Israel Innovation Authority calls for more tech labs

New program will encourage corporations to set up innovation labs, to foster startups and get government benefits

Shoshanna Solomon was The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

An Israeli system engineer keeps watch over a production line at the Teva factory in Jerusalem. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
An Israeli system engineer keeps watch over a production line at the Teva factory in Jerusalem. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The Israel Innovation Authority has set up a new “Technological Innovation Labs” program that aims to prod corporations to set up innovation labs to support startups in their field of interest.

“Open innovation is crucial for the development of companies in our advanced economy,” said Avi Hasson, chief scientist at the Israel Ministry of Economy and Industry and Chairman of the Israel Innovation Authority, which is part of the ministry. “This program will help Israeli corporations operating these labs grow and strengthen their position in Israel. It will also help multinational corporations gain exposure to the unique atmosphere of innovation in Israel and bolster their presence here. This will give a boost to Israeli industry specifically and the Israeli economy in general.”

The program aims to provide support to entrepreneurs and startups who have innovative ideas and are keen to establish proof of concept and developing their ideas into products. It also aims to aid multinationals and corporations, which may be interested in using the labs to tap into new technologies while also supporting the startups by giving them access to their technological infrastructure, which may be otherwise unavailable to these companies in Israel.

As part of the program, both the entrepreneurs and startups will get support from these labs, including production or development tools, knowhow regarding markets and marketing routes, and expertise in assessing and creating products. The Israel Innovation Authority will provide some financial support to the corporations that set up the innovation labs; this can be up to 85% of a budget approved for a company by the Israel Innovation Authority, and up to 1 million shekels for a period of activity of up to 12 months.

Avi Hasson, Economy Ministry Chief Scientist (Courtesy)
Avi Hasson, Economy Ministry Chief Scientist (Courtesy)

The Israel Innovation Authority will fund 33% of the costs of establishing the lab infrastructure and making the technology accessible — this amount will rise to 50% for labs set up in peripheral areas of the country — and up to a maximum conditional grant of 4 million shekels. The Authority will fund 50% of the total costs of running the lab up to a maximum of 500,000 shekels per year, the authority said in a statement.

Anya Eldan, the general manager of the Startup Division at the Israel Innovation Authority, said that the main goal of the program is to connect between corporations and startups, especially in fields such as automotive, robotics and 3D printing. “The program will help build ecosystems in Israel in various fields around these labs by enabling support for a range of activities entrepreneurs need to develop proof of concept for an innovative idea,” she said.

A call for proposals will be published at the end of the month, with up to five new technological innovation labs selected from the proposals, the Innovation Authority said in the statement.

Smart fabrics and metrology

Separately, the Innovation Authority said it has approved the setting up of two new consortia — teams made up of industry representatives and the academia — to focus on developing smart fabrics and multi-dimensional metrology, a measurement system to monitor the production of semi-conductors in the nano-electronics age.

The teams will be set up via the Authority’s MAGNET program, which matches technology and manufacturing industries with academic research institutes, to set up long-term joint development technological programs in a variety of fields.

“Developing functional textiles with added value, that respond to climactic conditions, will allow Israeli companies to position themselves in the top tier of the global textile market for premium products, a market characterized by stability and high added value,” said the Innovation Authority in a statement. The joint ventures in both fields “will expose the companies to unique knowhow and will enable cooperation in R&D not previously possible,” the statement said.

The companies taking part will be exempt from paying royalties for grant money received through the consortium, the statement said.
“Both consortia represent trends taking place in two significant sectors in which Israeli industry has a relative advantage,” said authority chairman Hasson. “These will contribute considerably to associated industries and produce market solutions for export. Each consortium is expected to include many groups from the industry and academia that will create a critical mass of activity in these verticals, which include considerable technological challenges.”

The MAGNET program has already set up a number of consortia in previous years, and each consortium usually operates for around five years. The budget of the MAGNET consortia for 2017 will be 170 million ($44.5 million) shekels, enabling the operation of 12-13 consortia, mostly those from previous years, the statement said.

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