Looking towards WATEC, international companies and organizations flock to Israel to learn about government support for Cleantech: Interview with Jack LevyBy: Mickey Chesla
Almost two years ago Israeli President Shimon Peres stood on stage at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, and raised hopes that little Israel would play a role in the struggle to halt the global climate crisis. He declared in front of the 192 heads of state who participated in the event, that by 2020 Israel would reduce by 20% its greenhouse gas emissions, as compared to a “business as usual” scenario (meaning a situation in which no effort would be made to limit emissions). This was called the 20/20 plan.
And indeed, the Israeli government is taking a number of steps in this direction. In the past two years two important programs were launched, one to reduce emissions, and the second to reduce dependency on oil, and both were budgeted at around half a billion dollars each for about ten years time.
Recently Israel’s Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor and the Ministry of the Environment began an operative phase of making Israeli industry “greener”, and formulating a national strategy for Green growth for 2012-2020. As a first step in this process the two Ministries announced the launch of a “round table” platform, in which government and green organizations would sit down together with leaders of industry, and discuss ways in which industry could function in a more environment-friendly fashion.
This program is good news for, amongst others, Cleantech companies, which are dealing with development of environmental technologies which are targeted to help companies to function in a way that will reduce their ecological footprint. “We’re finally seeing some progress on these fronts,” says with satisfaction Jack Levy, one of the three founders and partners in the Cleantech venture capital firm Israel Cleantech Ventures. “These government steps help to draw in foreign investors,” he says, and refers mainly to the WATEC show and conference taking place in Israel this week, under government support.
“I can tell you that recently we had a visit by a representative of the United States government’s Trade Commission, and he took part in a round table discussion that was led by General Motors Israel, along with representatives of foreign Cleantech venture funds. The U.K.’s Treasury Secretary is also supposed to come to Israel. In general towards the WATEC event we’ve seen a lot of high level representatives of government and industry visiting Israel from Europe, the U.S. and Eastern Asia. They are coming to learn about how Israel is encouraging its hi-tech industry, as well as its Cleantech entrepreneurs,” says Levy.
Levy also comments that “There is a lot to be learned from what is done in Israel but Israelis also have a lot to learn from what is being done in other countries, and this process of mutual learning can be very fruitful. The global economy currently is in a bad state, and we all know that when there is an investment made in Israeli hi-tech, this creates jobs in the U.S. as well. This is what the U.K. is also interested in learning – how can investment in Israeli hi-tech be leveraged to create jobs in the U.K., and this is an important point to make.”
Levy also emphasizes that the Israeli Chief Scientist’s programs in the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor to encourage hi-tech and the activities of the Bird Foundation which invest in Israel and American initiatives, led by Eitan Yudilevich, raises a lot of interest amongst international visitors, who come to Israel to learn.
All of this activity, which is government supported, encourages the stampede of representatives of many international companies of different sizes to WATEC, which is already organized as a must-attend international event in the water and cleantech fields. “It’s a huge success,” Levy says, “Even if an international company doesn’t currently have a concrete plan for investment in Israeli cleantech, she sees it as her obligation to send a rep or two to WATEC, because this is the place to meet key people from the industry.”