Greg Canfield, the Secretary of Alabama Commerce, has said that he will lead a trade mission to Israel in the spring of 2020. He is planning to bring several Alabamian companies to the country. Canfield is hoping that technology, aerospace, aviation, and the health care sector may provide a connection between Alabamian and Israeli companies.
Canfield stated this at the recent forum in Birmingham, which took place at Alabama Power. He was a participant in a panel titled “Doing Business With Israel: Opportunities for Alabama-Israel Technology Partnerships.”
U.S. Senator Doug Jones was one of the event’s hosts. He believes the mission could be “perfect for Alabama.” Jones emphasized Alabama’s diverse economy and pointed out how the partnership would not only benefit Israel’s and Alabama’s economies but their overall alliances as well.
Canfield has also stated that the growing industries in Alabama overlap with the important sectors in Israel. Some of the areas he focused on included technology, health care, and aerospace.
The chairwoman of BIO Alabama, Peggy Sammon, has expressed her belief that the researchers are the ones who play a key role in building bridges between the two countries. She said that a trade mission could be a good starting point, but “the actual relationships” were created because of those doing research.
Sammon stated that those industries Alabama was hoping to improve were the ones where connections among researchers were formed globally. These include precision medicine, genomics, and genetics.
According to Sammon, the bond ripples out. It starts with the researchers and eventually spreads to a company, licensing, and commercialization. Therefore, Sammon argues, the Alabama research institutes need encouragement to continue creating these relationships.
The director of Innovation and Economic Opportunity for Birmingham, Josh Carpenter, believes that his city already has strong ties to Israel. He has pointed out that Joonko, a tech company from Tel Aviv, has decided to locate their office in Birmingham in 2018.
Carpenter has also revealed that a business development trip should happen in 2020. He and Mayor Randall Woodfin have both secured funding for this trip to Israel to “explore the partnership” in a more significant way.
Another host of the Birmingham panel was the BIRD (Binational Industrial Research and Development) Foundation. The Foundation has been taking funding from the governments of both Israel and the U.S. to invest as much as $1 million in projects benefiting both countries.
BIRD’s director of business development, Andrea Yonah, has said that the forum made her realize how similar the two economies were. The event inspired her to start new projects in Alabama as soon as the right people and companies are found.
The BIRD Foundation has recently decided to fund a project between Israel’s mPrest Solutions and the Southern Company. The latter is Alabama Power’s parent company, while mPrest has been developing Israel’s missile defense system. The two are aiming to use mPrest technology to improve the power grid by making it more resilient and responsive.
Yonah has said that Alabama Power and the Southern Company have proven to be great partners with Israel-based programs. She added that they were “a perfect example” of a company leveraging the technology and innovation of Israel to improve its business in Alabama.
Tracy West from the Southern Company stated that their focus was an optimization tool specifically designed for the highly significant edge of the grid. The mPrest has provided the solution to their problem.
Alabama as an Industry Leader
Canfield believes that Alabama could become a leader in artificial intelligence. He said that the Department of Commerce would soon set in motion a new commission which should unite the private sector, practitioners, and educators. They would focus on artificial intelligence and its importance for Alabama regarding new opportunities spanning many different industries. Canfield said that these could include the aerospace and automotive industry as well as medical services and health care.
On the other hand, Sammon has stated that Alabama might take a leading role in some other areas. According to her, close ties with Israel “make sense” as they can prove highly beneficial to Alabama’s growth.
Sammon believes that “the big revolution” will be precision medicine, especially when tied to genetics and genomics. She has also pointed out Israel’s efforts in big data and how beneficial they could be for precision medicine. The analysis of the enormous amounts of information generated in this area could only benefit from Israel’s technologies.
Carpenter has commended the University of Alabama at Birmingham for their plan to develop a data science and genomics center. He believes the city will eventually become a leader in this area.