If until a couple of years ago the center of Israel was the beating heart of the Startup Nation, this situation is now changing. The Israeli economy's growth engine is steadily moving southwards towards Beersheva, and even reaches the Gaza border. Intel was the pioneer in Kiryat Gat, but now the Gav-Yam Negev Advanced Technologies Park in Beersheva is becoming a hub of entrepreneurship and technological innovation.
Uzi Zwebner, one of the founders of the park, says, "Anyone who said three years ago that 1,500 engineers and high-tech workers would come to work every day at the Advanced Technologies Park in Beersheva would have been thought to be hallucinating. Yet today we can say that the park is projected to house 10,000 high-tech workers within the next few years. This is a result of joint vision and complicated and determined work by the partners to the task.
"The government and Beersheva mayor Ruvik Danilovich understood that the south must not be left behind, and that a center of employment needed to be created in the region by setting up a technological ecosystem. In the past, development of the Negev was considered to be mainly a matter of moving certain sections of the population there, but now the thinking has changed and the solution is now considered to lie in creating a metropolis with jobs for all kinds of people and turning Beersheva into a new and worthy alternative to the high-tech concentrations in the center of the country. This is our vision. We see it as a national mission, and it is being achieved before our very eyes, and at surprising speed."
Beersheva's accelerated development as a high-tech capital is likely to gain additional momentum from the transfer of the IDF's telecommunications and computing units to a base close to the park. "There is a one-time opportunity here that perhaps exists nowhere else in the world," says Zwebner, "It brings together top technology companies with the IDF's computing units, and of course Ben Gurion University of the Negev, an academic institution with first rate researchers and science that has taken upon itself to be a real partner in turning the Negev into a leading science and technology center not just in Israel but in the world. This is also the reason that we set up within the park the BaseCamp innovation center, which specializes in homeland security and cyber security ideas that in the future will serve the needs of the security services, among other things."
The engine doesn't stop at Beersheva
The rapid development of Beersheva's high-tech park has brought in train the growth of an entrepreneurial ecosystem in neighboring the towns and kibbutzim. An example is the Hamadgera ("Hatchery") accelerator at Kibbutz Revivim in the Negev, which offers a special program for entrepreneurs, while in the Sha'ar Hanegev regional council bordering the Gaza Strip the SouthUp technology incubator was recently launched. SouthUp CEO Elad Yeori says, "We tend to think of the Gaza border settlements as providing Israel's first line of defense against Gaza. But people live here who travel to the center of the country every day to work, because they have no other option. We decided to bring together all available forces in the area in order to create from scratch a technological environment that, in the future, will become an attractive entrepreneurial environment for entrepreneurs and major technology companies.
"All the forces in the region were recruited to this mission - the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council, Sapir College, the Jewish Agency, the US-Israel Center on Innovation and Economic Sustainability of the University of California San Diego, entrepreneurs and veteran high-tech players - all of us believe that this is genuine fulfilment of Zionism," Yeori adds, "Through the regional high school and Sapir College we will create a new, technological generation here that will not need to migrate to Tel Aviv in order to open a startup or to work in a large high-tech company. The environment here will be self-sustaining and will generate a prosperous area of employment for local residents and will even attract people from the center.
"Today, we are sowing the seeds of the future of the Negev, and in another five years, when international companies come to the Gaza border area and settle down here and employ hundreds of students who study in the Negev, and we see a trend of migration of people from the center to the south, we will be able to say that what we did here was real Zionism."
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on July 11, 2016
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2016