Approximately 100 “thought leaders” gathered at the Munk School of Global Affairs on April 18 to be briefed about potential business opportunities in Israel, about one month before Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne leads a provincial delegation to the Jewish state.
Participants included business leaders, academics and representatives from the Jewish community. The event was highlighted by an address by Wynne and by Israeli consul general DJ Scheenweiss.
University of Toronto professor Janice Stein moderated a panel discussion, that looked at opportunities for business collaboration between the two jurisdictions.
Joining Stein on the panel were Geoff Smith, president and CEO of EllisDon, a construction services company that is incorporating technologies developed by Rafael Advanced Defence Systems in Ontario power management systems; Henri Rothschild, CEO of the Canada-Israel Industrial Research and Development Foundation, which fosters business relationships between the two sides; and Jocelyn Mackie, vice-president of operations and general counsel for Grand Challenges Canada, a government-supported agency that funds health-related innovations.
The breakfast event was sponsored by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), in co-operation with the Munk School and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.
Israeli innovation, high tech and the way the country fosters start ups and scales them to become commercially viable entities was at the top of the morning agenda, said Sarah Lefton, CIJA’s vice-president for the GTA.
“Thought leaders” heard how the values shared by Canada and Israel extend to the business world, opening the door for collaboration and partnerships in a variety of fields, she said.
Lefton pointed to an outcome beyond the practical business-to-business cooperation that may result from the premier’s trip.
“This is about more and better enhanced relationship between the two, about more of a relationship, not less,” she said.
“That is the best response we have as a community to fighting BDS [boycott, divestment, sanctions],” Lefton added.
Schneeweiss said “Israel’s achievements in the field of innovation can be harnessed and learned from in ways that can serve Ontario.
“Israel has immense capacities and strengths and approaches to some of the issues common to us all, and Ontario can benefit by learning how Israel does things, and carry the innovations forward,” he said.
Ontario has access to capital, a large market and its own know-how that Israel can benefit from, he continued.
“We see this very much as a two-way street. Together we can all be better,” Schneeweiss said.
Just under a year ago, Wynne announced that she would visit Israel as head of a trade delegation. On April 6, she confirmed the visit would take place May 15 to 20 and that she would be accompanied by the leaders of 20 Canadian companies, with an emphasis on those in the high-tech, life sciences and information technology sectors.
“I look forward to strengthening our political, economic and cultural ties on my first mission to the Middle East,” Wynne said April 6. “We share many of the same priorities – including an interest in developing a strong innovation economy that can produce the next generation of technological and life-science breakthroughs.”