Building an Innovation Ecosystem in the Desert

Beersheba positioning itself as an innovation hub through collaboration between academia, industry, and government

Building an Innovation Ecosystem in the Desert

By Lidar Gravé-Lazi and Ami Rojkes Dombe

Beersheba is positioning itself as a new innovation ecosystem alongside Tel Aviv, Prof. Dan Blumberg, vice president of Regional and Industrial Development at Ben Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) said Tuesday.

Speaking at the CyberTech Live C4I and Cyber Event, he spoke of the collaboration between the IDF, industry, academia, and local authorities in developing this new innovation ecosystem in Beersheba and the Negev.

“It is a big opportunity, not only for Beersheba and the Negev, but is a big opportunity for the State of Israel and promises a future for the next generations,” he said.

The idea was based on recent international research, which observed an emerging geography of innovation districts in cities and urbanizing areas around the world, which include several small to international companies contributing to the economic and social growth of an underdeveloped region.

According to Blumberg, there are three crucial factors that contribute to developing a successful innovation ecosystem- infrastructure, such as buildings, roads, accessibility and parks; economic investments, and networking assets, or in other words how the people and companies within the ecosystem interact on a social level.

Another key component, he added, were universities, which can produce human capital and new research and ideas in collaboration with companies and industry as well as medical centers.

Today in Beersheba the innovation ecosystem is comprised of a collaboration between Ben Gurion University, Soroka University Medical Center, the city of Beersheba, the Advanced Technologies Research Park (ATP) including some 70 companies, the government, and several incubators.

Blumberg added that this collaboration only marks the beginning as the university is set to double in size in the coming years and the ecosystem is expected to grow.

To that extent, one of the efforts undertaken by BGU in recent years has been to promote “a research driven agenda with investment potential” in a number of strategic fields including digital health and wellness, IT and cyber as well as desert tech.

Blumberg said that today Beersheba has become a cyber hub, with BGU recognized as a leader in the cyber field and numerous international cybersecurity companies moving to the ATP as well as the relocation of IDF IT units to the city.

Also speaking at the conference was Avi Jacobovitz, CEO of Gav-Yam who revealed that the company intends to invest a total of NIS 1.5 billion in the Gav-Yam Negev Advanced Technologies Park.

"This is a winning combination including the Beersheba municipality, Gav Yam, the defense establishment and the government of Israel. A fabric that is a model and example that opens the South to new processes,” he said.

He added that despite its success to date, the park partners and the state "should not rest on our laurels. There are many challenges ahead and collaboration with the government is necessary for the continued success of the park.”

Jacobovitz explained that the park has significantly helped in the creation of the innovation ecosystem in Beersheba, attracting numerous international companies to settle in the city.

"The park is changing the country's center of gravity," he said, adding that it is a "catalyst for economic and demographic change in the Negev."

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