Ben-Gurion University campus in Beersheba 370.
(photo credit: BGU)
On Tuesday, September 3, the prime minister of Israel will cut the ribbon and
thus officially open the new Advanced Technologies Park (ATP) in the Negev. The
photos will show a happy array of people – including myself, the mayor of
Beersheba, many other government dignitaries and hi-tech industry and business
leaders from Israel and around the world – celebrating an achievement that will
have a profound impact on the State of Israel.
Covering an area of some
23 acres adjacent to the Marcus Family Campus of Ben-Gurion University of the
Negev, the Soroka University Medical Center and the planned base of the Israel
Defense Forces’ elite technology units, it is slated to become Israel’s new
“Silicon Wadi” and “Cyber Alley,” building on the exceptional entrepreneurial
Israeli spirit that was so articulately outlined in the book Start Up
Without a doubt, the synergy of a hitech industrial center that
leverages the know-how and research potential of BGU researchers and students is
creating an academia-industry ecosystem conducive to innovation and
Nevertheless, the magnificent first building of the ATP is
also a reminder that determination, aided with the support of international
companies, is sometimes crucial in overcoming the bureaucratic forces in Israel
that in more than just a few cases has suffocated new ideas.
shared belief that the ATP and the move of the IDF is part of a greater vision
to move Israel’s hi-tech capital to the Negev, it has taken more than 13 years
to bring the plan to fruition. Four prime ministers supported the initiative,
originally proposed by then-BGU president Prof. Avishay Braverman, sure that
such a park would bring a critical mass of hi-tech employment opportunities to
Israel’s southern region, enabling excellent BGU graduates to settle in the
Negev and strengthen the country as a whole.
Prime minister Ehud Barak
was at the original cornerstone ceremony in September 2000. Ariel Sharon
supported the initiative. Ehud Olmert promised the funding with his
comprehensive Daroma plan in 2006 and participated in a ground-breaking ceremony
in 2007. And only now, in 2013, Binyamin Netanyahu is dedicating the first
For all that Israel talks about nurturing initiative and
entrepreneurship, it is time that the system be updated and raised to the task.
While at BGU last year, Deutsche Telekom CEO Rene Obermann spoke about the need
for business leaders to be “nimble and quick” to deal with the changing business
environment. Indeed, in 2006, DT made a calculated business decision to create
the Telekom Innovation Laboratories at BGU, the company’s first R&D facility
outside Germany, because it recognized the untapped potential of BGU and the
It is time for Israel to take a serious look at its mammoth
bureaucracies and related government offices – where the simplest tasks can
become herculean – and focus on the business of innovation. It is time we create
a professional environment that efficiently encourages and promotes economic
development rather than discourages it.
How did we overcome these
obstacles in the Negev? With a lot determination and “out of the box” thinking,
nurtured and supported by an array of international friends who simply wouldn’t
accept “no” as an answer.
In 2007, with the creation of a joint
public-private partnership of BGU, the Beersheba Municipality and the
development company KUD International, the ATP became a project that was not
going to go away. Now under the management of Israel’s largest developer of
hi-tech parks, Gav-Yam Negev, the ATP is open for business.
the first building include international powerhouses such as Deutsche Telekom,
EMC, RSA, Ness Technologies, Allscripts-dbMotion, Oracle, Elbit Incubit
incubator, Dalet, JVP and BGN’s CyberLabs incubator, and BGN Technologies. Just
last week IBM announced its intention to open its own cyber center in
cooperation with the university. Construction has already begun on the next
building – one of the planned 16.
EMC vice president and Israeli hitech
pioneer Dr. Orna Berry was one of the first business leaders to sign
She chose to create an International EMC center in the Negev when the
ATP was still hardly on paper. She recently noted that “the Negev is close to my
heart. I believe in the vision of making the Negev bloom.” But as a
sophisticated entrepreneur and a hitech industrialist she also recognized the
great business potential of the move.
A recent survey found that over 25
percent of BGU undergraduates and an astounding 60% of master’s students were
extremely dissatisfied with the employment opportunities in the south. The
results are sure to be very different already by next year.
its own power. The IDF has thrown all of its expertise into the move of its
bases south. This, combined with the support of a number of major governmental
offices and the firm commitment of the prime minister to the development of the
Negev, suggests real change is at hand.
Clearly, this is the future:
Knowledge- based technologies using need inspired basic research is the core of
cooperation of industry with academia thus creating a hi-tech ecosystem that
will change the face of the Negev by building a strong economy and a prosperous
community that will benefit all of Israel.
The author is the president of
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.