For the Advanced Technologies Park (ATP) at Ben-Gurion University (BGU) of the Negev, located in the Israeli city of Beer-Sheva, the ultimate vision is
as high as the desert sun.

Inaugurated in September 2013, the park is the brainchild
of former BGU president Prof. Avishay Braverman. “My dream that Ben-Gurion University will do for Beer-Sheva what Stanford University did
for Silicon Valley begins,” said
Braverman in a message pre-recorded for the inauguration (PDF). Also present at the ceremony were Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu, current BGU president Rivka Carmi, and several Israeli government ministers.

Founded in 1969, BGU renamed itself four years later to
honor David Ben-Gurion, founding father of the modern state of Israel and its first prime minister.
He predicted that the open southern Negev region would play a key role in the
country’s development, and retired to a kibbutz in the area prior to his
death in 1973. BGU is the third largest university in Israel.

The ATP is a public-private collaboration between BGU, the city of Beer-Sheva, and
KUD International LLC, the project’s developer. In the eyes of its promoters, the ATP builds on key Israeli
competencies in high-tech research and entrepreneurship, and is designed to
bring together academia, students, and the private sector to promote development
in data storage, cybersecurity, telecommunications, nanotechnology, and
pharmaceuticals.

The plan is to eventually have 16 buildings on 23 acres
adjacent to the main BGU campus and the future base of the Israeli Defense
Force’s (IDF) elite technology units. At present, the first building is complete
and the second is under construction.

 

 

The list of the ATP’s confirmed tenants is impressive:
Deutsche Telekom,
EMC-RSA,
NESS, Allscripts-dbMotion, Oracle, the Elbit Incubit incubator, Dalet, JVP’s
CyberLabs incubator, and BGN Technologies, the technology transfer company of BGU.

“10 years from now in the southern part
of Israel, Beer-Sheva is going to be an important area for high-tech,” said
Netta Cohen, CEO of BGN Technologies, in a telephone interview with TechRepublic.

The projected job growth in Beer-Sheva,
Mr. Cohen explained, will be an economic boon for the area. “From 100 high-tech
people the city, we now have 1,100. We’re going to have 11,000 jobs later on,
and with the high-tech units of the (Israeli) Army that are going to join the
area, then we’re going to have 25,000 high-tech jobs. It’s an important step
both for the city and the region.”

“There are many seeds that I am sure
are going to flourish,” said Mr. Cohen, in reference to the ATP. “Israel used
to be all desert, and we know how to make the desert bloom.”

A flowering of sorts is currently
taking place in the Negev, thanks in part to high-profile stakeholders in the
Israeli government and in multinational companies.

At a
January 2014 conference in Davos, Switzerland with global elites in
business and politics,
Prime Minister Netanyahu
devoted the first half of his speech to his nation’s high-tech abilities,
before turning to international issues like Iranians and the Palestinians. Netanyahu told the audience
at Davos that Israel intends to become one of the top three countries for cybersecurity.

“The expectation is that due to our special circumstances,
Israel can provide a wide range of solutions in this field,” Mr. Netanyahu
later said to the Israeli cabinet.

On the heels of Davos, the prime minister attended the
CyberTech 2014 conference in Tel Aviv at the end of January 2014 to announce a major cybersecurity
initiative. Along with IBM, Lockheed Martin, and EMC, the government of Israel announced
a new national cybersecurity park at BGU called CyberSpark. It will be a joint venture between the government of Israel, BGU, and the
city of Beer-Sheva.

“Beer-Sheva will not only be the cyber capital of Israel but one of the most important places in the cybersecurity field in the world,” said Prime Minister Netanyahu at the opening of the conference.

EMC
and Lockheed Martin have together pledged to invest $1 million in a
cybersecurity development center at the CyberSpark project.

The Israeli National Cyber Bureau, under the Prime
Minister’s office, has budgeted approximately $23.8 million (NIS 80 million) over the next two years to
support Israeli companies, in conjunction with CyberSpark.

EMC,
according to Cohen, was very instrumental and cooperative in
promoting the ATP, being the first company to join.

Lockheed Martin’s VP of Global Solutions, Robert Eastman, said to The Jerusalem Post in January 2014 that “I think it’s phenomenal what they’re trying to do. I’ve never
seen such a collaboration in the incubation of new technology. Israel is one of
the best when we look at cyberdefense, and it also is one of the best
incubators of new technology and innovation.”

“The
incubators,” in the first building of the ATP, said Cohen, “are very
important for us—to create the ecosystem, which is startups, innovation, and
investment in the region. And together with the multinationals it is creating a
very nice start for (the ATP).”

Also in January 2014, BGU and IBM announced
a new Center for Excellence for Security and Protection of Assets in
Beer-Sheva. The project will build a professional training curriculum, and
conduct research into cloud computing, big data, and the Internet of Things.

Deutsche Telekom (DT) and BGU have expanded the German multinational’s presence in its Innovation Laboratories at the university. Now in its 10th year, the site is DT’s only R&D facility
outside of Germany. The DT labs at BGU focus on network security, recommender
systems, and big data.

Many of the largest tech companies in the world have research
centers in Israel, some of which date back to the 1970s.

“There
is amazing leadership at the university,” said Cohen. “Most places are about
research only, but BGU is looking for cooperation with the industry and applied
research. For me it is really amazing what is happening at the university.”

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