Tech Nation: Israel Weighing Plan to Ease Rules on Importing Tech Workers

Harel launches quant fund based on models developed in-house ■ Merck Serono, WuXi App Tech launching a biotech incubator

A display of computer coding at a tech fair in Hannover, Germany.
Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

Israel weighing plan to ease rules on importing tech workers

Finance Ministry officials are weighing a plan to address the high-tech labor shortage by making it easier to import foreign workers. The key reforms, which officials say may be included in the 2019 Economic Arrangements Law, would create a mechanism for bringing in foreign tech workers for projects involving government contracts, and would in general reduce barriers to hiring foreigners so long as it doesn’t come at the expense of Israeli hires. The measures come as policy makers grapple with an estimated shortfall of about 10,000 workers in Israel’s high-tech industry. The shortage has slowed growth of the industry and threatens to inflate salaries, making local companies less globally competitive on price. “Why can you import building and farm workers but in high-tech you can’t?” asked one industry executive, who asked not to be named. However, there are others who say the government should invest more in developing homegrown talent rather than importing workers from abroad. (Eliran Rubin) 

Harel launches quant fund based on models developed in-house

Harel Finance reported on Tuesday that it is launching a quant investment unit using models it has developed in-house. Like other quant fund managers Harel’s Alpha-Tech use algorithms or systematically programmed investment strategies, rather than relying on human managers. “Israeli technology leads in a wide range of industries. Looking forward the country has all the knowledge, tools and resources to turn itself into a leader in managing investments based on technology,” said Tal Kedem, CEO of Harel Finance, the investment arms of Harel Insurance. Alpha-Tech, headed by Relli Ben-Shabat – until now senior vice president at Harel Finance – will initially offer four funds: one solely invested in domestic bonds, one focused on domestic stocks, a third in foreign stocks, and the fourth a mixed stock and bond fund. The funds, to be managed by Harel PIA Mutual Funds, will charge a single management fee of 0.5%. The models being employed by Alpha-Tech were developed by Harel’s research unit, led by Uri Rabinovitz. (TheMarker Staff)

Merck Serono, WuXi App Tech launching a biotech incubator

Merck Serono, a subsidiary of Germany’s Merck KGaA, is collaborating with the Shanghai-based pharmaceutical company WuXi AppTec Group to open a pharma and biotech startup incubator in Israel early next year, the Calcalist financial website reported this week. Dubbed Explore Bio, the incubator will be housed in Merck Serono’s complex in Yavneh, near Tel Aviv. The incubator is already evaluating investments in several local startups, each at an initial investment of several million dollars. ExploreBio won’t rely on government support, but will be funded entirely by the partners. In addition to providing capital, the incubator will assist its startups with drug development, provide feasibility and market-demand assessments, and offer early-stage mentoring. Explore Bio has set no ceiling for the number of startups it will back. Israeli biotech entrepreneur Moshe “Mori” Arkin and life sciences venture capital fund Pontifax will also be joining forces in operating the new incubator. (TheMarker Staff)