B-Hub: New innovation platform to foster entrepreneurship

Palestinian youth who wish to transform their business ideas from  vision to reality now have access to the B-Hub, an innovative business acceleration space, established by and based at Birzeit University.

The B-Hub, funded by the European Union, was launched on October 3, 2017, when the university’s top administrators, donors, partners, and entrepreneurial students celebrated the Hub’s opening. The Hub matches students and small enterprises and empowers them to strengthen local businesses, improving the employability of university graduates and their readiness for the future.

The establishment of the B-Hub comes amid critical Palestinian economic and social problems, including the increase of unemployment rates, the widespread existence of unsustainable small businesses, and damaging environmental practices.

Speaking on behalf of Birzeit University President, the Vice President for Community Affairs, Asim Khalil, said that the University is seeking to adjust its educational system to meet a heavy stream of demands caused by the shifting dynamics of the global market.

Khalil alluded to the fact that there is a mismatch between supply and demand in the relevant job market: “Neither do the small companies find good employees with relevant experience, nor do the university graduates find job opportunities at local businesses and this vicious circle goes on forever.”

“The B-Hub, established with generous support from the European Union,will be a flexible and localized innovation space for students to develop their skills and competencies, and for small companies to build their capacities and find custom solutions to their specific problems or improve operations and grow in an organic local context.”

The Head of Cooperation at the European Union Representative Office, Dr. Alessandra Viezzer, expressed the EU’s enthusiasm in supporting such a promising project.  Commenting on the linkages of students with businesses that this project offers, Viezzer added, “We are partnering to attract young men and women, to turn ideas into businesses, support existing ones, and to develop new ideas.” Dr. Viezzer highlighted the importance of small-enterprises, as they grow rapidly and expand seamlessly within the already-restricted Palestinian economy, an economy, which, as she noted, “has not been able to generate new jobs to absorb new entrants.” Dr. Viezzer also noted the student integration that the B-Hub provides through the innovative combination of new, fresh ideas and minds, and a real-life opportunity to put those ideas to good use. Finally addressing the students, Dr. Viezzer said, “We trust that you are able to create a positive change in yourselves, your friends, and your surroundings.”

The Director of the Center of Continuing Education Marwan Tarazi emphasized the important role that the B-Hub will play in Birzeit’s strategic goal of integrating learning both inside and outside the classroom. “Equipping students with mainstream formal education is no longer sufficient to qualify them to meet the significant shifts that are happening in the evolving global knowledge economy. The B-Hub is a new integrated program designed to fight the most critical problems facing the local economy, through a unique approach for developing the students competencies sought by private employers or required by new entrepreneurs as well as matching their skills with the needs of existing enterprises.”

Tarazi said the hub will target to develop and contribute in empowering the economy. “90% of the Palestinian economy relies heavily on micro and small enterprises. However, this large economic sector receives the least attention from developmental agencies. We seek to make these enterprises more productive, efficient and successful, and contribute to the developing of our economy.”

The established Business Hub is designed to fight critical problems facing the local economy. This project is timely aimed the obstacles that is facing the Palestinian youth. According to the Deputy Minister of Education and Higher Education Basri Saleh, more than 385 thousand Palestinians are unemployed, 60% of them are comprised from university graduates.

“There is an urgent need for redefining our educational strategy. All national institutions and higher-education entities are jointly working on empowering and strengthening our educational systems to meet needs of the modern global trends and emerging opportunities.

The spokesperson of the Ministry of National Economy Azmi Abdul Rahman talked about the contribution that micro-enterprises bring to the sustainable development of Palestine. “Due to high obstacles to growth in a captive economy, small enterprises remain the best feasible business model.

And as part of the supporting the B-hub progress, the University signed an agreement with Bank of Palestine, and “Americans for a Vibrant Palestinian Economy”.

The Dean of the Faculty of Business and Economics Grace Khoury presented “Farid Muna and Grace Khoury Awards of Excellence” to Jumana Wasaya, Amin Taha and Sajida Baraghithi for their innovative contributions to the “B-hub branding competition”.