Windy City seeks deeper ties with Startup Nation on technology

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel signs collaboration accord with Israel’s Technion for water research

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

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel speaks at SOSA in Tel Aviv about how Chicago and Israel can join forces on technology, September 11, 2017. (Shoshanna Solomon/Times of Israel)
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel speaks at SOSA in Tel Aviv about how Chicago and Israel can join forces on technology, September 11, 2017. (Shoshanna Solomon/Times of Israel)

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is heading a delegation of more than 40 businessmen, investors, health care professionals, academic and water experts from the Chicago area to Israel, to try and find ways in which the Windy City can collaborate with Startup Nation on technology.

“Chicago has the most diversified economy in the US and the world,” Emanuel told a gathering of entrepreneurs and representatives of Israel’s high-tech industry on Monday. The aim of the visit is to see how Chicago’s “diversity, size and scale” can tap into Israeli innovation and make sure that US companies “embrace disruption” and don’t fear it, he said.

Chicago is keen to highlight its growing role in advancing water technology innovation and conservation through its Current’s Research Consortium, a non-profit group of academics and water institutions, set up by Emanuel. The consortium aims to create, test and validate new water technologies and includes Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign and Chicago, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago and the Chicago Department of Water Management.

“We want to establish Chicago as a global center for water innovation and Israel is an essential partner because of what we can learn from Israel and what we can share with Israel,” said Steve Frenkel, the executive director of Current, at the sidelines of the meeting.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel speaks with SOSA founders in Tel Aviv. To his right, in the white shirt, is SOSA CEO Uzi Scheffer, September 11, 2017 (Courtesy)

At the event in South Tel Aviv, organized by SOSA, a global network of tech innovation hubs that aims to showcase the best of Israel’s technology and match it with multinationals, startup companies pitched their technologies, while SOSA’s CEO Uzi Scheffer presented the Israeli technology eco-system to the gathering of foreign businessmen.

“Chicago is an up and coming tech hub and has been mentioned in the media as a possible candidate to host Amazon’s second North American headquarters. The Windy City’s partnership with Tel Aviv can only help both cities tap into one another’s financial and creative assets, deepening their well of ingenuity and innovation,” said Scheffer.

Startups that showcased their technologies to the US group included Water-Gen, which has developed a way to extract drinking water from air, MyndYou, which has created a data-driven platform to monitor Alzheimer’s patients; and Optibus, which uses artificial intelligence to make public transport more use friendly.

In KPMG’s recently released “Global Technology Innovation Hubs” survey, Chicago ranked sixth out of the top ten rising global innovation hubs. Last year some $1.7 billion in venture funding was invested in 179 Chicago-based technology firms, and some 55 Chicago startups held exits in 2016, according to data provided by the City of Chicago.

Total trade between Israel and the state of Illinois totaled $814 million in 2016.

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