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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

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Vaughan promotes business opportunities in Israel

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From left, Tim Simmonds, Tony Carella, Canadian Ambassador Paul Hunt, Alan Shefman and Bonny Berger, trade commissioner for the Canadian Embassy in Israel.

Three City of Vaughan officials visited Israel earlier this month as part of a plan to target the Jewish state as a major business partner for companies located in the Toronto suburb.

Alan Shefman, councillor for Ward 5 – Thornhill, Tony Carella, councillor for Ward 2 – Woodbridge, and Tim Simmonds, Vaughan’s director of economic development, went to Israel on an “exploratory economic mission” to seek potential partners for joint business ventures, Shefman said.

Speaking to The CJN after his return, Shefman said he’s been urging Vaughan to look to Israel for business opportunities, particularly in the technology sector.

In 2011 the city decided to promote expanded economic ties with companies and start-ups in China, Italy and Israel, Shefman said.

“We had ties to China and Italy, but Israel was the new one,” he said. “Vaughan has large Chinese, Italian and Jewish constituencies. We went to get a sense of the business dynamics that could exist between us. Our main interest is in green tech.”

Shefman led the week-long trip to Israel from July 4 to 11.

While there, the three Vaughan officials met with many private business leaders, as well as representatives of MATIMOP – Israel’s national agency for industrial research and development, and its Global Center for Breakthrough Innovation. They also had a briefing with Canada’s ambassador to Israel, Paul Hunt.

The trip was organized with help from UJA Federation of Greater Toronto and the Israeli consulate.

Hunt advised the Vaughan delegation that they needed to approach potential Israeli business partners “seriously and aggressively,” Shefman said.

“He told us that Israelis want to see commitment from Canadians, and not just shake hands with yet another delegation who will then disappear for two years.”

Which is why Shefman, Carella and Simmonds will be briefing Vaughan Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua on their findings and will propose a return trip to Israel this fall that would include the mayor, Shefman said.

“Vaughan needs to be known in Israel, and we’re going to make sure they know us,” he said.

Shefman said the city plans to educate its business community about existing mechanisms to enhance Canadian-Israeli business ventures, such as the Canada-Israel Industrial Research and Development Foundation (CIIRDF) and its Ontario-Israel Collaboration Program (OICP).

The latter was launched as part of a memorandum of understanding between Ontario and Israel in 2005 and is now starting to bear fruit.

The OICP recently put out a call for proposals from Ontario and Israeli businesses that want to develop “innovative products or processes. Special consideration will be given to projects in the following four areas: bio-economy and clean technologies; advanced health technologies; pharmaceutical research and manufacturing, and digital media and information and communication technologies.”

Deadline for submissions is Oct. 31.

Successful Ontario applicants are eligible to receive up to $300,000 or up to 50 per cent of the research and development costs of technology-based products and processes from the Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation through CIIRDF to fund the Ontario portion of each project.

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