Nvidia, Innovation Authority set up AI-based hub in Haifa

New center aims to boost the tech ecosystem in northern Israel by giving entrepreneurs access to the most advanced AI-based computing tools

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

Vehicles on Route 2 (the Coastal Road) near Netanya, October 22, 2019. (Flash90)
Vehicles on Route 2 (the Coastal Road) near Netanya, October 22, 2019. (Flash90)

US tech giant Nvidia has teamed up with the Israel Innovation Authority and business development center MATI Haifa to set up an innovation hub in Haifa to encourage artificial intelligence-based entrepreneurship in Israel’s north.

The Road2 hub, named after the highway that connects Tel Aviv to Haifa, was officially launched on Wednesday, in the presence of Nvidia officials, Dr. Ami Appelbaum, the chairman of Israel Innovation Authority; Prof. Rafi Beyar, former director of Rambam Hospital; and Mooly Eden, a former senior VP at Intel Corp. and head of Intel Israel.

The goal of the new hub is to boost the development of innovation ecosystems outside of the thriving Tel Aviv area where entrepreneurs and multinationals tend to gravitate, said the Israel Innovation Authority’s chairman Appelbaum in a statement.

“Haifa has tremendous entrepreneurial potential and significant talent anchored there,” said Appelbaum. “It’s important to strive toward building an entrepreneurial ecosystem in the city, which will serve as a magnet for the entire northern region. Road2 will sow the seeds for the creation of new high-tech companies based on the rich academic research that is already taking place in the city and the human capital developed in these institutions. This is a sure recipe for creating a successful and sustainable industry in Haifa and throughout the northern region.”

Ami Appelbaum, chairman of the Israel Innovation Authority, left, and Eitan Kyiet, CEO of the Road2 hub; at the launch of the hub May 5, 2021 (Fabian Koldorff)

The Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, with its science and engineering-oriented students, is based in Haifa.

The innovation hub will be home to an AI lab that will offer entrepreneurs access to Nvidia’s advanced AI computing abilities. Startups will also have the chance to work with Nvidia Inception, an accelerator that supports more than 7,500 AI startups from around the world, granting them access to an international ecosystem of partners, customers, and potential investors.

Road2 aims to help startups forge relationships with industry-leading entities that will enable them to build business collaborations and implement proof-of-concept of their technologies. It will also help them find strategic partnerships.

A number of organizations have expressed interest in collaborating with Road2 startups, including the Israel Electric Corporation, the Technion, British multinational Johnson Matthey, Israel’s Oil Refineries Ltd., and Tambour, the statement said.

The backers of the hub are calling on startups from the fields of digital health, energy and the environment, industry 4.0, and smart transportation to join the initiative, which is located in close proximity to the R&D centers of tech giants like Google, Amazon, Philips and IBM.

The initiative will get a NIS 50 million investment ($15 million) from its backers, half of which will come from a grant given by the Israel Innovation Authority over a four-year period.

Road2 has nominated a list of industry leaders to its advisory board, some of whom are natives of Haifa, including Eyal Waldman, the founder of Mellanox Technologies, which was acquired by Nvidia for $7 billion in 2019, Eden and Beyar.

“Road2 was established to empower the brilliant minds of Haifa to develop their ideas and to attract additional innovative startups from the northern area of Israel,” said Eitan Kyiet, the CEO of Road2, in the statement. “Under the unique model we’ve created, young startups can find a hub with unprecedented access to the most advanced AI lab in the country, and we’re topping that with close mentorship and guidance from senior high-tech industry executives who operate in the area.”

Jeff Herbst, VP of Business Development and head of Nvidia Inception, said that the collaboration with Road2 “aims to fuel entrepreneurs and projects that can profoundly affect Israel and the world.”

Eyal Waldman, co-founder of Road2 said the hub will offer startups computing abilities and other capabilities that early-stage companies do not generally have access to at seed stage.

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