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Israel approves multimillion-dollar joint R&D fund with UAE

NIS 300 million to be allocated over next decade to support private sector collaboration and investment

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid shakes hands with UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan in Abu Dhabi, on June 29, 2021. (Shlomi Amsalem GPO)
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid shakes hands with UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan in Abu Dhabi, on June 29, 2021. (Shlomi Amsalem GPO)

Israel’s cabinet approved on Sunday a joint Israel-UAE R&D fund to support tech projects involving Israeli and Emirati companies.

The fund is designed to encourage collaboration on technological innovation, and to help Israeli companies access resources that are not available in Israel, according to a statement from the Foreign Ministry.

It will also help Israeli businesses find Emirati partners, navigate local regulations, and develop marketing strategies.

The fund, which was proposed by Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen, will allocate NIS 15 million a year over the next decade. The UAE will provide matching funds, for a total of NIS 300 million for the life of the fund.

The UAE and Israel signed a normalization agreement in 2020 as part of the US-backed Abraham Accords.

During his December visit to the UAE, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his host Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan agreed to open the fund.

“This joint fund, and a corresponding joint business council, will harness leading economic and technological minds in the UAE and in Israel, and task them with commercializing solutions to challenges ranging from climate change and desertification to clean energy and future agriculture,” the two leaders said a joint statement.

Abu Dhabi’s powerful crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, attends the Dubai Air Show in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, November 17, 2021. (Jon Gambrell/AP)

The fund will be managed on the Israeli side by the Foreign Ministry, Science Ministry, Finance Ministry, Economy Ministry, and Innovation Authority.

Lapid said in a statement that Israel and the UAE share a passion for advanced technology that improves citizens’ quality of life, protects the environment, and promotes economic development.

“The bilateral R&D fund is the engine to start the process in the private sector, by encouraging companies, with an emphasis on SMEs (small and medium enterprises) to connect, to develop, to create, and to market innovative technological products in the region and globally,” he said.

He also thanked his Emirati counterpart, Abdullah bin Zayed.

Tourism Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen holds a press conference on encouraging tourism from abroad, in Tel Aviv, April 27, 2021. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Farkash-Hacohen said the fund would “create a bridge that would facilitate Emirati investments in Israeli technology” in energy, infrastructure and more.

The fund is part of a wave of investment between the countries in the wake of the Abraham Accords. Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that the UAE sovereign-wealth fund Mubadala Investment invested $100 million in six Israeli venture capital firms.

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