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How to transform the Negev into an innovation and high-tech center

Opinion

How to transform the Negev into an innovation and high-tech center

For significant change to occur, we need to think big and use resources that have not been used in recent decades, writes InNegev CEO Arnon Columbus

Arnon Columbus | 11:01  23.12.2021
During its short existence, the State of Israel has become a center of innovation and technology, tipping the scales towards a thriving and robust economy based on a human capital rich in knowledge and capabilities while maintaining a healthy society in an economic system independent of natural and perishable resources.

The Negev and the Galilee are home to more than 31% of the country's population, out of which the Negev is home for approx 9%, with only about 2.9% of startup companies operating in this area, thus perpetuating what is called in the OECD countries "low-wage traps of the periphery."According to this, human capital escapes to the metropolis, where the power companies are located, and strong companies are attracted to the metropolis, where most capable workers are.
Arnon Columbus is the CEO of InNegev. Photo: Nick Smirnov Arnon Columbus is the CEO of InNegev. Photo: Nick Smirnov Arnon Columbus is the CEO of InNegev. Photo: Nick Smirnov

In the near future, the population of the Negev will surpass 600,000 due to both natural growth in the Bedouin population and accelerated construction and positive immigration. (45% of new construction occurs in the Negev and Galilee, so the employment problem will increase). Based on all forecasts, the Bedouin population in the Negev will exceed 50% within the next few years. The future of the entire Negev region, Jews and Arabs alike, depends on the ability of the residents and the government to provide hope and employment, a robust economy, and a society that encourages all sectors of the population to lead and cooperate, for the future of the young generation to flourish.

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To break the circle of underemployment and low wages, we must engage in activities that contribute to all the national and governmental economic anchors, in doing so, we must create a lever to shatter the glass ceiling, both in terms of faith and in the ability to augment required resources.

InNegev, the south's technology incubator and innovation center, was established in the middle of 2020. The Israel Innovation Authority's government tender for innovation and the incubator objectives were designed to skew the balance of activity in the technological and high-tech industries to generate a bustling center of activity, regional and national resource allocation, cooperation, and human capital development. Due to all of this, the income threshold expected to be affected by technology-related activities in the south will also rise. For this significant change to occur, we need to think big and use resources that have not been used in recent decades.

InNegev incubator operates as a center for cooperation and promotion of startups in the south and is a bridge between all factors for the promotion and cultivation of startup companies and advanced capabilities in the Negev region. The incubator also collaborates with most of the organizations involved in the advancement of technology and advanced industry among the Bedouin population, especially with MOONA organization that promotes technological exposure to youth in Arab society within the designated campus built as the "Innovation Center" in the Negev.

Having been active for nearly a year and a half, the incubator has already developed an impressive network of collaborations across all relevant actors in the South and forged close relationships with many partners in the region In terms of its strategic role, the incubator aims to improve employment and the economy by promoting innovation and technology, as well as promote good neighborliness, peace, and coexistence in the Negev. Improving the future of the Negev and the fate of its residents largely depend on the ability to reach an excellent neighborly relationship out of respect and joint efforts to promote, strengthen and create a joint socio-economic environment here in the South.

InNegev incubator chose to establish its facility at the Idan Hanegev industrial zone, an area jointly owned by the municipality of Rahat (44%) regional council Bnei Shimon (37% and landowners) and local council Lehavim. With the cooperation of the local authorities, Idan HaNegev has developed into a thriving industrial area that all of the residents perceive as their own, making the whole greater than the sum of its parts.

Arnon Columbus is the CEO of InNegev, an innovation technology incubator.

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