It has tipped the scales towards a thriving and robust economy based on a human capital rich in knowledge and capabilities, all the while maintaining a healthy society in an economic system independent of natural and perishable resources
The Negev (southern region of Israel) and the Galilee (the northern region in Israel) are home to more than 31% of the country's population; the Negev is home to approximately 9% of the total population yet only about 2.9% of startup companies operate in this area. This essentially perpetuates what is called in the OECD countries "low-wage traps of the periphery." According to this theory, human capital escapes to the metropolis, where the powerhouse companies are located; strong companies are attracted to the metropolis because that is where the most capable workers are.
In the near future, the population of the Negev will surpass 600,000 due to natural growth in the Bedouin population, accelerated construction and positive immigration–45% of new construction has occurred in the Negev and Galilee, to help curb the employment problem. Based on all forecasts, the Bedouin population in the Negev will comprise 50% of the Negev’s total population within the next few years. The future of the entire Negev region, Jews, and Arabs alike, depends on the ability of the residents to work; the government must facilitate 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.
As part of the newly announced program to transfer the IDF and intelligence units to the South, additional employment opportunities will be created while boosting higher education in technological fields, as well as increasing human capital and technological skills.
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. Meaning, that for the Negev to develop into a world-class metropolitan with high wages and employment opportunities, like that of Tel Aviv, people need to believe it can happen. For that, there need to be investments in the Negev for future development, creating more jobs, and recruiting talent from the Center of the country (Tel Aviv area).
InNegev, the south's technology incubator and innovation center, was established in mid- 2020 by Netafim, SodaStream, Dolav, Alpha Capital, ICA, and Kibbutz Hatzerim. InNegev won 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 in hopes of generating a bustling center of activity, regional and national resource allocation, cooperation, and human capital development. With all this, the income threshold related to technology activities in the south is also bound to rise. For this significant economic change to actually occur, we need to think big and use resources that have not been used in recent decades, such as government assistance with collaboration from the regional ecosystem like research institutes, academia, local and international industries, and private companies.
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 organizations involved in the advancement of technology and advanced industry among the Bedouin population, such as MOONA, an organization that promotes technological exposure to youth in the Arab society at the "Innovation Center" campus in the Negev.
Having been active for nearly two years, 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 the economy and the employment rate by promoting innovation and technology, as well as promote good neighbourliness, 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 neighbourly relationship out of respect and joint efforts to promote, strengthen, and create a joint socio-economic environment 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. Through the development of this new industrial zone and sharing in its success, the Negev is on its way to becoming an innovation and high-tech hub.
Written by Arnon Columbus, CEO of the InNegev