Negev 311 2.
(photo credit: Joe Yudin)
By establishing a cleantech “cluster” within its bounds, the Negev will
simultaneously stimulate regional development as a whole, experts agreed during
a workshop at the Eilat-Eilot Forum for Renewable Energy Policy on
The forum, held predominantly at the Eilot Regional Council,
precedes the larger annual Eilat-Eilot Renewable Energy Conference to be held
this year in November. During various workshops throughout the day, Israeli and
international professionals heard statements from industry leaders and
brainstormed solutions together on different renewable energy issues.
Negev workshop was based on a report that an Organization for Economic
Cooperation and Development team has been preparing for the past year or so,
called Cleantech in the Negev as an Engine for Regional Development, and is
still in draft form. The purpose of the workshop was to validate the report’s
findings and determine what can be done to further develop the Negev cleantech
sector and really create this “engine,” said Avi Feldman, director of regional
development division of the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry.
to create in the Negev a cluster or ecosystem that will support activity in this
area,” Feldman said.
The results of the OECD findings support the idea of
creating a Negev cleantech hub and also provide recommendations as to how to
overcome barriers that may stand in the way, explained Jonathan Potter, its
chief author, of the OECD Center for SMEs, Entrepreneurship and Local
“We argue that there is potential to develop cleantech
activity in the Negev as part of a wider Israel cluster,” Potter said. “It is
worth investing in cleantech in the Negev.”
However, while 14 percent of
the newest firms created in the Negev are cleantech, industry professionals
cannot expect to yield high-volume production from a Negev cleantech cluster, as
the land is too limited.
Instead, such a hub should instead focus on
demonstration and testing of different renewable energy ideas, according to
Potter. Production demand could, nevertheless, occur in certain nearby
industries – like chemical plants at Ramat Hovav, a relocated IDF base, and
housing and infrastructure in local communities, he said.
currently suffers from a highskilled labor force shortage, combined with a
perceived-to-be unattractive living environment as well as potential
difficulties with transmission capacity, Potter explained.
barrier is the fragmentation and “lack of coordination for cleantech policy
across the government,” he added.
But by attracting investors,
establishing a center with testing facilities for small cleantech firms and
strengthening ongoing cleantech research at central regional institutions like
Ben-Gurion University, the Negev will likely be able to create and benefit from
a successful cluster, according to Potter.
Key to making such a cluster
work in the Negev is maintaining its focus as a “test bed” for research and
development rather than commercial production, agreed Prof. Philip Cooke,
director of the Center for Advanced Studies at the City and Regional Planning
School at the University of Wales, Cardiff, and a consultant for the OECD
In its ideal form, such a cluster would be managed by a central
organization that received some subsidy from the government and would contain
office space as well as an incubator building where cleantech entrepreneurs
could rent out space for experimentation and development, Cooke told The
. Most important to building a successful cluster, however, is
maintaining variety as to the types of technologies operating within it, he said
– such as housing both water purification firms as well as solar companies in
the same grounds.
”Don’t fill your basket only with the same colored
eggs,” Cooke said. “A successful cluster has a mix of related
He expressed hopes that the future Eilat- Eilot Cleantech
Center, approved in 2010, will become such a place.
“You get certain
synergies out of the fact that you have concentration of expertise, some extra
efficiency and value and innovativeness,” Cooke said. “You get more mutations
when you have more different species in the same place.”