Following the publication of an OECD report last week about the Negev’s
potential as an international cleantech hub, Negev and Galilee Development
Minister Silvan Shalom along with numerous mayors in the region are now calling
for the study’s adoption by the government.
The report, titled
“Clean-Tech Clustering as an Engine for Local Development: The Negev Region,”
was officially presented to Israel on June 5 and was researched and written by a
team from the OECD’s Local Economic and Employment Development Program (LEED) –
led by Jonathan Potter, of the OECD Center for Entrepreneurship, SMEs and Local
All of the report’s research was performed in cooperation
with the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry’s Regional Development Center, based
on data, literature and policy documents on cleantech and regional development
“The Negev’s potential is there to be exploited and expanded,”
said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría, during his presentation of the report
to Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Shalom Simhon, according to Gurría’s
office. “A cleantech cluster offers a triple dividend not only for the Negev,
but also for the rest of Israel, which will gain from both economic development
and the strengthening of the wider Israeli cleantech industry.”
three dividends, according to the secretary-general, include promoting green
growth through more efficient use of natural resources and cleantech
opportunities, advancing regional development in the Negev and enhancing social
inclusion by providing skill opportunities for disadvantaged populations, such
as the Negev Beduin.
“Our main message is that Israel should take
concerted action to fill a number of remaining gaps,” Gurría said.
requires both investments in key areas and making the right connections with
other cleantech clusters nationally and internationally.”
concludes that there is “good potential to grow cleantech activity in the Negev,
as part of a wider Israeli cleantech cluster.”
Pinpointing the Negev as a
stronghold for research, labor, facilities and natural resources, the report
specifically says that the region can strengthen Israeli cleantech in the two
niche areas of renewable energy and water management technologies. The region
provides a home for 50 cleantech businesses, several technological incubators,
university research departments and about one-third of the country’s cleantech
research capacity, the authors note.
While the Negev has shown tremendous
growth in the sector already and also displays great potential for future
development, there are still many gaps to fill, according to the report. In
particular, these include support services like investment finance and
specialized consultancy, as well as a limited supply of high-skilled labor in
the region. Likewise, while many government authorities are involved in
supporting cleantech growth for the Negev, there is no single body coordinating
Relying on lessons from other international cleantech
clusters, the report recommends that the Israeli government create incentives
for joint innovation projects, meeting spaces and a heightened visibility of
cleantech development in the Negev to investors and partners.
As far as
businesses go, one priority would be to connect local actors, in local supply
opportunities such as retrofitting military bases and communities with energy
efficient systems. An investment fund should also provide capital for start-up
projects in the area, the report says.
In research, the government should
work toward strengthening existing research activities while helping to create
collaborations among institutions and commercializing the knowledge generated in
To attract more highly skilled human capital, the government
should work on heightening the visibility of the region’s cleantech research
institutions, helping facilitate such opportunities as a Green MBA or student
cleantech internships, according to the report.
In order to achieve these
recommendations, the report provides a six-pillar strategy to develop cleantech
clusters in the Negev: targeted investments in research centers; creation of a
cleantech technology validation center; promotion of collaborative innovation
projects; a green strategy for the Negev underpinned by green public procurement
and regulation; the transformation of Eilat into a model “green city” for
Israel; and the establishment of a regional cluster management
“This OECD Report offers a vision for the Negev region that
has the potential to deliver real and tangible benefits for regional
development, green growth and social inclusion,” Gurría said. “This in turn
offers wider benefits for Israel as a whole.
“I encourage the government
to adapt the existing investments and policy instruments available for regional
and cleantech development to achieve this vision and deliver stronger, fairer
and cleaner growth,” he added.
Simhon and the local mayors have joined
together to call upon the government to do just that, stressing that the Negev
can and should become an international center for cleantech industry
“The Negev is in a moment of unprecedented development, and
there is no doubt that the field of cleantech can bring it an additional leap
forward,” Simhon said. “The Negev is blessed with natural resources like sun and
open spaces. The combination of these resources, quality and creative human
capital – in which the State of Israel is outstanding – can transform the Negev
into the ultimate place for the development of this field.”
industry will attract those in research and development and will further
diversify the Negev’s employment spectrum, according to Simhon.
Mayor Rubik Danilovich added that the report confirms an assumption that was
already known to Negev residents.
“The implementation of the plan will
create 10,000 high quality jobs and will attract a strong population to the
area,” Danilovich said. “We received from the OECD a huge gift in the form of a
detailed plan – we must ensure that the government invests resources and
encourages entrepreneurs from the field to come to the region.”
Mayor Meir Yitzhak- Halevy praised the OECD’s suggestion that Israel “transform
Eilat into a model ‘green city.’ To establish the Negev as a cleantech center,
Yitzhak-Halevy proposed creating a professional work team headed by Simhon and
involving government officials, environmental organization representatives and
Dimona Mayor Meir Cohen said the Negev is already
becoming a “platform” for advancing cleantech industry.
“In recent years,
Negev leaders have proven their connection to the green energy field and
strengthening the environment in practice,” Cohen said.
environmental revolution in Dimona is only one part of it.
the cleantech industry in the Negev while integrating with existing industrial
factories in the region is a winning combination.”
Ramat Hovav Council
head Andrey Uzan said there is no reason why the government should not make
Ramat Hovav Industrial Park into the country’s largest cleantech
“I’m glad that the Europeans discovered what we already knew a
long time ago here in the Negev,” Uzan said.