How Binational Innovation Can Lead to ‘Continuous Payback’

In its recent board meeting in Tel Aviv, the Israel-U.S. Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation (BIRD) approved $9 million for funding 11 new projects. The projects include a health care quality analytics and patient engagement portal to be developed by CliniWorks, which is based in Ramat HaSharon in Israel, and the U.S.-based pharmaceutical giant Pfizer; and a robotic dispensing device integrated with a nuclear pharmacy management system by Haifa, Israel-based RescueDose and ec2 Software Solutions of Las Vegas. 

“The projects approved by the board include innovative, relatively high-risk technology developments,” says Eitan Yudilevich, executive director of the BIRD Foundation. Adds Avi Hasson, chief scientist at the Israeli Ministry of Trade and Industry and co-chairman of the BIRD board: “The projects reflect the significant diversity and potential of the collaboration. They contribute to the economy of both Israel and the United States and encourage growth and job creation.” According to Hasson, the BIRD Foundation continues to be a key tool to facilitate strategic cooperation between Israel and the U.S. in the areas of research and development and technology. 

In addition to the 11 new projects approved by the BIRD Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Israel’s Ministry of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources have selected four projects to receive $3.6 million under the 2013 BIRD Energy program. These projects address challenges and opportunities related to the energy sector in both countries, with special emphasis on commercializing clean energy technologies that can improve Israel’s economic competitiveness, create jobs and support innovative companies. The selected projects will also receive $8.8 million from U.S. and Israeli private sector firms.

A Broad Agenda

Established in 1977 by the governments of Israel and the U.S., the BIRD Foundation has approved 878 projects since its inception and has given more than $300 million in grants (about $500 million if adjusted for inflation). The funding comes from an endowment established by the Israeli and U.S governments. The BIRD Foundation accepts joint applications from any pair of companies — one Israeli and one U.S.-based — that can demonstrate that their combined capabilities and infrastructure can conceptualize, develop, manufacture, sell and support an innovative product based on industrial R&D. 

Through participation in one of the projects, the U.S. companies potentially increase their competitive advantage by gaining access to cost-effective Israeli innovation; Israeli companies are hoping to acquire know-how and entrance to new markets. “Israel is a hotbed of activity for high-tech research and development. The culture itself encourages and rewards risk-taking and entrepreneurship,” says Yudilevich of the advantages of binational innovation.

This article was originally published by Knowledge@Wharton July 4, 2014.

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