Last week we held the first-of-its-kind #Connect2Innovate (C2I) conference in Bahrain. This unique event organized by the Bahrain Ministry of Industry and Commerce, the Economic Development Board of Bahrain (EDB), and Start-Up Nation Central. Bringing together 300 Bahraini businesses, Israeli innovative companies, and investors, C2I provided a platform to explore potential collaborations that leverage technology and innovation to address environmental, social, and economic development goals.
Described by one participant as “an incredibly effective event with exactly the right people you need to meet and get to know”, C2I was also an opportunity to learn about commonalities between Bahrain and Israel’s innovation industries. Overlap is especially clear in the context of climate change, which is impacting the Middle East at one of the highest rates in the world.
One area of significant commonality is the energy industry. Bahrain’s oil and gas industry is the backbone of its economy. However, today is not possible to continue operating under the assumption that there will always be a market for fossil fuels and as a result, Bahrain is actively diversifying.
At the conference, I had the privilege to interview Ms. Hadya Mohammed Fathalla, a board member at Noga Holding, the Kingdom’s national oil and gas holding company. We discussed the challenges of reaching net zero, including increasing the operational efficiency of existing fossil fuel products, investing in novel technologies such as carbon capture and sequestration (CCUS), and exploring alternative energies.
Israel is a ‘knowledge economy’ with over 850 Climate Tech startups and growth-stage companies. With the added complexity of a recently thriving natural gas industry, Israel likewise invests in decarbonizing its local economy. While Israeli entrepreneurs are recognized for technological breakthroughs, many early-stage companies require guidance in understanding market needs and how to work with multinational clients to identify the most relevant applications for their tech. Bahrain’s well-developed energy industry can leverage Israeli innovation and hone its application. The first indication of this potential is the partnership announced at C2I between BladeRanger, an Israeli renewable energy optimization company, and Bahraini energy provider, Alpha Solar.
Another synergy is water-focused innovation. Both Bahrain and Israel face water security challenges due to being located in arid lands with little natural fresh water and rainfall and are investing in water supply and management. Through technological innovation, Israel is now a water-affluent society, with 50% of its water generated in desalination plants, less than 2% water loss in its national pipelines, and more than 85% of its wastewater reclaimed for agricultural use. Israel’s national water company, Mekorot, and more than 140 young and growth-stage water-tech companies are actively collaborating with utility providers abroad to adapt to the changing climate, including in Bahrain.
Joint challenges can bring people together, and climate change is an excellent example of this. As both nations gear up to face climate change, we hope to do so hand in hand, leveraging each others’ expertise – with the help of initiatives like Connect2Innovate to bring us together.