of the FTA, Israel is already making inroads in places like Africa and South America. Israel, for example, is an observer in the Pacific Alliance, a free-trade organization consisting of Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru, and has free-trade agreements with the latter two countries as well.
In Africa, said Cohen, Israeli medical technology has been welcomed with open arms – as has Israel’s administrative knowhow in healthcare.
“For medical technology to be usable, you have to have a working healthcare system,” Cohen told The Times of Israel at the Conference. “That’s really the first step, and we’ve found that African governments are very interested in using our models of health care fund administration in their own countries.”
But the real “prize” for foreign trade expansion remains in the East. “We have a lot more work to do in Asia, especially in China and India, which within a decade and a half will be responsible for 40% of the world’s GDP.”
While China is already doing a good amount of business with Israel, said Cohen, there are many areas of the country that are still in great need of the mobile, cleantech, and communications tech that Israel can offer. But in India, Israel’s presence outside of the agritech and defense industries is very small. “Both offer substantial opportunities for trade expansion. These are the markets we have to reach, and the Foreign Trade Administration is ready to help any exporter achieve those goals,” he said.
India is a prime emerging market. Over the past four years GDP growth in India has averaged about 7.5% but economists warn that a general slowdown in the world economy could drag India down too, chopping its annual GDP growth in 2016 to 7%.
Ministry officials are enthusiastic over the program. “Our life sciences industry is ranked first globally for the number of medical device patents per capita, and Israel, being well-positioned in the life science realm, could take an active and meaningful role in the TechEmerge program,” said Amit Lang, director of the Economy Ministry.
“I firmly believe that this fact coupled with other proven strengths of the Israeli life science industry will allow for it to significantly engage in the program. This is our first agreement with IFC, and we see it as a milestone in our collaboration with the various international financial institutions. We look forward to a long and fruitful partnership with IFC.”
“Developing countries are struggling to expand access to quality health services and to cope with increased demand associated with communicable diseases as well as aging populations and the rising prevalence of chronic diseases,” said Alzbeta Klein, IFC director, Global Manufacturing, Agribusiness and Services. “Israel and other partners in the TechEmerge program will help emerging market health systems adopt innovative technologies that can drive greater access to health services.”