Casablanca, Morocco
Casablanca, MoroccoiStock

Start-Up Nation Central, a non-profit that promotes the Israeli innovation ecosystem around the world, kicked off its first-of-its-kind conference focused on developing innovative solutions to common challenges shared by Israel and Morocco.

The conference, titled, “Connect to Innovate,” is taking place in Casablanca May 23-26 and aims to bring the longstanding cultural relationship shared by the two countries into the 21st century by centering ties on innovation and technology, as envisioned by H.M. King Mohammed VI’s New Development Model.

The event is taking a place at a time when both countries look to strengthen bilateral ties following the establishment of diplomatic relations in late 2020.

The conference opened Monday evening with a ceremony for 150 Moroccan and Israeli government and business leaders, the largest-ever business and innovation delegation arriving from Israel to Morocco.

The event featured keynote addresses by Israel’s President Isaac Herzog (video); H.E. Mr. Andre Azoulay, Advisor to King Mohammed VI; Ghita Mezzour, Morocco’s Minister of Digital Transformation; Ryad Mezzour, Morocco’s Minister of Commerce and Industry; Mohamed Abdeljalil, Minister of Equipment, Transport and Logistics; David Govrin, Ambassador of Israel to Morocco, and Start-Up Nation Central CEO Avi Hasson. Israel’s Science, Technology, and Innovation Minster Orit Farkash-Hacohen will lead the closing ceremony of the conference

The opening ceremony also featured the live signing ceremonies of a series of 13 MOUs between Israeli and Moroccan entities that will pave the way for a surge of B2B and G2G activities, particularly in the fields of human capital, agrifood-tech, water-tech, climate tech, logistics, and more.

To help forge those ties, Start-Up Nation Central brought to Morocco a delegation of more than 50 Israelis to Casablanca. Members of the delegation, which includes senior government officials, business executives, entrepreneurs, investors, and consultants, will share their experiences and challenges in an effort to create collaborations with Moroccan participants that address each other's pain points.

The conference will include professional workshops, lectures, business panels, pitch sessions, and roundtable discussions. Half a day will be dedicated to each one of the four main focus topics: agrifood-tech, water-tech, energy, climate tech and supply chain/logistics. Additional sessions will be dedicated to exploring solutions to human capital challenges in both countries, and on best practices and key components of developing an innovation ecosystem. The goal is to share the strengths and areas for growth of both countries’ ecosystems in order to find areas where each could benefit from working together.

“I am so pleased to send my warmest greetings to the Morocco-Israel Connect to Innovate Forum and to congratulate Start-Up Nation Central and all the forum partners and participants for organizing this historic event,” Israel’s President Isaac Herzog said in a recorded message to the attendees.

“Together, Israel and Morocco can develop the innovative solutions that will improve lives, livelihoods, and quality of life in our own countries and promote progress and peace throughout the Middle East, Africa and beyond.”

“Let us join forces and connect to innovate, to give a chance for peace for the sake of our children and the safety of all,” H.E. Mr. Andre Azoulay, Advisor to King Mohammed VI said.

“Morocco and Israel have started the path of a win-win collaboration in mutually beneficial areas. As envisioned, we have built a solid and dynamic economic partnership that aims to be innovative in tune with global technological changes. This forum will make it possible to further explore avenues for development in promising areas, namely: agrifood-tech, energy-tech, logistic-tech and water-tech,” Morocco’s Minister of Commerce and Industry, Ryad Mezzour, said.

“These are projects that subscribe to Morocco’s prioritized approach to economy and industry and are perfectly aligned with Morocco's New Development Model, which promotes sovereignty, innovation, R&D and innovative entrepreneurship.”

“For the last few decades innovation has been the driving force of the Israeli economy, leading to consistent growth, raising its standard of living, and opening new opportunities on the diplomatic front. As the world moved from a resource-based economy to a knowledge-based one, we invite our regional and global partners to take part in the journey and benefit from the lessons we learned on the path to becoming the Start-Up Nation,” said Start-Up Nation Central CEO Avi Hasson.

He added, “We believe that Morocco, under the leadership of HM Mohammed VI, is uniquely suited to partner with Israel in blazing a trail to a new MENA region, one that is connected by a genuine desire for peace and prosperity. This conference is a pivotal point as we embark on a joint innovation journey between Israel and Morocco toward economic prosperity.”

The three-day event brings together Moroccan and Israeli leaders from the public and private sectors, including large corporations and technology companies to help them identify avenues for collaboration that will benefit both economies. By connecting the Israeli innovation ecosystem to those of the Moroccan public and private sectors, the organizers aim to tackle shared challenges resulting in successful long-term business ventures and closer people-to-people ties.

Representatives of leading Moroccan business and governmental companies, including Confederation Generale des Entreprises du Maroc (CGEM); AMDIE; ONEE; Crédit Agricole du Maroc; ADD; The Foundation for Research, Development, and Innovation in Science and Engineering (FRDISI); UM6P; Ithmar Capital; Tamwilcom; AMDL; SNTL, and Lina Holding, also took part in the event and expressed their commitment to developing innovation and business cooperation and their support for the trailblazing initiative.