Israel and Colorado sign deal to promote R&D

Under new agreement governments to support search and development projects in high tech, cybersecurity

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper (L) and Avi Hasson, Chief Scientist at the Ministry of  Economy,  sign the new R&D agreement in Jerusalem, October 19, 2015. (Courtesy)
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper (L) and Avi Hasson, Chief Scientist at the Ministry of Economy, sign the new R&D agreement in Jerusalem, October 19, 2015. (Courtesy)

Israel signed a deal this week with the US state of Colorado to further increase R&D cooperation. Under the agreement, start-ups and veteran firms will receive funding from either or both governments for research and development projects in the areas of energy, agriculture, cybersecurity and other promising technologies.

The deal — signed by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and the Israeli Ministry of Economy’s Chief Scientist Avi Hasson — replaces an older one from 2010 to reflect Colorado’s decision to significantly increase budgets earmarked for Coloradan companies conducting R&D, including grants for local industry, the Economy Ministry said.

Hickenlooper was in Israel on a week-long trade mission. Accompanied by dozens of companies, business and political officials, the governor met with Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, former president Shimon Peres, and other top government and business figures.

“Colorado has a long history of unwavering support for Israel,” he said. “This is never going to change.”

Commenting on the signing, Hasson said that Israel was “proud to have Colorado among the list of 12 US states which cooperate with Israel on technology and R&D. Cooperation between Israeli companies and American companies has proven its value to both sides. The US is a technological powerhouse and we are proud to be so attractive to US companies, entrepreneurs, investors and developers.”

Start-up accelerator Techstars, based in Boulder, Colorado, has already announced that it will open a program in Tel Aviv.

“We’re expanding, moving beyond our city programs in Denver and other US cities,” said Greg Rogers, Executive Director of Techstars’ Barclays Global Partnership. “Now we are concentrating on partnering for specific industries. Tel Aviv has become one of the premier places in the world for financial technology, so we decided to open a branch here.”

While any institution — commercial or academic — could apply to the program, the Techstar-Israel program concentrates on start-ups, especially in the financial technology sphere. Techstars has partnered with the UK bank Barclays to develop innovative financial technology solutions with Israeli start-ups, added Rogers.

“It started with a program in London, in which we selected and worked with 10 start-ups to develop their technology on payments, security, consumer banking and more. They were so happy with the program, that we eventually expanded it, first to New York and now to Capetown and Tel Aviv.”

All four cities represent a different “pillar” in fintech – with Tel Aviv a center for cybersecurity blockchain technologies and more.

Start-ups accepted into the 13-week program will work with a large variety of mentors in the fintech industry, and be eligible for an investment of up to $120,000; $20,000 just for being in the program, and an additional $100,000 convertible note — a loan that converts to equity when the start-up raises money or gets acquired.

But the most important aspect of the program – and what makes it a Techstars program – is “access to the largest entrepreneurial network in the world,” said Rogers. “We can provide start-ups that work with us access to just about anyone they need to grow their business.”

Not many organizations other than Techstars can make such a claim. Founded in 2006, Techstars was one of the first, and is probably the most successful accelerator in the tech world. The Techstars community currently includes more than 1,500 mentors and over 500 alumni companies.

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