Translation IvdT
EXPRESSEN 17/5/99
 

Arne Lapidus has found the maternity house of the enterprises

RECIPE FOR SWEDEN

By Arne Lapidus

 

 

Raise company babies in incubators! The best way to push small size companies – and integrate immigrants.

The Swedish scientist David Nordfors sees Israeli successful incubators as model. He would like to transfer the Israeli experience over to Sweden. Israeli incubators have created some hundreds of high tech companies standing on their own feet. Innovators, mainly immigrants, are taught to become entrepreneurs, says David Nordfors who is on leave from his job at the KK Foundation in order to study the Israeli programme.

- This would be especially good idea for Sweden. We have too little people here. It is completely inconceivable that we do not take advantage from the skills of the immigrants.

In connection with the great immigrant wave from the former Soviet Union ten years ago, Israel started her programme with 26 incubators tied to universities and high schools. Since then almost one million immigrants have arrived, some 60 percent of them with academic education. The mass immigration created in the beginning severe problems, the newspapers were full of stories of Russian brain surgeons cleaning the streets. But today most of them are well integrated in the society and their professional occupations, partly thanks to the company incubators.

I am meeting Nordfors in an incubator in the industrial area Nesher outside Haifa in North Israel. It is tied to the technical highschool in Haifa and right now it takes care of 14 companies within medicin, electronics and technology.

Doctor Ephraim Lansky, new immigrant from USA, receives in his tiny laboratorium. He sincerely believes on his new method to extract oestrogen from pomegranates.- It is an unique process. We are making a medicine of pomegranates which will help women in menopause, says Lansky with his laboratory coat full of dots of pomegranate juice.

His company Rimonest has been ‘’nursed’’ in the incubator one and an half year and is assisted by getting localities and finding investors. In a room close by is Michael Ioelevich, immigrant from Latvia. He has invented a paper which is biodegradable and water resistant suitable for packaging. – We need investments. Can’t you tell Tetra Pak, he says.

The companies of the innovators are getting support during two years. – The ownership is divided, it is important that all involved can make a profit. The innovator owns 50%, the incubator 20% and the investors 20%. The rest is divided between the leaders of the company and the incubator, explains Nordfors.

The incubator in Nesher, that is the technical highschool in Haifa, has made good business with its companies. It is almost self supporting, the profits and sales of shares of the companies are financing 80% of the activities of the incubator. More than a half of the 400 Israeli projects are today active companies. They sold for 350 million SEK last year and had got investments of worth 1,3 billion SEK.

- The incubators are not immediately creating profitable companies, but companies in which capital owners are willing to invest. They are updating ideas so that it is possible to invest in them, says Nordfors. – This would be suitable also for Sweden. We have many highly qualified immigrants. The share of those with academic education is equal among immigrants as among those born in Sweden, 15%. We should open the opportunity for the most active and for those with ideas. But today we are training away much of their initiatives by prohibiting immigrants from working during the two first years in Sweden.

There are already long advanced plans on an incubator in connection to the highschool in Karlskrona/Ronneby. – It is incredibly fascinating to see how the Israeli government has succeeded to create a culture of newly established high tech companies. They change immigrated entrepreneurs to business millionares in a couple of years. We want to learn how they are doing and build something similar in Sweden, says Per Eriksson, headmaster for the highschool in Karlskrona/Ronneby.