Michigan eyes Israeli tech to tackle water, mobility, cybersecurity challenges

Governor Gretchen Whitmer, visiting Israel, signs agreement with Start Up-Nation Central nonprofit to pinpoint tech that can boost residents’ quality of life

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

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer addressing a session at Watec in Tel Aviv, November 19, 2019 (Shoshanna Solomon/Times of Israel)
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer addressing a session at Watec in Tel Aviv, November 19, 2019 (Shoshanna Solomon/Times of Israel)

State of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday signed an agreement with Start Up-Nation Central (SNC), a nonprofit that connects the Israeli tech with interested parties abroad, to collaborate on pinpointing technology solutions that “have the potential to improve opportunities and quality of life for Michigan citizens.”

As part of the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the parties, the state of Michigan and SNC will work to connect their respective innovation ecosystems and identify Israeli-based companies than can expand their operations to Michigan. Start-Up Nation Central acts as a gateway to Israeli innovation.

These companies will carry on Michigan’s tradition of setting up public-private partnerships to test, pilot and deploy new technologies in the state.

“This MOU can offer a blueprint for connecting the innovation ecosystems strategically,” Whitmer said in a statement. “An example might be how to optimize mobility to improve transportation options for citizens who may not be looking for a self-driving car, but who do need an affordable, reliable way to go to the bank, get to an appointment or meet friends for coffee.”

She added that the partnership with the Israeli ecosystem will help “build the connection that will transform our transportation landscape and lead to stronger relationships between Michigan and Israel.”

The MOU comes after earlier this year, Michigan became the first US state to set up a free web platform for the state’s startup ecosystem. The platform, called startupMICHIGAN.com, was created by Start-Up Nation Central and is backed by the Michigan Israel Business Accelerator (MIBA). It features more than 300 startups, including hubs and funders, and is growing.

On her first trip overseas as governor, Whitmer also attended a water technology conference in Tel Aviv, where on Tuesday she spoke of the need to tap into and develop technologies to protect the water resources of Michigan, which borders four of the five Great Lakes — which account for 20 percent of the world’s supply of surface fresh water, and 80% of North America’s surface fresh water.

“My team and I understand that we must harness every tool at our disposal to ensure that we are protecting our water and cleaning it, and keeping people safe,” she said. “And we’re working with our partners and other States to secure our Great Lakes, because we cannot afford to sit back and watch these problems get worse. The ecological economics and the health risks are too high. And time is not on our side. We must act now, we must act together. We must form partnerships with leaders around the world to do this.”

Michigan is the home of the city of Flint, which has gained global notoriety for the lead that leached into the drinking water pipes affecting thousands of residents.

During her visit, Whitmer also had meetings with representatives of the automotive, next-generation of transportation, and cybersecurity industries. She visited GM’s Advanced Technological Center, met with Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, and is scheduled to visit Ford Motor Company’s New Regional Research Center, the statement said.

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