In an act of faith in Israeli technology as Hamas continues to pound Israel with rocket fire, the BIRD (Israel-US Binational Industrial Research and Development) Foundation has approved $8.9 million in funding for 11 new projects between Israeli and American companies. In addition to the grants from BIRD, the projects will have access to private sector funding, boosting the total value of the projects to about $25 million.
BIRD is the high-tech version of an old-time wedding matchmaker. It searches out promising Israeli technologies, exposes them to potential US partners, and then supplies assistance to get the project going — up to a third of the total projected cost. Once the right partner is found, BIRD will also lend the companies money to fund projects, boosting not only specific projects and technologies, but also helping to further cement the relationship between the United States and Israel, as well as making a significant contribution to the lives of people helped by the technology in both countries and beyond.
For both Dr. Eitan Yudilevich, Executive Director of the BIRD Foundation, and Chief Scientist Avi Hasson, who is also co-chairman of BIRD’s board of governors, the BIRD investments are a joint US-Israel act of faith in Israeli technology. “We have an impressive list of projects when you consider their technological innovation, diversity of applications, and partnerships,” said Yudilevich. “Among them are a project that can advance 3D printing, an application to identify infections in water, which includes an American start up and an established Israeli utility, and a system to manage and optimize resources for paper manufacturing facilities.”
“The BIRD Foundation continues to be the central vehicle in implementing strategic cooperation between the countries in the areas of Innovation and Technology,” Hasson added. “The success of the BIRD Foundation provides a solid base for further expansion of cooperation with the United States.”
BIRD announced its annual grants last week, though rockets were flying around Israel.
The projects are developed jointly by American and Israeli companies, and the work is usually split between teams at both companies’ locations. Projects run the full range of tech areas, from 3D printing to security to biotech and information technology. The projects are reviewed by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Israeli Chief Scientist’s Office.
Among the current projects is one by Tel Aviv-based DVP Technologies and New Jersey’s DVTEL to develop video surveillance for sea and waterside applications. Others include Agritech firm Evogene (Rehovot) developing with California-based Marrone Bio Innovations agricultural insect control products from microbial sources; Israel genetic research firm Genome Compiler developing “Biofab,” a platform for “made to order” genes, with Amyris (Emeryville, CA); Nazareth-based iReveal is working with Santa Clara’s Alphabyte Technologies on scalable end-to-end verification for software, and US/Israeli 3D printing technology firm Stratasys working toward enhanced 3D printing materials with Graphene Technologies of Novato, CA.
BIRD does not take any equity in the companies, nor does it have an interest in the intellectual property generated by the projects. The BIRD financial assistance comes in the form of an interest-free loan, and is repaid from royalties on sales. If there are no sales, the loan is forgiven.