“This dedicated program, intended to encourage more research and development within the Arab community, helps promote innovative technological initiatives and helps them recruit funds from private investors.”
By Jack Gold, World Israel News
Israel believes in the Arab sector’s “enormous potential to further integrate into the hi-tech industry, both as employees and as entrepreneurs,” Aharon Aharon, CEO of the Israel Innovation Authority, stated on Tuesday.
Speaking at a hi-tech conference in Nazareth for the Arab sector, organized by the Israel Ministry for Social Equality and the U.S. Embassy in Israel, Aharon elaborated on the Authority’s vision of supporting entrepreneurs from minority communities in Israel.
In 2018, the Israel Innovation Authority broadened its program for supporting initiatives led by entrepreneurs from the Arab sector. The Authority decided to extend the program to two years, with high levels of funding both in the first year (75 percent) and the second (70 percent). This was decided following surveys conducted within the Arab community.
Data from the Authority indicate that in the past year, the number of initiatives submitted to the program rose by more than 10 percent. Since the program was launched, grants totaling more than NIS 65 million ((appr. $18,000,000) were awarded to entrepreneurs from the Arab sector.
This year, the Israeli Ministry for Social Equality, headed by Minister Gila Gamliel, and the Authority for the Economic Development of the Arab, Druze and Circassian Sectors joined the Innovation Authority in its work in the Arab sector.
Israel’s Parliamentary Committee for Arab Affairs approved in May a NIS 20 million (appr. $5,600,000) investment in favor of implementing a new program to establish hi-tech industrial parks in Israeli-Arab cities.
The funds will be allocated to build hi-tech parks in Arab towns, such as Nazareth in the Galilee, Kfar Qassem and in the Negev region.
The goal of the program is to increase the number of entrepreneurs in the Arab community, to reinforce the success of existing initiatives and bolster the Innovation Authority’s ability to support the growth of companies led by entrepreneurs from the Arab sector in the periphery, to encourage research and development within the sector, and to encourage further integration into the hi-tech industry and contribute to its growth.
Rise in integration
Data collected by the Authority shows that there has been a rise in the integration of members of the Arab sector in Israel’s hi-tech industry. Workforce participation in hi-tech R&D positions stands at 3 percent today, compared with less than 1 percent three years ago.
Israel’s Arab citizens comprise around 18 percent of the country’s workforce, but according to a study published in August 2017 by the Ministry of Finance, Israeli Arabs account for only 1.4 percent of technology jobs.
However, data from the Authority shows that within the past five years, there has been an increase of about 50 percent in the number of college and university students from the Arab sector studying subjects pertinent to high-tech R&D. According to the figures, over 2,000 Arab graduates achieve computer science and engineering degrees annually.
Aharon further stated that Israel’s “support for entrepreneurs from the Arab sector is vital for economic and social development and further facilitates the creation of jobs in the periphery.”
“This dedicated program, intended to encourage more research and development within the Arab community, helps promote innovative technological initiatives and helps them recruit funds from private investors,” he added.