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Opening remarks at an Israeli-Norwegian Business Conference

State Secretary Marianne Hagen's opening remarks at the Israeli-Norwegian Business Conference in Tel Aviv 3 June.

Deputy Director Yael Ravia-Zadok,
Dear participants from Israel and Norway,

I am honoured to open this Israeli-Norwegian Business Conference in Tel Aviv. In Norway, we have a saying that “those who wait long are waiting for something good”. We have worked long to organize an innovation conference between businesses from Norway and Israel. Because we have been convinced that such a conference will benefit both countries.

Norway and Israel have a long history of friendship and an excellent bilateral relationship. We were with you when Israel was established 71 years ago. Since then, we have followed each other in building strong economies and prosperous welfare states.

Norway and Israel have compatible economies with great potential for cooperation.

We also have some differences. Norway has a bigger land area, a large ocean space, and we are blessed with an abundance of natural resources. We live in a peaceful neighbourhood. Israel is a small democracy with scarce natural resources - even though you now have natural gas - and is located in a complex and conflict-ridden neighbourhood.

Still, we are both open economies that are well-integrated and benefit from a globalized world. We both depend on knowledge-intensive technology and innovation to finance our welfare systems and to secure a high income for our populations. You need technology to compensate for the complex and warm environment and the scarcity of natural resources. We need technology to explore our natural resources in a hostile and cold natural environment.

However, we believe that much of the required technologies and expertise is similar, and even sometimes the same.

Dear friends,

For Norway, the future is both blue and green.

Our government’s vision is that Norway will become one of the leading innovating countries in Europe, by adopting industrial and economic policies to promote broad innovation based on investments in research and development.

Our future is blue, because we will continue to explore and exploit our rich marine resources and opportunities at sea. Norway takes global leadership in protecting our oceans. Our rich fisheries resources, our aquaculture industry and our long shipping traditions are important assets. We are happy, by the way, that one-third of the fish imported to Israel is from Norway.

Our future must be green – for our economy and our welfare society to be sustainable. Norway’s goal is to transition into an innovative and low-emission society by 2050. This transition is based on sustainable and environmentally friendly ways of living, and on a market-driven approach where businesses seek to achieve green competitiveness.

Admittedly, Norway is among the world’s biggest exporters of oil and natural gas. We have developed technologies for exploration and production of oil and gas in the hostile environment of the North-Atlantic Ocean. At the same time, 98 percent of all our electricity production comes from renewable sources.

We want the world to become less dependent on oil and gas, to reduce global warming, and to develop smart technologies. Therefore, we are also working to make our petroleum-related technologies greener and more sustainable.

We are at the same time taking leadership in developing smart and eco-friendly cities. As one example, we invest in developing electric, zero-emission and effective transportation systems.

In our capital Oslo, the first autonomous buses are already test running. The speed of introducing zero and low-emission transport is one of the highest in Europe. Half of the new cars sold in Norway are either electrical or chargeable hybrids. The container ship Yara Birkeland, a zero-emissions and autonomous ship, and the hybrid-powered MS Roald Amundsen of Hurtigruten are examples of contributions from our industry that cuts emissions. We are also exploring electrical airplanes. This will give us an advantage when faced with stricter environmental regulations in the future.

We welcome the digital revolution and increasing automation in our industries. And we promote digitalization and automation in our bureaucracies. A group of public sector leaders from Israel were recently in Norway to look at just that.

With our high ambitions in research, innovation and development, Norway looks abroad, also to Israel, for partnerships, trade and cooperation. Therefore, we signed an understanding on Research & Development with the Israeli government in 2017.

This business conference is a follow-up of that agreement and a step towards increased cooperation and trade between our countries.

We agreed on a government level to focus on emerging health technologies. Both our countries have highly innovative firms with solutions to the challenge in providing first class health services at an affordable cost to our welfare societies. Answering to the interest of businesses in both our countries, we decided to include smart cities, e-mobility and new technologies for agriculture and aquaculture in this conference.

Dear Participants,

I am happy for the excellent cooperation between Norwegian and Israeli ecosystems for innovation that made this conference happen. We firmly support the wish from both ecosystems to learn from each other’s experience and promote more contact and cooperation in the future.

I want to thank the Israeli Innovation Authority and the Israeli Export Institute for identifying and mobilizing the Israeli participants, with excellent contributions from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and your Embassy in Oslo. Thank you Yael, Nili, Sabine, Alain, Ilan and others.

I also want to thank the Norwegian actors. The initiative for this conference was taken by our embassy in Tel Aviv together with our honorary consul Orni Izakson. I want to thank Innovation Norway, the Norwegian Research Council and Norway Health Tech for their invaluable assistance in identifying and mobilizing the Norwegian participants. Thank you to all and everyone.

Thanks also to our two chambers of commerce, one Israeli headed by Consul Orni Izakson and one Norwegian headed by Willy David Ekre and Trygve Brekke. A special thanks to Orni for his and his family’s efforts to promote our bilateral trade in two generations.

Last but not least, I want to thank all of the Norwegian participants who seized this opportunity to build networks in Israel, either coming from our highly industrialized and innovative region of the North-West or the similar regions in the South-West and South-East.

I thank all Israeli participants for spending time to connect with your Norwegian colleagues and explore opportunities for you in Norway and Scandinavia.

Israel, in our view from the high North, is not only a locomotive for growth in the Middle East, but is rapidly becoming a global hub for innovation. You have matured from a start-up nation to the place to be if you want to develop technologies for global businesses. This makes Israel a promising land for all of us.

I take this opportunity to reaffirm that Norway stands ready, with our balanced approach to the conflicts in this region, to continue our commitment to solving the conflicts, improving the regional stability, and alleviating the humanitarian crises in the region.

Norway believes that a negotiated two-state solution is the only solution to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. We also believe that solving the outstanding issues and establishing of two states with internationally recognized borders and living in peace, will remove obstacles and further enhance Israel’s role in the region and in Europe. Therefore, Norway urges the parties to renew negotiations, and I reiterate the commitment of the Norwegian Government to assist you in doing so.

With these words, I wish you all a fruitful conference here in Tel Aviv.

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