All Israelis know how much the United States has helped out their country over the years. Less well known, however, is how Israel has returned the favor – by transferring technology developed by Israeli start-ups and corporations for development and sale in the U.S., providing jobs for Americans and helping develop new industries. As a result of their relationship with Israeli tech companies, many American firms have been able to grow and thrive. The Israeli partner, meanwhile, benefits as well, getting access to new markets for their technology and services.
One of the premier groups facilitating this mutually productive and beneficial relationship is BIRD, the Israel-U.S. Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation. Over the 36 years it has been in business, BIRD has invested over $308 million in nearly 900 projects undertaken jointly between Israeli and American companies. Those investments, according to BIRD statistics, helped generate direct and indirect sales of more than $10 billion. This week, BIRD is at it again, allocating $9 million to fund eleven new projects between Israeli and American companies that the group hopes will further cement the Israel-U.S. business relationship, and enhance business for both the American and Israeli partners.
Projects are funded up to $1 million each, and are reviewed by evaluators appointed by the National Institute of Standard and Technologies (NIST) and the Chief Scientist’s Office in the Israeli Ministry of Economy. The evaluators check the projects for technological soundness and market potential, ensuring that the investment will be used properly. Besides the $9 million allocated by BIRD directly to the projects, the organization has secured an additional $14 million in funding for the projects, the Foundation said. The money is allocated to both the American and Israeli companies partnering on the project, and they decide how to spend it.
Projects approved will be in the areas of life sciences, electronics, communications, cyber security, and homeland security. Among them: Bonus BioGroup of Haifa and Cellora LLC (of Boston) will develop personalized regenerative medicine technologies; Eyesight Mobile Technologies (Herzliya) and TriLumina, Inc. (Albuquerque, NM) will develop combined smart light sources for touch-less gesture and sensing applications; New NI Medical 2011 Ltd. (Kfar Mallal) and Athena GTX (Des Moines, IA) will develop a telemedicine system for use in the emerging home health care monitoring market; PetPace Ltd. (Kibbutz Shefayim) and BluePearl Management LLC (Tampa, FL) will develop an integrated in-hospital and outpatient pet remote monitoring system; and WeldObot Ltd. (Kadima, Israel) and Heller Industries Inc. (Florham Park, NJ) will develop an innovative new welding device.
Besides helping bring jobs to the U.S., BIRD helps build businesses in peripheral areas of Israel. Last month, the organization held an investment event for the Israeli-Arab sector in Nazareth, where entrepreneurs had the opportunity to meet investors and government officials, including representatives of the U.S. Embassy, who were there to help encourage companies to build ties with American companies.
“There is a great deal of interest in the Arab sector in joining the Israeli tech ecosystem and becoming a part of the ‘Start-Up Nation,’” said Limor Nakar-Vincent, Director of US Business Development at BIRD. “But it’s a challenge working in the periphery, both social and geographical, which is where most of the tech activity among Israeli Arabs is located. Companies need a lot of introductions to partners and education on funding methods.”
The investment event, said Nakar-Vincent, was the culmination of a series of seminars held for Israeli Arab companies, helping them to build closer ties with Israeli companies, investors, and potential American partners. Those seminars reflect BIRD activity in the U.S., she added. “There, too, being out of the ‘loop’ of major tech areas like Silicon Valley, New York, Austin, and others means a company will have a harder time building relationships.” BIRD, she said, was committed to finding partners for Israeli companies not only in the tech centers, but in the periphery as well.
Commenting on the investment announcement, Dr. Eitan Yudilevich, Executive Director of the BIRD Foundation, said that “the projects approved by the Board of Governors include innovative, relatively high risk, technology developments. BIRD’s support reduces the risk and increases the chances of commercialization in the global market. The Foundation will continue to promote U.S. – Israel partnerships in diverse topics, such as cyber security and homeland security, neurotechnology, advanced manufacturing and more.”