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The St. Louis region is making a push to attract the attention of expansion-minded companies in Israel.

The St. Louis-Israel Innovation Connection, developed by BioSTL, aims to tap into one of the world’s innovation hotbeds.

“Israel has more startup companies than anywhere else outside of Silicon Valley,” said Donn Rubin, president and chief executive of BioSTL, a nonprofit focused on boosting the region’s biotechnology sector.

The challenge facing the region is finding a way to attract companies that are also being targeted by better-known locations in Boston, New York and San Francisco.

Earlier this year, BioSTL launched its new initiative, which included the hiring of both a St. Louis-based project leader and a representative inside Israel.

They are focusing on companies in three of the region’s stronger industries: biotechnology, health care technology and financial technology.

But they aren’t simply looking for small startups with big ideas. Instead, their goal is find young companies with proven products and technologies. Those firms will be connected with venture capitalists, corporate partners, universities and business networks in the St. Louis region.

Making the job somewhat easier is the fact that these Israeli companies don’t need to be persuaded of the need to expand to the U.S., Rubin said.

“It’s baked into their business plan to get to North America,” he said. “This is where they are really going to hit their expansion and scale up.”

These don’t tend to be companies looking to move their entire operation to the U.S. Instead, they are looking to expand their research facilities, open sales offices or begin navigating this country’s regulatory system.

Working for the initiative in Israel is Uri Attir, who has experience running and consulting with technology companies there.

Attir is in St. Louis for a two-week tour aimed at giving him a better idea of the region’s strengths and offerings. And what he’s seen so far has boosted his optimism about the task ahead. With the right marketing, he said, the area should prove attractive to those young firms.

“St. Louis is not as well known as it should be,” Attir said. “It’s definitely underrepresented in Israel.”

The initiative officially launched in May, when Rubin took part in a six-day trip to Israel, where meetings were held with 19 companies and several investors and law firms.

Those early meetings have spawned talks between a handful of those companies and St. Louis businesses.

And at least one, he said, is expected to make a move of some sort to this region.

“We’re not in a position to make that announcement yet,” Rubin said.

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Timothy Barker is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.