Thursday, March 7, 2019

Innovation in Israel: to the moon and beyond



It’s hard to avoid a jubilant tone in speaking about Israel and innovation when the first lunar spacecraft, made in Israel, is making its way to Earth’s natural satellite. In the last 20 years Israel has become a world leader in new technologies and science and there is no better proof to this claim that the flight of “Bereesheet” (“In the beginning” in Hebrew, the first words in Genesis) that started on February 22 and made Israel the 4th nation in the world, after USA, USSR and China, who sent a spacecraft to the Moon.

Some experts argue that the turning point for Israel’s innovation was in the beginning of the 1990s, thanks to a successful professional integration of the highly educated immigrants from former Soviet Union and as a result of a new form of collaboration between academia and industry encouraged by government. But the truth is that already in the first years after its establishment Israel embarked on innovative solutions to problems that faced many developing countries after the WWII and laid the foundations of its successful journey to innovation… and to the moon.

Instead of looking back, let’s get a glimpse at new innovative trends and solutions being developed in Israel these days. “An Overview of Innovation in Israel 2018-2019” that was recently published by Israel Innovation Authority and which I came across recently, could serve as a perfect guide. Here are a few examples that caught my eye in this document:



Brain Therapy

The Israeli consortium “Brain Stimulation and Monitoring Toolbox”, funded over the course of the past five years by the Innovation Authority, was established in order to develop technological and scientific infrastructure combined with neurological stimulation and monitoring to enable personalized and improved treatment of neurological and psychiatric disorders.

The consortium has had several groundbreaking achievements, some of which have led to technological maturity and clinical execution. HaGuide, for example, software developed by Alpha Omega and researchers from the Hebrew University and Hadassah Medical Center, is used in DBS procedures (Deep Brain Stimulation) performed on patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease or other disorders. 


Another technological and commercial achievement is a digital platform, for functional brain imaging for psychiatric patients. The integration of the platform in therapy is slated to advance personalized medicine and to offer support for doctors’ treatment modalities.

Broadcasting sport events

The Pixellot startup established in 2013 has developed an innovative system that allows production and broadcasting of a variety of sports events with almost no human intervention. The system it developed includes cameras, tracking capabilities, content manipulation through the cloud, broadcasting to different devices, and exclusively automatic live-streaming, allowing spectators to perform simple move manipulation – all at a low production cost. Since its establishment, the company has already sold roughly 2,500 systems producing 20 thousand broadcasting hours a month.

AI at the service of public health

The national Digital Health Plan is striving to make Israel a key player in the field of digital healthcare. To this end, in 2018, the Authority launched a program for supporting pilots in the field of digital healthcare that are either performed in Israeli healthcare organizations, or that are based on capabilities or the data at their disposal. The Digital Robotics pilot, which stands out among the pilots approved, has developed a computerized system based on AI – the first of its kind – aimed at cutting healthcare costs and improving service. The system, which is designed to be used by medical teams, includes a personalized recommendation engine for patients based on a broad clinical picture. In the context of the pilot program, the system will first be implemented in two healthcare organizations: Meuhedet Health Fund (one of the four Health Funds operating in Israel) and at the Soroka Medical Center’s emergency center in Be’er Sheva.

Remote monitoring of cardiovascular diseases

Vectorious Medical Technologies was conceived in 2011 in the RAD BioMed technological incubator backed by the Innovation Authority. The company offered a groundbreaking solution for remote, continuous, precise, and safe monitoring of patients suffering from cardiovascular disease – one of the leading causes of death worldwide.The inimitable technology enables the implantation of a microcomputer for battery free communication. Thus far, the company has raised over $10 million, including a $2.25 million grant from the European R&D program Horizon 2020 and the Innovation Authority. The exclusive grant has helped the company recruit additional investors and accelerate development and clinical trials. The company is currently conducting trials on human subjects in Germany, England, Italy and Israel, on its way to receiving the necessary regulatory approvals and to market the product. The company projects that the development will reach the European market within roughly six months.

Operation of smartphones and tablets with head movements

The Sesame Enable startup, established in 2013, has developed an exclusive app that allows people with mobility disabilities to operate smartphones and tablets using head movements alone, using the device’s front-facing camera. The company was awarded a substantial grant by the Innovation Authority in collaboration with the national Insurance Institute, to encourage the development of assistive technologies for people with disabilities. 

Solutions offered by the company are already in wide use throughout the US, where the company receives government subsidies. Their technology serves an audience with a wide range of mobility disabilities such as spinal cord injuries, neuromuscular diseases, MS, and cerebral palsy. Recently, the municipality of New York chose the company’s product as a preferred solution for children with disabilities in the city’s public education system, and negotiations are taking place with other US municipalities and states to expand this activity.

The Golan Heights Winery’s innovative wine water

Golan Heights Winery ventured to develop a completely new product: Wine Water. The project led to the construction of a concept based on innovative technology: extracting grape waste reduced in the wine manufacturing process and diluting it with water, so that the nutrients in grape peels and the unique aroma and smell of wine are absorbed by the water. The product made its world debut in July 2018 at the Fancy Food Show in New York and gained unprecedented success, with hundreds of distributors from across the globe seeking marketing rights for the product. It is already being sold by leading chains in the US.

I gave you only a glimpse of the report, and you are welcome to learn much more here: https://innovationisrael.org.il/en/report/innovation-report-2018 . More than any particular piece of technology, it shows a deep commitment in Israel to ”perception that innovation is a key engine for economic growth and wellbeing.”

…And if you don’t like reading reports, look up for a great book by Avi Jorish, “Thou Shalt Innovate” (https://www.timesofisrael.com/thou-shalt-innovate-15-earthshaking-israeli-technologies/). Enjoy! 



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