Agricultural research, business ties and possible cultural exchanges could develop from a recent Indiana-led trade mission to Israel, Gov. Eric Holcomb said on Friday, hours after returning home.
The trip, which included mostly agriculture business experts, yielded conversations such as bringing young Israeli farmers to the state and marijuana research, Holcomb said.
Israel is considered a pioneer in the medical marijuana industry. Last year, U.S. News and World Report found that medical cannabis research was becoming a lucrative industry in Israel at a time when the United States battles with the legal status of marijuana.
“It did come up in one conversation, making sure that especially folks who have gone through chemotherapy who this may benefit,” Holcomb said. “They’ve got some medical devices that have not been approved by the [Food and Drug Administration] but are being used in Europe.”
“It did speak to me in the sense that the federal government obviously has a big role to play in this conversation,” Holcomb said.
In Tel Aviv, Holcomb joined leadership of Cybertech, one of the world’s largest cybersecurity conferences, in announcing plans to host the inaugural Cybertech Midwest event in Indiana this fall.
The governor also signed a memorandum of understanding between the Indiana Economic Development Corp., which is the state’s commerce agency, and the Israel Innovation Authority that calls for mutual support toward innovation in agricultural biosciences, life sciences, technology and cybersecurity. The states plan to first issue a call for proposals for solutions to solve challenges from Indiana and Israeli companies within the ag biosciences sector.
While delivering a short speech at the Agritech Israel Conference, Holcomb mentioned that Indiana hosts 67,000 people at Future Farmers of America annual conventions. That led to discussions centered on bringing young Israeli farmers to Indiana.
“They’re looking for that type of expertise at a very young age,” Holcomb said. “Indiana is 83 percent farm-forest; Israel is 60 percent desert, so out of necessity, they have to adapt and innovate.”
He added, “Our roots grow deep in this area so this was truly a match made in heaven with the two sides coming together.” And there may be a chance for a cultural exhibition. “We also had some conversation about cultural exchanges. I was very pleased to talk about potentially bringing some artifacts from the Holy Land to Indiana at some point,” Holcomb said. “They’re in agreement with that. We need to work the details out.”
Holcomb also met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. A day after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Netanyahu flew back to Israel and met with Holcomb for an hour. Their meeting came within hours of Syria firing rockets at Israeli military positions in the occupied Golan Heights region. In response, Israel struck back at Iran’s military infrastructure inside Syria in its biggest assault since the start of the civil war.
“We wanted to reinforce that we stand with them and are still looking forward to not just saying thank you to the eight Israeli companies that are already rooted here in Indiana but strengthening our ties and our bond and growing more together,” Holcomb said.
Israeli-based firms in Indiana include Resin Partners of Madison County; MCP USA of Porter County; and Polyram Compounds of Vanderburgh County.
Israel is ranked No. 2 in the world for venture capital availability and No. 3 for innovation in the 2018 Global Competitiveness Report. However, the report also notes that a problematic factor in doing business with Israel is inefficient government bureaucracy.
“I talked with Prime Minister Netanyahu about just that,” Holcomb said, “And bureaucracy is a target-rich environment for improvement.”
Israel’s government is trying to keep up with technological advances in such fields as health care and the auto industry.
“Last year, the state of Indiana was rated number one by U.S. News and World Report in terms of our state government effectiveness and efficiency, so we were able to talk about that at length and kind of swap best practices,” Holcomb said.