By Sherwin Pomerantz
Israel’s economic strength, along with the buzz of Israel’s startup nation reputation and hi-tech scene, has not eluded one of Israel’s closest neighbors: Europe. Through technological cooperation, innovation ties and solidifying the Israeli presence, European locations seek to benefit from and interact with all that the Israeli industry has to offer.
For example, the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) program helps international companies find suitable European partners for technological and commercial collaboration using a strategic approach. The EEN is the largest business network on the continent, featuring thousands of companies affiliated with 600 partner organizations in 50 countries throughout Europe and beyond.
The EEN in Israel is coordinated by the Israel Innovation Authority (IIA) in partnership with the Manufacturer’s Association of Israel and the Israel Export Institute. IIA has a dedicated EEN team with the sole focus of providing assistance to Israeli companies in their search for suitable European R&D partners and of enhancing Israeli companies’ visibility in the marketplace.
There is also a push by European communities to address Israeli companies looking to open operations in Europe to do so in their regions. Each country, region and city has its own message for incoming investors and many are directing their messages at Israeli companies.
Berlin initiated an exchange program whereby Israeli start-ups swap their home desks for a co-working space in Berlin for several weeks, while German companies are simultaneously exposed to the Israeli tech ecosystem in Tel Aviv. It is administered through a collaboration of Berlin Partner and Tel Aviv Global, both city-run projects designed to help start-ups connect with their counterparts around the world. Participating Israeli companies include Pzartech, a provider of 3-D printing services for companies; Join VR Technologies LTD 4.0, a streaming service for virtual reality videos on smartphones; Myndlift, a developer of wearables that measure brainwaves and train the ability to concentrate; Quiccargo, an online marketplace to determine logistics capacities; and Shopeat, a recipe portal with integrated ordering of ingredients via the internet.
Lithuania’s three-month licensing regime for fintech companies is the speediest program of its kind in the EU to attract Israeli financial firms. The new program also affords direct access to the Single Euro Payment Area through the Bank of Lithuania infrastructure rather than through commercial institutions. The bank will be treating fintech startups that provide payment services as financial bodies, enabling them to generate IBAN (internet money transfer protocol) account numbers within 24 hours of operation. Through the program, Lithuania has succeeded in attracting Israel companies such as venture capital firm Moneta, fraud-free payment system Simplex and peer-to-peer lending company BLender. In addition, cloud-based web development platform Wix.com has offices in Vilnius.
Besides the creation of special programs or incentives for Israeli firms, some locations prefer to focus on personal interaction with Israeli companies as a tactic for convincing Israeli companies to consider them when expanding.
London’s mayor, for instance, visited Israel multiple times in recent years to meet with companies and attend events highlighting the availability in London of a world class talent pool and a booming digital economy. He and other London officials have also been promoting the London Stock Exchange as the ideal venue for Israeli company IPOs.
Coming up on June 7, the regional economic development agency representing Wallonia, located southeast of Brussels in Belgium, will be hosting a luncheon at the Tel Aviv home of the Belgian Ambassador to Israel. The purpose of the luncheon is to meet with Israeli companies looking at European locations for their operations and to present to them the various incentives and benefits available for companies who choose the area around Wallonia.
As Israeli companies continue to excel and penetrate international markets, especially nearby European countries, there is no doubt that Europe will strengthen its efforts to court Israeli companies and that they will be successful in doing so.
Sherwin Pomerantz is president of Atid EDI Ltd., a Jerusalem-based business development consulting firm. He is chairperson of the American State Offices Association in Israel and a past national president of the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel.