Three Israeli start-ups have been named “Entrepreneurs of the Future” by Avi Hasson, chief scientist at Israel’s Economy Ministry, in a gala announcement befitting the finale of a TV reality show, held on Wednesday. The three are winners of the “Tech X-Factor” contest run by Hasson’s office to choose the most promising start-up tech ideas, with the winners developing a novel way to alert doctors which diabetic patients are likely to develop foot ulcers.
The awards, cash prizes of NIS 100,000, 75,000 and 50,000 respectively, were presented Wednesday at the MIXiii 2014 high-tech conference in Tel Aviv. Over 150 start-ups and entrepreneurs submitted ideas and projects in the six-month-long competition. Winners were chosen based on the tech itself and for the technology’s ability to solve social or medical problems. The idea itself needed to be one that could be patented and brought to market at a reasonable cost. Judging the projects were officials from the Chief Scientist’s Office Tnufa program, which exists specifically to help inventors with good ideas at a pre-seed stage.
Projects covered a wide range of devices, apps and products, including medical devices, products to enhance road safety, apps for education, smart consumerism, leisure and lifestyle, green technologies and pregnancy and childbirth apps. The final decision on the winners came after preliminary judging narrowed the field to ten projects.
The NIS 100,000 winners were Dr. Assaf Shachmon and Hagai Ligomsky of Tel Aviv University, who came up with an optical scanner that identifies diabetics at risk of developing foot ulcers. This is a problem that affects 15 percent of diabetics, with such ulcers preceding 84% of all diabetes-related lower-leg amputations. The team developed an optical device that automatically and unobtrusively measures clinical parameters that could lead to foot ulcer formation. The system processes the optical input and provides the attending physician a risk assessment for the patient, so that steps can be taken to prevent ulcers before they set in.
The winners of the NIS 75,000 prize developed a device called HybRead that enhances the reading experience for kids with attention deficit disorder (ADD/ADHD). The NIS 50,000 prize went to a team that developed a device for monitoring heart rate and ventricular fibrillation diagnosis.
This may be the first time diabetic foot ulcer detection technology had been honored in a major contest, but Hasson said that Israeli innovation came in all forms. “An important part of our job is to make innovation a real cultural value,” said Hasson. “We start at a young age and bring the message of innovation to the entire population, encouraging young people to see science and technology as their future.”
Blessing the winning developer, Hasson added that “innovation is the main resource that Israel has, and our goal is to make it a real cultural value, starting at a young age and among the whole population. Investment in a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation is critical to Israel’s continued success and to establishing our reputation in the world. In addition, it is also an economic tool that produces jobs. We all know of stories of successful, large companies that were established by students, and the companies that participated in this competition will continue that connection and tradition.”