Jerusalem has a real advantage when it comes to the current efforts to develop the local biotechnology industry: it has top hospitals, excellent academic infrastructures, significant local industries, and a ready labor force. This advantage is reflected in the number of people employed and the large number of biotech companies found in Jerusalem.
So it was natural that the biotechnology be included in the government's five-year Marom Plan to boost development and the economy in Jerusalem. In fact, one of the stated main goals of Marom is to strengthen the city as a focus of research, development and industry in the realm of biotechnology. To that end, the Jerusalem Development Authority (JDA) established the BioJerusalem Center, to encourage the local industry via grants and benefits. In this framework, JIIS, which is assisting the JDA by monitoring and evaluating progress in the Marom Plan, is also assessing the contribution of the practical tools offered by BioJerusalem. The Institute maps activities, assists in the development of strategies for action in the field, monitors and conducts periodic evaluations.
- The benefits package offered by BioJerusalem plays an important role in companies' decisions to set up in the city or, if that is where they began, to remain. In other words, they appreciate those benefits and it facilitates their work.
- However, most of the companies surveyed learned about the benefits by chance, for example, at a conference or by word of mouth. This suggests that the might be a marketing glitch that, if rectified, could open Jerusalem to more biotech companies.
- Similarly, some companies think the benefits are only available for workers who live in Jerusalem, which is not the case.
In 2010-13, 23 companies received a benefit package from the JDA, totaling NIS 8.9 million, and 192 workers received employment grants.
In all, they add, 11.1% of the biotech companies in Israel are located in Jerusalem, compared to only 9.7% in the cities Rehovot and Nes Ziona, and 33% in the central region. In 2012-13, the number of such companies grew by about 5% in Jerusalem, reaching 117 at the present time. Most of them are small firms, with anywhere between 1 and 20 employees, which explains why the total number of people employed in the industry in Jerusalem is only 9% of the total number of biotech employees in Israel.
The indicators presented in the report emphasize numerous strengths that are found in Jerusalem that give the city a significantly competitive edge in the development of the biotech industry in Israel. They also highlight the fact that the industry is in a period of growth.
Kaufmann and Naftali note that 2013 marked the first year that the indicators were applied; previously comparisons were made, but relevant data were not always available. Also, the Marom Plan was only launched in 2012, so current policy was applied from then. Therefore, it is still hard to fully assess the influence of the updated policy on the industry. This is likely to change as the five-year plan moves forward.