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Mass. governor launches second phase of Mass Challenge

JTA

March 8, 2011 | 1:24 pm

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is on a high-profile business and trade mission in Israel promoting job-creating partnerships between the two regions.

Patrick on Monday launched the second phase of Mass Challenge, a four-year, $1 million worldwide competition for innovative start-up companies. He encouraged Israel’s entrepreneurs to enter the contest. Among the many Israeli applicants that entered last year, Joy Tunes reached the finals.

“Our delegation brings with it a message of collaboration, friendship and steadfast support of the State of Israel,” Patrick told JTA from Israel. “Our shared values of innovation, entrepreneurship and generational responsibility bind us closely.”

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is leading the 33-member delegation, which also includes other heads of Massachusetts companies looking to start or expand ties with Israel. Many are in life sciences, information technology and clean technology.

A separate delegation from Boston’s Combined Jewish Philanthropies also is in Israel and is scheduled to host the governor’s group in Haifa, Boston’s sister city, where the governor on Wednesday will visit the Jewish philanthropy’s Shiluvim program, an initiative that has helped thousands of Ethiopian immigrants settle in Israel.

According to a recent report by backers of trade with Israel, nearly 100 companies with Israeli founders or Israeli-licensed technologies are operating in Massachusetts. In 2009, there was $2.4 billion in direct revenue generated for the state, along with nearly 6,000 jobs, the report stated.

Massachusetts and Israel share thriving innovation economies, making Israel a logical place to begin the trade mission, according to Bruce Magid, dean of the Brandeis International Business School, who is traveling with the governor.

This is Patrick’s first trip to Israel, but since taking office in 2006 he has promoted strong ties with the Jewish state. In 2008, in his first term as governor, Patrick signed into a law a bill establishing a $10 million life sciences bill that authorized business and educational partnerships with Israel, the only foreign country included in the law. In 2009, Patrick received an honorary doctorate from the University of Haifa at a statehouse ceremony.

The delegation met with Israel’s chief scientist Avi Hasson and with Maj. Gen. Eliezer Shkedi, chief executive of El Al Airlines.

Patrick was scheduled to host a series of forums with industry and scientific leaders Tuesday, and on Thursday he is expected to sign an economic development agreement between the Israeli and Massachusetts governments.

Patrick is scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as opposition leader Tzipi Livni, who in 2008 addressed the Massachusetts state Legislature.

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