Israel took another step towards becoming the world's innovation capital for hi-tech on Monday by exploring the possibilities for a new market: the developing world.
The initiative to bring new technology to modernizing countries was launched through the Pears Challenge, a one-of-a-kind competition being offered in Israel to test proposals for moral and technological developments in the places that need it most.
During the competition, the developers and teams will be able to submit ideas for product developments which can provide critical solutions to the developing world in the following areas: water, education, health, agriculture, information and communication technologies (ICT) and renewable energy.
At the end of the process, up to ten teams will be selected to go through a special training program, which will be held in Israel for the first time. The training program will be held for three months and aims to give young entrepreneurs the tools and capabilities to develop new technologies and products for the developing world, and to raise awareness of this important field.
Teams will include special workshops by experts in emerging markets on such topics as how to effectively break into a market, building a business plan, and administration in developing countries. In addition, mentors in the field will help each team determine the right business model to recruit local developers, which is the key to long-term success.
At the end of training, the teams will hold "pitch day," a project along with Microsoft Ventures where the projects will be presented to a panel of judges and potential investors. The winners will receive a fully-funded trip to a developing nation to start their business.
Arutz Sheva attended the kickoff for the competition Monday and spoke to Dr. Aliza Bellman Inbal, Pears Fellow of International Development at Tel Aviv University (TAU), who is overseeing the event.
"The Israeli economy aims to market mostly to the US and Europe, but that is not necessarily the right direction," Dr. Inbal stated. "Today, experts in the Israeli government like the Chief Scientist and the Director of Foreign Trade at the Economics Ministry recognize the importance of the field and have allocated resources for growth in developing countries."
"We want to raise awareness of the huge potential of emerging markets - Africa, Asia, and Latin America - and train Israeli entrepreneurs in the field so that they, too, can gain government grants," Dr. Inbal continued. "Besides for the wonderful opportunity to improve the lives of billions of the world's poor, these countries have huge economic potential. Israel is the leading player in the fields that can assist these countries, so it can also be the leading player in providing real change in the world."
"It is important to understand that in order to succeed in developing countries, the developer needs to know that the product is suitable to meet the needs and difficulties of the residents in these countries, the appropriate model, how to find a business partner in the target country and more," Dr. Inbal added.
"To be successful it is important to do this correctly in accordance with the culture and character of these countries. To this end, we have initiated a competition and training process in order to give rise to a new generation of entrepreneurs who will have the skills and knowledge to succeed in this important area. This is the first year of the competition and we hope to continue to hold it every year."
The competition is funded by the Pears Foundation, a British organization which sees the potential in Israel's hi-tech market for work in the developing world; IsraelDev, which encourages young entrepreneurs to use their talents to advance those countries; MINGA, the organization for social businesses enterprises; and the Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI) at Santa Clara University in Silicon Valley, California, which includes a network of 55 entrepreneurs from across the globe.
Entry into the competition is until February 25, 2014; interested participants can apply at www.pearschallenge.com.