New tech sought in construction as ministry offers grants, pilot programs

Financial support to be available to companies developing tech for better, smarter construction as part of new project with Israel Innovation Authority

An aerial view of a construction site in Israel where a residential building is being built, October 2021. Illustrative. (photovs via iStock by Getty Images)
An aerial view of a construction site in Israel where a residential building is being built, October 2021. Illustrative. (photovs via iStock by Getty Images)

There’s a new call out for innovation in Israel’s construction market, with substantial grants and opportunities for companies that can deliver better building concepts and practices. The Construction and Housing Ministry, working with the Israel Innovation Authority, is looking for technologies and products that can streamline the construction process and transform building sites.

The two government bodies issued a call (in Hebrew) late last week for startups and companies across the construction industry — manufacturers, contractors, developers, product managers, designers, and others — to submit proposals in the coming weeks. They are offering support for research and development and opportunities for pilot projects to help companies that have potentially game-changing technology to move toward commercialization and deployment.

Of particular interest (Hebrew link) are technologies that could be used on an industrial scale, and that could improve productivity in the construction sector, according to the announcement. These could include new methods for industrial construction (such as forms of prefabrication), green construction materials, the use of automation and robotics, and other types of equipment that could speed up construction processes and reduce errors and waste.

Applications will be evaluated based on their potential to streamline and grow Israel’s construction industry, their level of technological innovation, and the extent to which proposals are unique, the ministry said. Implementation challenges will be examined, as will overall company capabilities, including managerial capabilities, to deliver and implement the potential innovations, and contribute to the market as a whole. The ability to deliver at scale across the industry was also deemed to be very important.

The government bodies are promising support covering 20% to 50% of approved R&D expenses, and up to 60% for approaches that are deemed to be truly groundbreaking. There are potential grants of a further 10% if most of the R&D activity is carried out in National Priority Areas, namely southern and northern Israel, or on a construction site that is approved and located in one of these areas. National Priority Areas, set some years ago, are regions – like Beersheba and the Negev, the Golan Heights, and the Galilee – in which successive governments have been eager to expand industry and economic opportunities.

New construction methods will need approval from the National Construction Research Institute, located at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, and will undergo inspection.

There is a growing number of Israeli-led startups active in the construction space, addressing different challenges that slow down and complicate building processes. According to the Construction Innovation Zone (ConTech), an organization supported by the government as well as by the Israel Builders Association, there are some 250 firms operating in the construction tech space.

A January 2022 report by Deloitte Israel on construction and property tech said that although these industries are not known to be “fast-changing,” technology advancements are “playing an increasingly central role in the construction and real estate industries as they usher in a new era, opening themselves to new types of methods, business models, and disruptive processes.”

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