Since 2014, in the Negev desert, Israel has been trying to bring together in one place private companies, researchers and the military dedicated to cybersecurity. Built near Ben-Gurion University, in the city of Beersheva, and supported by the public cybersecurity agency, the Israeli Cyber Spark was one of the models that inspired the French-style Cyber Campus inaugurated by the Minister of economy Bruno Le Maire on February 15, in a tower block in the La Défense district.
In his report submitted to the Prime Minister in 2019, Michel Van Den Berghe, progenitor of Campus Cyber, took Cyber Spark as a model, praising its role as a showcase for foreign investors.
Cyber Spark struggles to attract employees
Eight years after its launch, however, the results are mixed. Cyber Spark has grown. Initially, it was in one building, and today it occupies four, connected to the university by air bridges. But the complex struggles to attract businesses and talent. There are only 3,000 employees on site, out of the 30,000 initially planned. This is explained by the location, in the middle of the desert and far from the attractions of the coastal metropolis of Tel Aviv.
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However, the results remain positive, according to Yaniv Harel, who, as general manager of the cybersolutions group for Dell-EMC, settled there from the start. “We can’t judge everything on the numbers”, he explains, praising the spirit of camaraderie and innovation that exists at Cyber Spark. “Creating something like this from scratch is a real challenge,” he warns. “We cannot create a Silicon Valley artificially, it takes time. »
He cites the creation of an incubator and a new center dedicated to the security of companies in the financial sector. And he also looks to the future: “There will be a change when the military intelligence technical units move here permanently. » Several military bases are indeed under construction. They should accommodate nearly 20,000 soldiers specialized in cyber defense by 2026.
Elite army units lead to prized jobs
In Israel, the army is both a breeding ground for skills and a place where important networks are formed. The competition is fierce to serve in the elite units, the flagship of Israeli high-tech. They offer the guarantee of a future responsible job, sometimes even before demobilization. The esprit de corps acquired during this obligatory passage is omnipresent in the sector. It is also exported, and maintained.
Very early on, Israel bet on creating an innovation economy by betting on the proximity between the army and the private sector. This is the main reason why this small country of 9 million inhabitants is today one of the world leaders in cybersecurity. The Cyber Spark is the concretization of this well-established logic of communicating vessels, a reality that may be difficult to reproduce in France.