Yulia Karra
March 20

A day before I attended the inauguration of the new, first-of-its-kind robotics lab in Beersheva, I had watched “The Creator” on Disney Plus. The 2024 Oscar-nominated film details a future war between humans and AI-powered robots, which at some point detonate a nuclear bomb. 

It was somewhat ironic, then, that the theme of the grand opening of the lab was “robotics is the future.” 

Thankfully, those in attendance, including Beersheva Mayor Ruvik Danilovich and Ben-Gurion University (BGU) President Daniel Chamovitz, appeared to believe the future of robotics is much brighter than science fiction writers would like it to be.

It also signaled their belief that the future of the Negev Desert, of which Beersheva is the unofficial capital, is much brighter than the current war just over the region’s western border seems at the moment.

Robotics is the way

“We were at a robotics conference in Las Vegas recently, and based on what we saw I can confidently say that robotics is the direction the world is moving in,” Synergy7 CEO Harel Ram told the guests.

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Synergy7 CEO Harel Ram. Photo by Sali Petel/Synergy7
Synergy7 CEO Harel Ram. Photo by Sali Petel/Synergy7

Synergy7 is the Negev-based innovation hub that in March 2023 won an Innovation, Science and Technology Ministry tender to establish the robotics lab. 

The goal is to give anyone, from engineering students to emerging startups, access to the world’s most advanced equipment in the field. 

“Robotics is clearly going to be one of the things that defines the Negev,” Chamovitz, an Israeli American, told the crowd in English. “So much of what we’re doing will be connected to robotics.”

“One third of the most expensive building to be built ever in the history of Ben-Gurion University, which will be breaking ground hopefully in spring, is dedicated to robotics,” he added.

“An hour ago, I inaugurated the [BGU] Department of Occupational Therapy, and the thing they talked about was robotics because it is a great tool for rehabilitation in occupational therapy.”  

First of its kind 

Synergy7 is jointly owned by BGU, Soroka Medical Center, Mor Research Implementation, Elbit Systems and its technological incubator Incubit Ventures, and the Merage Israel Foundation. The lab was established in cooperation with Dell Technologies

Located in the Gav-Yam Advanced Technologies Park, the robotics lab enables the entrepreneurs to gain practical experience and enroll in accelerators and incubators. Elbit’s specialists will lend their expertise to those using the lab’s services. 

Gav-Yam Advanced Technologies Park. Photo by Yulia Karra
Gav-Yam Advanced Technologies Park. Photo by Yulia Karra

What sets the project apart from the others elsewhere in the country is that it encompasses all dedicated sub-laboratories needed for a potential high-tech entrepreneur to develop a project from start to finish. 

“The lab has the best infrastructure made up of people and equipment, “ Ram tells ISRAEL21c. “Our goal is to attract startups that would enter with us into joint research and development projects. Anyone who has a startup is welcome here.” 

Turning Beersheva in to Singapore

“I remember the time when no one believed there would be anything in Beersheva besides sand, not even a sushi place, let alone a robotics lab,” laughed Danilovic during his speech at the inauguration. 

Beersheva Mayor Ruvik Danilovich answers questions during the opening ceremony. Photo by Yulia Karra
Beersheva Mayor Ruvik Danilovich answers questions during the opening ceremony. Photo by Yulia Karra

“I want to congratulate everyone who helped and promoted the opening of the lab, the importance of which only increases in times of war,” he said, adding the project will boost the economy of the Negev by attracting startups and business people. 

The lab is also meant to benefit the underrepresented populations in the Negev, such as the Bedouin community. 

The robotics lab presentation room. Photo by Sali Petel/Synergy7
The robotics lab presentation room. Photo by Sali Petel/Synergy7

Ram, a veteran high-tech entrepreneur and Negev resident, says his ultimate vision is to “turn Beersheva into Singapore.” 

“The project is both a great business opportunity and a chance to further develop the region. Israeli high-tech knows how to bounce back, but at the moment we are fighting an economic war.” 

Develop the Negev post-October 7

Chamovitz added that in the wake of the October 7 Hamas attacks in the western Negev, the government must redirect all its effort into developing the Negev region. 

“What we’re doing today takes on a whole new meaning,” he told the crowd. 

“If we don’t take a stand in the Negev, we won’t be making a stand in Tel Aviv,” he said, paraphrasing David Ben Gurion, “and if we maybe didn’t understand that before October 7, now we do.” 

Rather than an equal opportunity, he said, “the Negev must be a priority. That means if there has to be an advantage given by the government, that advantage should be given to the Negev.

“We saw what happened when the Negev was almost cut off and we don’t want to go back to that.”

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