When business leaders from Pittsburgh and Israel convene in Oakland next week, the intent is to forge new business and research opportunities in health technology, medical devices and drug innovation.

“It makes sense for Pittsburgh to care about Israel because our industries are in similar areas,” says Paul Harper, clinical assistant professor of entrepreneurship at the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh.

The conference, Global Venturing Israel: MedTech and Inclusive Innovation, is hosted by Pitt’s International Business Center at the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business. It takes place on March 26-27.

“There are so many great opportunities for Israel and Pittsburgh business connections in the medical technology/devices field, and the end result will be a more prosperous Pittsburgh,” says Gregg Roman, director of the community relations council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.

The conference will feature start-up presentations by local and Israeli firms, a “fireside chat” moderated by Bill Flanagan of the Allegheny Conference and a start-up showcase sponsored by UPMC Enterprises. The keynote address by William E. Strickland, Jr. president and CEO of Manchester Bidwell Corporation, will take place on March 27.

One of the goals of the event is to introduce the Pittsburgh innovation ecosystem to Israeli entrepreneurs, incubators and investors.

Israel has been growing its own vibrant innovative sector, built on knowledge and technology, for the last 20 years. Known as “Start-up Nation,” the country has high gross expenditures in research and development, explains Harper.

“Israel has many more entrepreneurs per capita and more engineers per capita than anywhere else,” he says. The country’s large youthful population with R&D backgrounds is due largely to required military training in leadership and sophisticated technologies.

Omer Schalit Cohen, vice president of business development for The Trendlines Group, an incubator in Israel, sees major advantages of developing relationships with Southwestern Pennsylvania companies.

The support of the Katz Graduate School of Business has been “tremendously helpful and active to establish collaboration between Israeli start-up companies and the Pittsburgh community in order to promote new ventures and innovation as a strong economic driver in our global economy,” says Cohen.

“There are some big medical device companies that operate in this area and have business in fields that are relevant to some of our portfolio companies. All of these companies are leaders in their space, and we are looking for opportunities for strategic partnership with them,” he adds.

These companies include Bayer HealthCare, Philips Respironics, Zoll and more.

Also, Cohen says, UPMC has served as a “great place for collaboration with some Israeli companies and has been a leader in adopting technologies and driving innovation in the healthcare space.”

And there are hopes for be opportunities in the regions’ other sectors – like financial and educational – to create student, faculty and research exchanges, says Harper.

The advantages to Pittsburgh youth, he adds, are twofold.

“A collaboration will expose students at Katz and Pitt to the global flow of commerce and provide other values such as learning how to deal with people who aren’t just like you,” he says. “That’s pretty important when it comes to innovation.”

And such relationships take students “beyond their boundaries, realizing that not everyone is solely focused on just the U.S.”

“It opens the world up to you,” he says.

Laurie Bailey is a freelance writer who has reported for many local publications. When she isn't writing she serves as a media consultant for nonprofits and other local companies.