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The Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies said Wednesday its program to boost entrepreneurial activity in the city found new support in a report it conducted that revealed Jerusalem trails far behind Tel Aviv and Haifa in the number of businesses per inhabitant.
The study showed that there are 7,129 businesses in Jerusalem, with a ratio of one to every 98 residents and one to every 64 Jewish residents. Tel Aviv, however, has one business to every 22 inhabitants, while in Haifa one in 60 residents, including its non-Jewish population, owns a business.
"The data confirm what we have suspected all along," said Naomi Solomon, one of three researchers in the innovation and development policy group, which conducted the survey at the Institute. "Jerusalem is seriously lacking when it comes to entrepreneurial activity."
Solomon noted, however, that the rate of business growth in the city matched that of Tel Aviv and Haifa for the last three years. The problem, she said, is that the starting point was so far behind.
While the research did not give a reason for the slow start, the regional innovation strategy for Jerusalem (J-RIS) project was expected to gain further insight into what the city is lacking and devise a plan to help Jerusalem realize its economic potential.
The European Commission sponsored project was first initiated by the Jerusalem Institute, with the Jerusalem Development Authority, in mid-2004. Work on the project began in June last year.
The North Brabant, a province in the Netherlands, has also been brought in as a partner, having been through a similar EC program.
In the coming months, Solomon said the focus of the project will be to establish "targeted thinking groups," including established business owners, academics and municipal representatives from Jerusalem and its surrounding areas, to form a consensus on various sectors in the region.
In the second stage, the groups will brainstorm to make recommendations on solving the challenges facing Jerusalem entrepreneurs, after which the institute will present a strategy paper to the government with its recommendations for action.
The government's role, Solomon said, will be to offer support for entrepreneurs where needed, be it financing or a change of policy. Appeals for funding will also be made to the business community and the European Commission.
The institute has identified the biotech sector, as well as graphic design and rural tourism, as potential focus areas to accelerate growth in the city.