"The program will enable Israel to become a major player in the global renewable energy industry," Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai said.
The R&D center will be established in the Negev under the auspices of the Chief Scientist's Office, and it will invest NIS 70 million ($20m) over a period of five years. The center will focus on the development of renewable and alternative energy sources for the production of electricity, such as solar and wind energy.
The Negev desert region is already a hub of cleantech and renewable energy activities. This winter, Israel Cleantech Ventures announced a partnership with Ben Gurion University (BGU), located in Beersheva. The Central Arava Fund and Oasis Investment Fund are also raising money to invest in agritech, biofuel, and solar energy companies in the region. In Dimona, Rotem Industries manages a Renewable Energy Innovation Center that hosts the BrightSource Energy / Luz II solar thermal pilot plant and a testing ground for Leviathan Energy's wind turbines. Sde Boqer is home to BGU's National Solar Energy Center, whose director, Prof. David Faiman, is a pioneer in the field and the Chief Scientist of ZenithSolar.
Boaz Hirsch, Deputy Director General for Foreign Trade at the Trade Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry, said Israeli renewable energy technology exports generated $110 million in 2007. Under the framework a new government plan, it is predicted that renewable energy exports will grow to $1 billion a year within 10 years. In addition, R&D investment is expected to increase to $350m annually during the 2008-2012 period of the program.