During his September 2011 official visit, Israel’s Minister of Industry, Trade and Labour, Shalom Simhon, made note of Lithuania’s achievements in the technology sphere, proposing that Lithuania could develop along the same lines as Israel’s knowledge-based economy.
According to alfa.lt, Simhon identified a number of important factors allowing Israel’s development in the high technology sector. The Minister reported that, lacking natural resources, the country has had to rely on human help; the country places great importance on education, and has one of the highest numbers of scientists and engineers per capita in the world. The government implements a range of programs via the Ministry, designed to promote scientific research and development of technology. Simhon added that Israel is in a leading position as a result of these investments, saying that Lithuania showed great potential in the high technology sector.
The Minister concluded: “In my opinion, Lithuania has a high level of education, and it can reach the same level as Israel. To tell you the truth, I think Lithuania is already the regional leader in the areas of biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and information technology (IT).”
During his visit, Simhon and his delegates visited the manufacturing facilities of biotechnology firm Sicor Biotech/TEVA. As a subsidiary of Tel Aviv-based generic drugs manufacturer TEVA, the company actively cooperates with Israel in high technology field. Sicor Biotech/TEVA’s CEO has reported that high technology has the ability to form the firm foundations on which Lithuania’s economy could prosper.
Biotechnology and lasers are two areas in which Lithuania’s companies are highly advanced and competitive, according to Professor Vladas Algirdas Bumelis, honorary Consul of Israel in Lithuania. Bumelis is also the President of the Lithuanian Israeli Chamber of Commerce, and General Manager of Sicor Biotech/TEVA Baltics. According to Bumelis, the interest of countries such as Israel in cooperating with Lithuania proves the potential of the country’s high technology industry. The Professor added that Lithuania must actively develop its partnership with Israel; high technology accounts for half of Lithuania’s exports to Israel, and between 11% and 15% of GDP.
Bumelis added that although high technology forms only 0.1% of Lithuania’s GDP, he hopes to see this figure increase to 2% by 2015, with the development of up to 15 core companies. The Professor considers that while looking for new economic partners, it is important to cooperate with Israel, and take advantage of all possibilities to work with the country. To this effect, while visiting Lithuania, Simhon met with representatives of the Lithuanian Israeli Chamber of Commerce and Versli Lietuva.
While the volume of trade between Lithuania and Israel is still low, it reached $53,000,000 in 2010, marking a noticeable upward trend. In the first half of 2011, Lithuanian-Israeli trade was up 100% year-on-year. The figures indicate that there is significant room for the countries to cooperate, and high technology is one sphere in which there is opportunity for significant growth. Lithuania has substantial IT and biotechnology sectors, and Israel’s hi-tech firms are strong in the areas of clean technology, communications, defence and healthcare. Simhon added: “I am sure that we can both benefit from cooperation, which is the reason why I came to Lithuania with a group of Israeli business leaders. We have a historical background which strengthens our partnership. Among us, there are several people with roots in Lithuania – one of them is the head of the Israeli Manufacturers Association.”