‘Official’ Singapore discovers Israel, with TAU fund investment

Temasek, a $200 billion Singaporean sovereign fund, is dipping its toe into the world of Israeli high-tech

Allen Lew of SingTel (L) and Eli Gelman of Amdocs announcing SingTel LiveLabs @ Israel, March 3, 2013 (Photo credit: Courtesy)
Allen Lew of SingTel (L) and Eli Gelman of Amdocs announcing SingTel LiveLabs @ Israel, March 3, 2013 (Photo credit: Courtesy)

To the list of Asian countries rushing to embrace Israel add Singapore. Temasek, an investment company owned by the Singaporean government worth nearly $200 billion, is dipping its toe into the Israeli start-up world with a $5 million investment in a fund operated by Tel Aviv University’s Ramot technology transfer company.

The investment will go into Ramot’s Momentum Fund, which invests in companies in advanced technologies in areas like cell therapy, sensor technology, nanotechnology, cleantech, and life sciences. Temasek and Indian car manufacturer Tata are the two largest investors in the $23.5 million fund, which takes promising research conducted at Tel Aviv University and converts it into commercial products or technology, earning back investments from the sale or licensing of intellectual property.

The move represents the first official investment by Singapore in Israel, but Temasek is not the first Singaporean entity to discover Israel. Last year, Singtel, the Singapore-based Asian telecommunications giant, opened a research and development center in Israel – its only such center outside Singapore and China – the result of the company’s acquisition of digital marketing company Amobee.

Speaking at the opening of the R&D center, called LiveLabs, Alan Lew, Chief Executive Officer of SingTel’s Digital Life group, said that “Israel is renowned for its innovation, and is fueled by a strong education system. You also have a core that drives an insatiable need to innovate and develop. We have been extremely satisfied with the wealth of talent in Israel.”

He added: “We experienced this through our recently acquired global mobile advertising company Amobee, which has a technology center in Israel, as well as through our venture capital investments in two Israeli companies in the mobile Internet business. This has propelled us to open this new development center to scout for new growth engines for SingTel.”

Besides doing development, SingTel will also be scouting out promising talent and start-ups, along with its Israeli partner Amdocs. “In some cases we will work with Amdocs to find companies that can help us with our strategic needs, or find them on our own. If it makes sense we will acquire them, and we also plant to work with incubators – in some cases it makes sense to leave companies alone, to grow on their own,” said Lew.

In any event, SingTel is ready to spend money in Israel, with a corporate venture fund of about $150 million. “Part of this fund will also reach Israel,” said Lew.

With the Temasek investment, “official” Singapore is now represented in Israel. Commenting on the development, TAU President Prof. Joseph Klafter said “we are extremely proud that Temasek, a world leading investment company, following Tata, has selected TAU as a partner. Our innovative initiative and inter-disciplinary research set an example for others to follow. With support from both Tata and Temasek,” he said, “TAU aims to develop groundbreaking advanced technologies that have the potential to positively impact communities across the world in many technological areas.”

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