Israel earmarks NIS 75 million for five new tech innovation hubs in the periphery

Tech hubs will be established in the Negev and Galilee to boost local high-tech employment and entrepreneurship in areas of agriculture, food, energy and climate change solutions

Sharon Wrobel is a tech reporter for The Times of Israel.

For Illustation: View of solar panels set up in the Negev desert, June 19, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
For Illustation: View of solar panels set up in the Negev desert, June 19, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Israel has earmarked NIS 75 million ($21 million) for the creation of five tech innovation hubs as a way to foster high-tech entrepreneurship and boost local employment opportunities for residents in the Negev and in the Galilee and close gaps between the periphery and the center.

The innovation hubs will be set up to develop and advance technologies in a number of areas, including agriculture, food, energy, and climate change. The accelerator program is a joint initiative by the Israel Innovation Authority and several government ministries, including the Economy and Industry Ministry; the Negev, Galilee and National Resilience Ministry; the Environmental Protection Ministry; the Agriculture Ministry; the Regional Cooperation Ministry; and the Innovation, Science and Technology Ministry.

“High-tech activity in Israel is mostly concentrated in the center of the country, and in around software-oriented activity such as organizational software, cyber, and fintech,” said Israel Innovation Authority CEO Dror Bin. “The geographic and demographic periphery has many assets that can be leveraged for the benefit of the diversity of Israeli high-tech, and this move is aimed at harnessing these strengths and generating greater growth across the country.”

“The development of high-tech in the periphery will strengthen the local areas, and the entirety of the Israeli high-tech industry,” Bin added.

The high-tech tech industry, touted as the main growth engine of the economy, generates about 18% of GDP and is responsible for over 50% of exports and about a third of payroll taxes. In addition, the sector employs about 11% of the country’s workforce.

Negev, Galilee and National Resilience Minister Yitzhak Wasserlauf said that the innovation hubs will “provide local entrepreneurs with the necessary and optimal conditions to achieve economic prosperity and help turn the Negev and the Galilee into independent economic centers.”

“In these innovation centers, the entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to engage with the trailblazers in the high-tech industry, academia and research, as well as finance and funding opportunities,” stated Wasserlauf. “They will receive a practical toolbox to realize their business visions.”

The innovation hubs are expected to host programs to encourage entrepreneurship, initiatives to advance local innovation, and training programs to foster employment in the high-tech industry. The hubs will also serve as a place to create ventures and forge collaborations with local academia, research institutions, local government bodies, and existing industries and investors.

“Dealing with the climate crisis is a global challenge, but also a tremendous economic opportunity for Israel,” said Environmental Protection Minister Idit Silman. “We look forward to the establishment of innovation centers in the periphery, which will deal with climate and desert challenges while promoting Israeli technologies.”

Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Avi Dichter said that the hubs will serve as breeding ground for the development of innovative solutions for food production such as protein from the sea and alternative proteins, and for advanced food production methods.

As part of the inter-ministerial initiative, Israeli companies, corporations and non-profit organizations are invited to submit applications for the establishment and operation of the tech innovation centers by August 30. Following a selection process, the five winners will receive a grant of up to NIS 15 million ($4.2 million) for five years.

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