Innovation initiatives between Israel and Bahrain, such as the recent Connect2Innovate conference in Manama, have the potential for collaborative impact in various sectors including technology, healthcare, and finance. These initiatives can drive economic growth and improve the lives of people in both countries.
The Kingdom of Bahrain joined the Abraham Accords in October 2020, opening up the path to a mutually beneficial economic relationship. The potential established by the Abraham Accords, however, requires active investment and development in order to attain tangible results. In the past few months, great strides have been taken toward cooperation and collaboration between Israel and Bahrain, with Start-Up Nation Central – a nonprofit organization that promotes the Israeli startup ecosystem around the world – leading the charge.
The Growing Partnership Between Israel and Bahrain
One of the aspirations of the partnership between Israel and Bahrain is to achieve a noticeable impact for the everyman.
David Pollock, one of the administrators of a Washington Institute for Near East Policy poll on public opinion about the Abraham Accords, noted that a major factor in support of the accords in the Arab World is expectations for the accords to have a positive impact on citizens’ daily lives by creating new jobs and new economic opportunities.
Raising the standard of living in Bahrain has been high on the national agenda since the government released its Economic Vision 2030 plan in 2008. The vision is to shift from an oil-based economy to one that is sustainable, globally competitive, and driven by a thriving private sector, which will offer more skilled, higher-wage jobs and enable the growth of a broad middle class: “The ultimate aim,” states the plan, “is to ensure that every Bahraini household has at least twice as much disposable income – in real terms – by 2030.”
It is therefore all the more important that the growing innovation initiatives between Israel and Bahrain expand specifically in the direction of business opportunities that will have tangible results for the average Bahraini citizen in the form of increased income and standard of living.
Understanding the Economic and Technological Benefits of Innovation Collaborations
The relative strengths of Bahrain and Israel for different innovation development indicators complement each other.
The Global Innovation Index (GII) 2022 ranks Israel at 16 among 132 world economies. Israel is particularly successful in the following categories: market sophistication, business sophistication, and knowledge and tech outputs, with rankings that put them in the top 6 or 7 globally. Bahrain, though ranked 78 overall, actually outranks Israel in categories related to institutions and infrastructure.
In this sense, Bahrain’s strong manufacturing infrastructure can be the perfect partner for Israel’s knowledge and tech outputs. On the flip side, Israel’s startup ecosystem brings technological sophistication to the market and can be the ideal ally for Bahrain’s surplus of human capital by offering skilled, higher-wage jobs.
Additionally, Bahrain’s “Economic Vision 2030” lays out specific sustainability and resource conservation goals that can be supported by technological climate tech solutions from Israel. Securing targeted solutions is increasingly urgent, especially as major challenges still remain in Bahrain’s attainment of climate-related Sustainable Development Goals.
With the right connections, Bahrain and Israel can engage in mutually beneficial relationships to advance both economic and environmental stability for the entire region. Nave Shachar, GCC and Middle East Innovation Diplomacy Director at Start-Up Nation Central explains the potential for the two nations to collaborate on innovation:
“Collaborating on innovation between Bahrain and Israel can create a complementary partnership, leveraging each other’s strengths to achieve economic growth and environmental sustainability for the region.”
Challenges in Implementing Innovation Initiatives Between Israel and Bahrain (and Solutions)
While synergy between Bahrain and Israel presents potential for mutual gain, there are some difficulties. Where Bahraini business culture is slow and steady, Israeli business culture is fast and fluid. Where Israeli companies tend to have flat hierarchies, Bahraini companies tend to have deeper, more formal management structures. The divergence of cultural assumptions and expectations can be a stumbling block for productive working relationships.
At Start-Up Nation Central, we believe the key to success in any bilateral innovation partnership is to acknowledge the differences and create conscious bridges between cultures. Recognizing these differences is the first step – and a critical one – to finding productive paths forward.
Key Innovation Initiatives and Programs in Israel and Bahrain
A major landmark in creating business opportunities for the Bahrain-Israel innovation ecosystem was in March 2022 with the Connect2Innovate conference. This conference held in Manama, Bahrain was attended by more than 500 Bahraini, Israeli, and regional business leaders. The event was organized by Start-Up Nation Central (SNC), global companies, and investors in the Israeli innovation ecosystem, in cooperation with the Ministry of Industry and Commerce of Bahrain, the Bahrain Economic Development Board, the Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain in Israel and the Embassy of Israel in the Kingdom of Bahrain.
Connect2Innovate provided a venue for entrepreneurs and companies to communicate and share expertise, and to discuss Israel-Bahrain collaborative initiatives. Topics covered included the future of banking and financial technology, water security and smart energy, startup ecosystem development, human capital challenges, and the establishment of a sustainable sea-air corridor.
A significant outcome of the conference was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) by SNC and Tamkeen, a Bahraini government agency that trains and assists private-sector businesses and individuals. Nave Shachar saw first-hand the impact of industry-focused meetings between stakeholders from both countries:
“The Connect2 Innovate conference marked a significant milestone in Bahrain-Israel relations. This partnership has the potential to drive economic growth and create new opportunities for entrepreneurs and businesses in both countries, and we can expect to see continued progress in the coming years.”
Future Prospects and Opportunities for Innovation Initiatives in Israel and Bahrain
There is great potential for future cross-border initiatives that benefit both Israel and Bahrain. One prospect already under discussion between Start-up Nation Central and Tamkeen is bringing Bahraini students to Israel for continuing education, with the goal for these graduates to return to Bahrain and operate satellite offices for Israeli tech startups. This merger of Israeli knowledge resources and Bahraini human capital resources will benefit businesses and individuals in both nations.
Another potential initiative focuses on technology transfer, especially in areas that touch the Sustainable Development Goals, like Climate Tech, Health Tech, or AgriFood Tech. Shared endeavors in these sectors can propel the considerable strides that Bahrain is already taking toward achieving its vision of sustainability. On a strategic level, Israeli can offer guidance on how to facilitate the move to a knowledge-based economy and how to cultivate a private sector that encourages initiative and innovation.
Taken as a whole, it is evident that the growing ties between Israel and Bahrain hold the potential to be a rich, fruitful partnership that will stimulate growth and innovation throughout the Middle East.
“By merging Israeli knowledge resources with Bahraini human capital resources, businesses and individuals in both nations can benefit. Shared endeavors in sectors like Climate Tech, Health Tech, or AgriFood Tech can propel the considerable strides that Bahrain is already taking toward achieving its vision of sustainability. The growing ties between Israel and Bahrain hold the potential to be a rich, fruitful partnership that will stimulate growth and innovation throughout the Middle East.”