Ontario premier's trade mission to Middle East to focus on research, life sciences

TORONTO – Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne begins a week-long trade mission Sunday to the Middle East, with a focus on the life sciences and research sectors.

The delegation of government officials as well as approximately 130 business, academic and research representatives is travelling to Israel and the West Bank.

Wynne told a pre-mission reception for the delegates earlier this month that Ontario and Israel share many of the same priorities, namely developing “strong, competitive business environments that support innovation and growth.”

“Ontario’s strengths in research, innovation and entrepreneurship help us compete globally — and this mission will help us establish Ontario as a top innovation and knowledge economy partner for Israel,” Wynne said.

“Together we will promote the exchange of information and knowledge, seek new opportunities for collaboration and sign new business agreements that will create economic growth and jobs in both regions.”

In Israel, the premier is set to meet with political, business and innovation leaders “to exchange knowledge and sign agreements,” while in the West Bank she will focus on “innovation and education initiatives,” her office said.

Two-way trade between Ontario and Israel last year was valued at more than $900 million, Wynne’s office said. Ontario and Israel already have a memorandum of understanding on research, which the premier’s office said has helped generate 15 industry-led R&D projects and leverage more than $16 million in outside funding.

The delegation is set to travel with the premier to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, then on May 19 the premier and some of the delegates will go to Ramallah in the West Bank and to Haifa in Israel the following day.

Delegates include Jewish-focused businesses and organizations looking to strengthen existing ties to Israel, universities and research institutes such as the University of Toronto and the Ontario Brain Institute, and life science companies. Travelling with the mission are representatives from medical device companies hoping to expand or collaborate on research, pharmaceutical companies, an addiction treatment facility, a research chemical manufacturer and other life science companies.

BlackBerry, Roots Canada, IBM Canada Ltd., Scotiabank, Thomson Reuters and the Toronto Stock Exchange are also part of the trade mission.

BlackBerry hopes to “raise (its) profile as a software company,” Roots is looking for new business opportunities and Thomson Reuters is looking to learn about the start-up ecosystem and models of financial technology accelerators, according to the mission’s delegate directory.

Wynne will also be accompanied by Training, Colleges and Universities Minister Reza Moridi, Health Minister Eric Hoskins and MPP Monte Kwinter, who is the parliamentary assistant to the minister of citizenship, immigration and international trade.

As premier, Wynne has led two trade missions to China, which she has said generated about $3.5 billion in investments and created thousands of jobs. Wynne also went to India earlier this year — a mission she said generated agreements valued at more than $240 million.