Tech hub seeks to match defense giants with cutting-edge startups
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Tech hub seeks to match defense giants with cutting-edge startups

‘Today civilian developments are taking the lead’ in the defense industry, says managing partner of new initiative

Illustrative. Israeli soldiers launch a Spike anti-tank guided missile during a training exercise. (Rafael Advanced Defense Systems)
Illustrative. Israeli soldiers launch a Spike anti-tank guided missile during a training exercise. (Rafael Advanced Defense Systems)

After setting up innovation hubs for the construction industries and the financial and insurance sectors, SOSA, an Israeli company that connects startups with investors and corporations, is now setting its sights on the homeland security and defense front.

The company has launched the Homeland Security (HLST) Innovation Hub, which, it says, is a “first of its kind” program that aims to create a defense and security innovation community that will match homeland security and defense industry firms with startups, to help industry giants maintain their leading edge. Defense electronics firm ELTA Systems Ltd. and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, a weapons maker, are the first Israeli companies to join the program, SOSA said.

“We found a gap in the ability of startups to succeed in the defense arena,” said Col. (res.) Duddy Rokach, a former head of the Army Combat Weapon Systems Department at the IDF, who will be the managing partner of the new hub. “And that gap has left many victims along the way.”

Startups often lack the networks needed to access the often-vast defense companies. They also find it hard to navigate the tortuous regulatory processes and bureaucratic procedures necessary to penetrate the industry, he said.

But it is also true, Rokach said, that the defense industry globally is looking at startups and the civilian sphere for the next big thing in the defense world.

Illustrative: A ELM 2084 MMR made by ELTA in Israel used as part of the David’s Sling missile defense system. (US Department of Defense)

“Fifteen years ago, a big part of the platforms used in the defense industry were developed in the armies, and were later exported for civilian use,” he said. “Today civilian developments are taking the lead.”

The SOSA initiative, which started working some 10 months ago, is focusing on matching Israeli companies with startups. Eventually the reach will be international, Rokach said.

Col. (res.) Duddy Rokach, a former Head of the Army Combat Weapon Systems Department at the IDF, who will be the managing partner of a new Homeland Security Innovation Hub at SOSA (Ella-K-Sverdlov)

The HLSTech Innovation Hub program is a partnership between SOSA and SecTech, led by Rokach and Arik Karten, a former owner and CEO of defense firm KLP MAMAN who previously worked in the Israeli government security sector.

Founded in 2014 by a group of investors and senior executives in Israel’s high-tech industry, SOSA is a global innovation network that helps corporations match up with startups to promote innovation in their business. SOSA members include global corporations, including HP and Siemens, Munich Re, Harel and ENEL.

“Various international companies and entities — from arms and defense manufacturers through armies, police and civilian organizations — are thirsty for innovative technological solutions that will meet the new security challenges that threaten the world,” said SOSA CEO, Uzi Scheffer, in a statement.

The initiative will identify civilian technologies and introduce them to global organizations, “to move the defense industry forward,” said Karten, one of the managing partners of the SOSA HLSTech Innovation Hub program. “There is a need to create strategic partnerships in the early stages of development, in order to change the lifecycle of the startup and increase its chances of success.”

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