By: Lynda Taller-Wakter, EMBA 2010
Sophia Leong, Director of the Telfer Executive MBA, welcomed Udi Gat, Mayor of Eilat, Israel, to the Telfer School's Centre for Executive Leadership on Wednesday August 20th. The visionary leader of Israel's Sun Valley delivered a presentationon a wide range of industry and government individuals on the start-up strategy behind the renewable energy sector.
Mayor Gat described to those present at the workshop how his attendance at the energy conferences ten years ago at the United Nations sparked an idea for him. His idea was to combine Israel's natural solar power and intellectual capacity of the region's residents, a population of 4300, with that of 50,000 people residing in the larger city of Eilat. This combination would increase the efficiency of power generation for a region which had previously been dependent on coal-generated power—an expensive means which was not indigenous to the region and therefore needed to be transported into the area.
Mayor Gat anticipates that his region will be energy independent by 2017. While the learning curve of this initiative continues to be steep it has proven to be extremely beneficial to start-ups, government policy-setting and third-world countries who seek inexpensive energy solutions. The region is home to many solar fields and with the area receiving 360 days of exposure to the sun, it is now a validation centre for those entrepreneurs seeking to test their patent. In addition, there is a attractive pull to the region for entrepreneurs with start-up idea. These entrepreneurs are invited to to relocate to the region along with their families in exchange for $2 million dollars and a 60% stake in the company pending the viability of the idea. Mayor Gat indicated that one out of eight start-ups generally becomes a viable business.
These start-ups draws people seeking employment, along with their families, into the region. Each start-up employs two to five people to work within the business. Each child within these families receive one to three hours of energy education weekly in order to educate the next generation on the need for sustainable energy solutions.
So, what is in it for Ottawa?
Telfer School of Management's Strategy Professor, Dr. Johnathan Calof, facilitated a dialogue with attendees to garner their perspectives on the opportunities and learning from Mayor Gat's presentation. Representatives from Invest Ottawa's Clean-tech Hub, Sustainable Technology Development Canada, International Science and Technology Partnerships Canada (ISTPCanada ), Canada-Israel R&D Foundation partook in the conversation.
Ideas and questions which surfaced included:
- Could Ottawa have an research and development office in the region?
- Would a candidate or professor exchange work in the region?
- Is a business/learning trip possible to import additional knowledge?
- Is there an opportunity to export Canadian technology developments in solar energy storage?
- How do we learn more about Israel's agri-tech innovation and assist domestic producers?
- How do we figure out how to commercialize research and development in a collaborative venture?
- To get a better return on investment for start-up investments, can industry and investors influence the provincial government to offer 20% tax credits as they do in Quebec and British Columbia?
There is much more to learn — and much more to do.
Clearly, the sky — as with the sun — has no limits on the horizon of the potential for future collaboration and innovation.
Posted: August 27, 2014