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Israeli climate tech scientists, startups nab over $2m in prizes at inaugural confab

3 scientists, 7 companies win Climate Solutions Prize, launched last year by philanthropists and Jewish organizations to promote innovative Israeli solutions to climate crisis

A row of solar panels on display at the first Climate Prize Solutions Festival, a climate tech gathering honoring Israeli innovation, October 26, 2022. (Studio Thomas)
A row of solar panels on display at the first Climate Prize Solutions Festival, a climate tech gathering honoring Israeli innovation, October 26, 2022. (Studio Thomas)

Three Israeli climate technology researchers and seven startups working on climate crisis solutions nabbed more than $2 million in grants at an event on Wednesday for the inaugural Climate Solutions Prize, first announced in 2021 by a Canadian philanthropist who was looking to highlight Israeli innovation in the field.

Jeff Hart, a Montreal-based philanthropist, linked up with the Jewish National Fund of Canada, Start-Up Nation Central, and KKL-JNF to launch the program, inviting individual researchers and institutions such as universities and innovation hubs, as well as startups, to apply for the prize, initially announced as $1 million. All applicants have to be working on climate tech, an umbrella term that includes technologies for clean energy, transportation, water treatment, food manufacturing, waste reduction, and supply chain improvements.

Hart, the executive chairman of the prize committee, has made what he was only willing to describe as a “substantial contribution” to the prize, he told The Times of Israel last year.

The prize offers two tracks: a “Breakthrough Research Prize” offered to scientists and researchers and a “Startup Track,” in which companies must be able to show clear solutions to clear climate challenges for a chance to win investment, cash prizes, and exposure. Each challenge was led by different industry leaders and philanthropic partners, such as The Temasek Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Singapore state sovereign fund Temasek Holdings, the Environmental Sustainability Innovation Lab (ESIL), Israeli-American international manufacturing company Kornit Digital, SolarEdge, an American-Israeli smart energy solutions provider, pharmaceutical giant Merck, and Israeli investment firm Capital Nature.

Hundreds of people attended the event for the Climate Solutions Prize on Wednesday in the Hulda Forest in central Israel, where a climate tech startup expo was set up and where the winners of the prize were publicly announced.

In the research track, the winners were Prof. Avner Rothschild of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, who is working on the production of green hydrogen as an energy source through water decomposition using electrolysis; Prof. Itzhak Mizrahi of the Ben Gurion University of the Negev, a microbiologist working on optimizing the microbiome of ruminant animals, like cattle, to reduce gas emissions; and Prof. Malachi Noked of Bar Ilan University, a material scientist who is developing active materials for sodium ion batteries to create fuel cells as a more environmentally friendly energy storage system.

The winning startups were Copprint, a company that is working to replace the highly polluting chemical processes for manufacturing electronic circuit boards and antennas with simple printing of copper inks; Marine Edge, a startup developing a machine-learning-based power management system for ships that can improve propulsive efficiency and reduce fuel consumption; Styletech, a Tel Aviv-based startup hoping to revolutionize visual marketing through AI and reduce the carbon footprint of the fashion industry; Smart Resilin, a producer of resilin, a bio-based alternative to pollutant glue components; Red Solar Flower, a maker of semi-transparent, non-silicon solar panels for agricultural areas; SolOr, a photovoltaics company that created a solar paint for buildings to creat energy; and Seevix Material Sciences, which produces synthetic spider silk fibers that are are more sustainable and biodegradable.

From left: Dr. Doron Markel, chief scientist KKL-JNF; Jeff Hart, executive chair of the Climate Solutions Prize; Galit Levi, chief officer of the Climate Solutions Prize; and Dr. Avi Hasson, CEO of Start-Up Nation Central. October 26, 2022. (Eliran Avital)

Hart said in a statement that he “could not be more excited to see this dream come to fruition of supercharging the ingenuity of Israel, the Start-up Nation, to help solve the climate crisis. I am so thankful to everyone involved for helping with this critical initiative for our future generations.”

Amnon Ben Ami, CEO of KKL-JNF, said the grants “distributed to the winners will allow Israeli startups to develop significant technologies for all of us and there is no doubt that Israel will continue to lead in the field.”

Avi Hasson, Start-Up Nation Central CEO, said Israel was home to some 700 technology companies “developing solutions for addressing climate challenges, including sustainable food systems, circular economy, clean energy, efficiency and storage, sustainable mobility, sustainable manufacturing, nature protection, and many more.

“As a recognized leader in developing advanced solutions to global challenges, Israel is extremely well-positioned to take a central role in battling climate change and bring solutions to the biggest shared challenge of our times,” he added.

Israel held its first-ever climate tech conference in Tel Aviv last month, bringing together over 1,500 participants including entrepreneurs, investors, and government officials for a full-day event on climate tech solutions.

The conference was an initiative of the nonprofit PLANETech — a joint venture of the Israel Institute for Innovation and Consensus Business Group — and was held in partnership with the Israel Innovation Authority. The event drew five of the world’s top 10 climate tech-focused investors including Energy Impact Partners, Plug and Play Ventures, and ENGIE New Ventures.

According to the latest PLANETech research, there are 694 climate tech startups in Israel operating in a variety of sectors including energy, mobility, agriculture, food, circular economy, and water.

One out of every seven startups set up in 2021 was in the climate tech field, PLANETech said in its latest report, accounting for 14% of the total number of startups in Israel and up from 9% the previous year.

According to figures from the Israel Innovation Authority, investments in Israeli climate technology ventures in the first half of 2022 reached almost $1.5 billion. In the full year 2021, the figure was close to $2.5 billion, up from just over $1.5 billion in 2020.

The figures are still minor compared to the huge amounts invested in other tech sectors in Israel, though. Total investment in the Israeli tech sector reached a whopping $25.6 billion in 2021 and some $13 billion so far in 2022. But the trend is upward.

“We are just warming up,” said the Innovation Authority’s Dror Bin at the event in September. According to the PLANETech report, investments in climate tech companies in Israel from 2018 to 2021 increased by 340%, 2.6 times faster than global investments in the sector.

Shoshanna Solomon contributed to this report.

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