Israel signed a bilateral industrial R&D cooperation agreement on Tuesday with China’s Zhejiang Province, known as the Silicon Valley of China, as 350 delegates from the Asian giant attended MIXiii, the Israel Innovation Conference.
It also inked agreements with Jiangsu Province’s Science and Technology Department to promote Israeli companies’ participation in Chinese innovation parks and a first-of-its kind pilot program to encourage Israeli companies participation in the Changzhou Innovation Park in Jiangsu (population 79 million).
“The science and technology of Israel need market potential and also market rules, and Zhejiang is a great partner,” Zhou Guohni, director- general of Zhejiang Province (population 55 million), told The Jerusalem Post at the signing in Tel Aviv. “We are facing a transformation and upgrade of the industry, and we need Israel’s technology to help transform and upgrade it.”
The Economy Ministry’s Chief Scientist Avi Hasson said the agreement “will help many Israeli companies expand into the Chinese market and marks the next stage in the economic and technological relationship between our two countries.”
Vice Premier Liu Yandong told the conference that China needed Israeli innovation to help reach its ambitious goals of bringing prosperity to its people in sustainable ways, such as efficient use of energy and water resources and improvements in the life sciences.
Appealing to the business crowd, she described the country’s policies in surprisingly capitalist terms. China, she said, would enable the “market to play a decisive role in resource allocation” and intensify its efforts to open its economy and protect intellectual property.
In Jerusalem, the Israel China Interflow Association and the Knesset High-Tech Caucus hosted 20 prominent Chinese businessmen and investors for the Israel-China Economic Summit this week.
During the summit, plans were announced for developing a massive hi-tech industrial park in Xianghe, a county 45 km. outside Beijing, which would include a dedicated section for Israeli hi-tech companies.
“Israel is the expert in agrotech and in water management, in irrigation, in bio-engineered seeds, pesticides, fish farms and much more,” said Remy Reinstein, CEO of the Israel China Interflow Association.
“China has the capital to fund our start-ups, develop our products and market them to the world.”
Tuesday’s agreements came amid a flurry of developments in the China-Israel relationship.
On Monday, Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem announced joint programs with China. In September, the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa embarked on a joint academy called the Technion Guangdong Institute of Technology as a joint venture with Shantou University in Guangdong Province.
Israel and China also expanded emergency cooperation measures on Monday.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres visited China in the past year, and Netanyahu has cited it as a central engine for Israeli economic growth due to its growing markets.
Hasson brushed aside suggestions that Israel’s turn toward Asia was an insurance policy against boycott movements in Europe and the United States. Israel’s efforts to improve trade with China “did not come for any political reason,” he said. “This is not to replace declining trade with Europe or the US, which are in fact growing as we speak.”
Asked if the political situation between Israel and its neighbors – or rumblings about boycotts by anti-Israel groups in Europe – were a consideration before signing the agreement, Zhejiang Province’s Guouhni said “our cooperation is a win-win situation and the technology improvement will benefit human progress, so cooperation should go as far as it can go and let alone for what people will say.”
Indeed, Monday’s agreements took place in the context of a conference on Israeli innovation, which focused on hi-tech and, for the first time, on biomedical technology as well.
A slew of Israeli start-ups, whose products ranged from smartphones for the blind to bluetooth-enabled door locks, set up stands to hawk their hi-tech wares in hopes of finding investors and business partners in the delegations from the US, China, Korea, India and Europe.
The conference will continue through Thursday.