Israel has set its sights on attracting foreign capital into its technology sector by launching the Tel Aviv Global City, the country’s first technology-focused innovation hub. According to Ron Huldai, Tel Aviv’s mayor, the government’s efforts to position Tel Aviv as a centre for technology could make high-tech the next big bet for foreign investors looking to access Israel's growing markets.
“We [launched] the Tel Aviv Global City, and we have created an ecosystem for our entrepreneurs that [encompasses] connectivity related to the internet, as well as the high-tech sectors such as nanotechnology and medical technology,” said Mr Huldai. “All of those that invested in our high-tech industry have made money in the past 15 to 20 years. We are trying to invite more businesses to come into the city, and we are trying to attract more entrepreneurs to come and work in Tel Aviv Global City. In the future, we would like to see ourselves as the Silicon Valley outside of the US.”
As part of Israel’s wider effort to develop an international reputation as a well-connected and global business hub, Tel Aviv's officials are looking to develop the city's competitive edge by attracting young entrepreneurial talent.
“We started working seriously on the [Tel Aviv Global City] about two years ago and we wish to create an attractive ecosystem in the city to attract young entrepreneurs,” said Mr Huldai. “Israel’s unique selling point as an investment destination is that our people are creative, and they know how to create something out of nothing. We have excellent facilities for entrepreneurs. We have opened a centre for young people from abroad, which gives them information on how to get a flat, and other kinds of issues. The government is also looking to create a start-up working visa.”
The protracted economic slowdown in Europe and North America – Israel’s principal trading partners – has caused the country's economic growth to slow. While frank in admitting that this slowdown has caused real concerns, Mr Huldai maintained that the focus on the city's technological sector is part of the government’s wider efforts to diversify its sources of growth as it looks to trade with new partners.
“Israel heavily depends on exports, so it is a given that in the economic downturn when the world consumes less, we export less,” said Mr Huldai. “We did see a change and it is likely that our economy will slow down. [However], a lot of our businesses realised that they had to shift part of their activities to the Far East. The real growth today is in Asia. They need products and they need technology, and this is important for our future. Of course, our future will be heavily [tied to] the US and the European economies, but there is a shift more [towards Asia].”