Israel kicks off plan for startups to try out tech at health organizations

Program is part of a NIS 1 billion National Digital Health plan that aims to make Israel a global leader in digital health technologies

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

Illustrative. Digital health technology. (chombosan; iStock by Getty Images)
Illustrative. Digital health technology. (chombosan; iStock by Getty Images)

Israel has set up a new NIS 30 million ($8.4 million) program to enable startups to try out their technologies within the nation’s health services and gain access to medical data. The program is part of a NIS 1 billion National Digital Health plan, approved by the government in March, which aims to make Israel a global leader in digital health technologies.

The new program will support R&D and pilots in the field of digital health to be undertaken at the Israeli health organizations or based on data within these organizations. The project is supported by the Israel Innovation Authority, Israel’s Health Ministry and the National Digital Israel Initiative, which is part of the Ministry of Social Equality.

The track is aimed at private tech companies in the field of health and medicine that are not part of the health services. They will be eligible to get funding for some 20 to 50 percent, and up to 75% of R&D costs, for projects that are deemed to have potential to boost the Israeli and the global health system or to have a breakthrough technology.

The pilots project aims to help these companies speed up commercialization of their products and assist them in penetrating the market by providing them with the opportunity to test out their products within the health organizations.

Illustrative: Nurses at the emergency room in the Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital in Jerusalem. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The program will assist with R&D expenditures but will not demand a stake in future profits, the ministries and the Israel Innovation Authority said in a joint statement. Companies that receive funding will have to return to the innovation authority just the funding they received in the shape of royalties from sales, once they reach that milestone.

Startups that request funding will be assessed according to the technologies they are developing, and their uniqueness; the challenges they face; their growth potential and their impact on the health services, among others, the statement said.

In March, the Israeli government approved the National Digital Health plan, which, despite mounting privacy concerns, plans to create a digital database of citizens’ medical files and make them available to researchers and enterprises.

Israel has medical records of close to 9 million people collected over the past 20 years, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in March. The idea is to make digital health a major growth driver for the Israeli economy, along with cybersecurity and autonomous vehicles.

The launch of the pilot program so soon after the government’s decision to promote digital health “reflects our commitment and that of our partners to implementing the government’s decision quickly and fully. The National Program for Digital Health is revolutionary, groundbreaking and will position Israel as a digital health power,” Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel said in the statement.

Minister of Economy and Industry Eli Cohen said the pilot program will give health-tech firms access to information and systems that are not usually accessible to them, enabling them to try out their developments.

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