Governments worldwide are consistently not meeting their climate targets, putting the future of planet Earth at stake. Government regulators need help from the private sector, which is efficient, innovative, and inclined to take risks — qualities that are critical in tackling climate change and sorely lacking in state bureaucracies.
Israeli startups have consistently shown entrepreneurial prowess in tackling climate change, offering project-based solutions that could be templates for scalable solutions to fill the gaps where government programs fall short. With its harsh environment and climate challenges, Israel is a world leader in environmental tech with more than 850 startups working on various climate change solutions in subsectors including energy transition, carbon tech, transportation and logistics, cleaner industry, food and land use, and water solutions.
Over the last several months, Startup Nation Central had been preparing for the international conference COP28 in Dubai Nov. 30-Dec. 13. Israel was set to send the largest delegation of any country to this year’s UN Climate Change Conference, promising to showcase valuable solutions and network with private sector innovators. However, plans changed due to the horrific October 7th Hamas attack and the ensuing Iron Swords War against terrorism.
Nevertheless, some committed climate leaders and startups decided that climate change could not wait. Roughly 30 Israeli companies and organizations attended the conference, demonstrating the resilience of the Startup Nation and their dedication to protecting our planet no matter what.
This determination is characteristic of the Israeli ecosystem which has thrived despite near continuous adversity. As CEO of Startup Nation Central, Avi Hasson, recently remarked in an oped for USA Today:
“In these darkest of days, our tech sector is a source of hope and resilience. With each challenge overcome, each new solution developed, we are not just sustaining an industry; we are reinforcing our national resolve to thrive against all odds. The world looks to Israel for technological leadership, and even amid the debris of conflict, we continue to forge a path of innovation, solidarity and enduring strength.”
Attending conferences such as COP28 propels the implementation of innovative solutions. One of the biggest challenges for startups is access to essential funding and exposure to global markets. This is why organizations such as non-profit Startup Nation Central are crucial, connecting startups and international business and funding opportunities.
Since last year’s COP27, SNC has focused on building relationships and collaborations with various global organizations. These efforts proved critical for giving Israeli climate tech startups visibility at COP28, despite the severe underrepresentation caused by the current war. This year, Startup Nation Central also became an accredited “Observer Organization” under the UNFCCC.
Even despite significant challenges, there were several promising announcements made by the Israeli delegation. For example. Keter Plastic launched a new line of eco-branded “Made with UBQ” sustainable products made from unsorted municipal waste. This announcement came following a previous one that PepsiCo would expand its partnership with UBQ materials. Based in Kibbutz Tze’elim, about 30 kilometers from the Gaza border, UBQ Materials is a cleantech startup that produces thermoplastic composites from household waste to produce green shipping pallets and even eco-friendly Lay’s display stands. Many of its employees live in the area ravaged by the October 7th attacks. Devastatingly, two UBQ employees, Hadar Berdichevsky, 30, the company’s former assistant controller, and Uri Russo, 44, who served as UBQ’s maintenance and engineering manager, were killed on October 7th, and many of those murdered, wounded, and taken hostage were friends and family of the UBQ team.
Despite this, UBQ mobilized as part of the Israeli delegation at COP28 and announced this partnership at a session organized by Startup Nation Central titled “Climate Partnerships: Corporate-Startup Collaboration for Net Zero Targets.” This just shows that Israeli innovators are not deterred, even by those wanting to extinguish their contributions to a brighter future.
UBQ panel was on the UN’s Global Innovation Hub stage- which was also broadcast on the UN’s COP channel, giving global visibility to their company. In total, our efforts gave a global stage to more than a dozen Israeli companies at COP and amplified the role of Israeli tech solutions there.
Another highlight of the conference was the announcement of the finalists for this year’s Climate Solutions Prize (CSP). This prize was founded by JNF Canada in 2022 in partnership with Startup Nation Central and KKL-JNF. This competition awards the most promising startups with access to investments, cash, and partnership opportunities to promote scalable solutions. More than $2.32 million in cash awards and corporate engagement packages will be awarded to the contest’s winners. Last year, the contest culminated ina festival to award the winners of the Climate Solutions Prize. This event has been canceled due to the war, but winners will be announced soon.
Also at COP28, SNC announced that it is an official partner of the new climate platform coalition launched by NextEnergy, Nexus, Masdar City, and Tencent. Seeds of Change, meanwhile, launched an innovative program championing female leadership in education and agriculture.
These milestones represent significant breakthroughs for Israeli startups working to bring innovative solutions to life. Creating new collaborations can help companies scale innovation, which requires long cycles, significant funding, and corporations willing to partner with young startups and growth-stage tech solutions.
Even with the limited participation of Israeli startups, conference attendees were interested in the delegation. Leading experts from organizations including E.On, Google, NASDAQ, AWS, Open Earth Foundation, and the California State Senate visited the Israeli pavilion for thoughtful conversations with the Israeli delegates.
These conversations pave the way for collaborations that could tap into local expertise, resources, and market needs to create cost-effective, rapidly deployed, and scalable solutions that governments could not produce on their own.
With the determination shown by the Israeli delegation at COP28 and the innovation coming out of the ecosystem, the untapped potential of regional collaboration and the power of the private sector should not be underestimated. As Aviva Steinberger, Innovation Diplomacy Director at Startup Nation Central concluded after returning from Dubai:
“Since October 7, many delegations, conferences and programs designed to concretize business partnerships have been put on hold. However, our shared economic aspirations and hope for a brighter future for the region persist. Personal ties and actual friendships between people that just three years ago would not have been possible are our hope, and this hope was reinforced at COP28.”
At Startup Nation Central we help global solution seekers move forward with tackling complex challenges by giving them frictionless access to the expertise and solutions of Israel’s problem solvers, leveraging their bold and determined approach to innovation. We call this Impatient Innovation.
As a free-acting NGO, our work goes beyond borders and ideologies, allowing us to build bridges and strengthen existing ties, so that the world can make meaningful progress in key areas– from climate to health to food security.