Mr Schneider-Ammann, the head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER), will be accompanied on the visit by most of the board members of Innosuisse, which will take over as the federal government’s agency for promoting science-based innovation from the Commission for Technology and Innovation CTI as of January 2018. The delegation intends to familiarise itself in particular with strategies, funding instruments and experiences in the field of innovation and start-ups. The aim of the visit to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory also to deepen scientific and economic relations.
On 28 October a meeting is planned in the Occupied Palestinian Territory with national economy minister, Abeer Odeh. On 29 October the head of the EAER will be received in Israel by President Reuven Rivlin and economy minister, Eli Cohen, for bilateral talks. The official talks will focus in particular on innovation, research and specific subjects of interest to the scientific and economic delegation. Mr Schneider-Ammann will also discuss the prospects and challenges facing the region.
Israel produces almost 1,500 start-ups a year, making it the Silicon Valley of the Near East and a technology success story, particularly in the fields of cybersecurity, fintech and mobility solutions. With a reputation as a start-up nation, Israel is an interesting case study for Switzerland as the two countries have many points in common; they are both small countries, invest heavily in R&D, and they regularly top competitiveness and innovation rankings.
Israel is an important partner for Switzerland in terms of scientific cooperation which takes place above all between researchers funded by grants awarded through EU Framework Programme competitions. Between 2011 and 2016, over 50 direct cooperation projects between researchers based in Switzerland and Israel were funded to the tune of over CHF 2 million on the Swiss side. Over the same period, 125 projects financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation stated they were working with Israeli researchers.
Scientific relations between Switzerland and the Occupied Palestinian Territory have been rather modest to date. However, a number of interesting research projects are under way. One such is between various Swiss institutions and Birzeit University near Ramallah, a visit to which is on the agenda. Each year almost a dozen Palestinian students receive excellence scholarships to study in Switzerland. With its supply of well-educated young graduates, its proximity to Israel and opportunities throughout the Middle East, the Palestinian start-up sector is experiencing strong growth and offers fresh potential for cooperation.
Israel is Switzerland’s third largest trade partner in the Middle East and Africa. In 2016 the trade volume between the two countries amounted to almost CHF 1.8 billion, whereby the value of exports (CHF 1.1 billion) exceeded the value of imports (around CHF 683 million).
In 2016 bilateral trade between Switzerland and the Occupied Palestinian Territory amounted to CHF 22.3 million, of which CHF 22 million was accounted for by exports.