Ruzgar Barisik, Senior Investment Officer at the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) spoke with Israel NewTech about his recent visit to Israel, and the IFC’s plans for Cleantech investment. “Israel is a very exciting place for us: market interest in a growing number of Israeli technologies makes this a very promising area we want to be part of”,” said Barisik. “I’ll be attending Agritech Israel 2012 this month, and it will be my third visit to Israel since we launched our Cleantech Investment program this past September, meaning I’ve visited Israel more than any other country.”
To understand the background and motivations of the IFC’s cleantech program and why Israel’s cleantech industry is so well suitable to its mission, Barisik provided some background. “The World Bank was founded after World War II, with a mission to alleviate poverty worldwide. After 10 years of activity, the organization understood that to do so it needs to be active in the private sector as well as the government sector, and in 1956 the IFC was born.” Today, IFC is one of the world’s largest financiers for companies in the developing world and holds a $48.8 billion portfolio touching almost every major industry, reaching millions of people in more than 100 countries. While Israel itself is a developed country, IFC is considering Israeli companies looking to expand or invest in emerging markets.
According to Barisik, his team is looking to invest in innovative, high growth companies who are commercializing new technologies or business models, and Israel is an ideal place to find such investment opportunities, for a number of reasons. “Israeli companies are usually looking to expand their activities beyond their domestic market. They are driven by Israeli entrepreneurs who tend to be very international in their approach, having often been educated or done business abroad. Additional success drivers in Israel are the great academic and industrial research programs, the strong venture capital investment community active in the country, as well as the support of government programs like Israel NewTech.” All of these factors together create a very strong ecosystem for cleantech innovation and fits well within IFC’s mandate to help transfer strong businesses and their models to the emerging markets.
The IFC has yet to make its first investment in an Israeli cleantech company, but it appears that this will happen very soon. According to Barisik, the Cleantech Investment Program of the IFC is planning to invest some $150 million annually in 15 companies worldwide, and he expects that one to two of these investments can be made in Israel every year. The most attractive arenas for the IFC’s program in Israel are water and water treatment, agricultural technology and energy efficiency.
Barisik cites the tremendous support he has received from Israel’s government institutions and programs, in the IFC’s activities in Israel. “Israel NewTech, the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor, Israel’s Foreign Trade Administration and the Bank of Israel, have been extremely helpful to us, proactively introducing us to relevant Israeli companies and giving their perspective on the market,” he said.
“The bottom line is that we want Israeli companies to know that we are here; we are very impressed with Israeli cleantech companies and we are looking to make investments and provide support that goes beyond funding. We have the ability to facilitate contacts with companies and regulatory bodies internationally, that will help Israeli companies break through.”
For more details on IFC’s support of Israeli companies investing in emerging markets please click here. IFC’s activities in Israel are managed by IFC’s Western Europe office in Paris.