Tag Archives: innovation

The Hive: an accelerator for Olim

Yesterday, we visited the accelerator The Hive, created in 2006 in Tel Aviv, and presented to us by its director Audrey Chocron. An accelerator is like an incubator, but on a shortest period (6 months instead of 2years). This accelerator is the brainchild of the association Gvahim whose purpose is to facilitate the integration of Olims (new immigrants in Israel) finding positions in Israeli society.

the Innovators Nation team at the Hive

the Innovators Nation team at the Hive

This is a very pleasant and colorful place that allows 15 entrepreneurs of 8 nationalities to make their projects become a reality. There’s no time to dwell on the business plan and prospects, they must first act as the lucky ones have only 6 months in the accelerator before flying on their own. Fortunately among these 8 start-ups, 5 are IT projects that quickly reach their market.
The Hive is a real network accelerator for these newly arrived graduates. The main problem for these entrepreneurs is that, are they are freshly arrived in Israel, they did not go to the army, so did not created their network of friends and relationships in the country. Plus, Israeli employers often don’t know very well the schools or universities were Olim are graduated from. So The Hive make them meet CEO, investors, consulants, coaches,etc.

After Audrey’s presentation, we met some entrepreneurs and talked with them about their project.

Giorgio talking with an entrepreneur, at The Hive

Giorgio talking with an entrepreneur, at The Hive

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Day 4: what we have seen or learned in Tel Aviv

Here is a list of what we have seen or learned today in Tel Aviv:

  • Israeli cuisine is not just hummus. It’s also shakshuka!
  • 1/3 of the population of Tel Aviv is less than 25.
  • A lot of shops are closed during independance day (on April 25th), and everybody celebrates it. The State of Israel is still very young (it was created in 1947).

The anecdote of the day: innovation in a taxi

We spend some time in taxis to go from a company to another, and as most of the taxi drivers can speak English, we talk to them and they told us some interesting stories. For example, Giorgio met a taxi driver who told him he just created his high-tech company! He gave him his visiting card.

Guy met another taxi driver who showed him rearview mirror coversprinted with the Israeli flag saying “look at that, they just invented it!”.

Start-ups are created everywhere, even in a taxi.

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Weizmann Institute: paradise for scientists

Scientific research in Israel: specific effort for the commercialization of scientific inventions

J-3. It was after meeting with entrepreneurs in the incubator in Nazareth NGT and tasted the food through the famous Israeli hummus that we visited the Weizmann Institute.

At Weizmann Institute

At Weizmann Institute

Weizmann is its founder’s name. Who is Mr Weizmann, the founder of the university? Mr. Weizmann was the first president of Israel. He promoted many innovations by giving a vision and taking actions. He is considered one of the founders of biotechnology.

inside the Weizmann Institute

inside the Weizmann Institute

the Innovators Nation team in the stairs, Weizmann house

the Innovators Nation team in the stairs, Weizmann house

The essential role of basic research to innovation

Located not far from Tel Aviv at Rehovot, the university dedicated to research is famous worldwide. To begin our visit, we had to go through the huge campus that is quite similar to US counterparts. In the most recent building, the Koffler accelerator, we realized that here science is a main concern. In the center of cancer research and genetics, we met Dr. Daniela Novick.

Then the heart of the building is a dream laboratory: freshly cleaned glassware, experiments in progress, ovens everywhere. In this atmosphere, Dr. Novick told us about her research. We learned how this brilliant scientist has fostered both fundamental and applied science. Compared to other institutes in the world, this is the major distinction of the Weizmann Institute, the emphasis is primarily focused on basic research, scientists are free to explore areas of interest. This is the curiosity of researchers that led to major discoveries in science.  These results led to applications for the general public that were not expected. Without basic research inventions like the microwave or pace makers could not have been launched.

Science is an integral part of the Israel  common thinking and is highly valued. Scientists are very well known and well perceived in society. The Weizmann Institute seeks to get still closer contact between scientists and the general public. This initiative is a good example: on March 30th, 2012, scientists will explain in many cafes in Tel Aviv their science projects to Israeli citizens.

The ability to commercialize scientific discoveries

The discoveries, resulst of basic research, are subsequently commercialized. In this field, the Technology Transfer Office plays an important role. Composed mainly of lawyers, they assist scientists in protecting their inventions and license sales.

The mindset of innovators in Israel

When asked about particular Israeli behavior that are conducive to the emergence of innovations, his answer is simple:

  • Improvising always-Never be paralyzed by the rules, invent alternatives
  • Stay focus of research is paramount, we must not turn away from the main purpose
  • Invest heart and soul – the experiments are not waiting, work on weekends is sometimes required

A little paradise

All the scientist can live in theur own villa on the center. The place is very nice: gardens, modern buildings, labs, museums, etc. We also visited the house of Mr Weizmann, founder of the institute, built in the ’30. A very modern building, full of souvenirs, in a beautiful garden.

Wiezmann house

Wiezmann house

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NGT: an incubator in Nazareth

Here we go! Today 24 April 2012 we moved to the north of the country, destination Nazareth. After a two hours trip by bus we arrived here to discover another reality of Israel, the incubator New Generation Technology (NGT).

Incubators are programs designed to support the successful development of entrepreneurial companies through an array of business support resources and services, developed and orchestrated by incubator management and offered both in the incubator and through its network of contacts.

There are around thirty incubators along Israel. They are created to stimulate the industry innovation and to create employment. Normally they host companies specialised in the same field, normally specialized ones, as pharmaceutical, biological or IT sciences.

NGT is an exception: even if concentred on pharma projects, it has been created and was developed around Arab companies, managed mainly by Arabs. It was born 13 years ago to solve an actual problem: very competent professors and researchers with Arab origins were excluded by the other incubators and remained unemployed. The aim of NGT is to change this situation. Here there’s not at all discrimination based on religion. In fact, also if just in minority, also Jewish companies are incubated there.

Companies desiring to enter the program pass through a very meticulous screening process where they have to demonstrate that their idea reaches some predetermined requisites:

  • It is patentable
  • It exists a market for it
  • There are possible contractors relied to the Israeli context

How does it work? People come at the incubator demanding for the admission, once the project has been incubated, it’s the incubator itself that searches for the funding for the project. The majority of them are governmental funds, but rules depend on the single entity. NGT for example requires a minimum of 15% of private funds, normally provided directly by the entrepreneur. The incubator will owns a relevant quote of the stock that is in average greater than 50%, without in any case interfere in the strategy pointing on the shares control. Normally the incubation lasts two years. This limit has been set up by law and can be extended to three years in particular cases.

But why an incubator? Which are the pros for a company to be set up in an incubator? Here what we get of concrete:

  • Funding
  • Consulting and mentoring
  • Connections with the other companies in the same field
  • Externalisation of all the financial aspects
  • Access to the shared facilities, from meeting rooms to advanced laboratories

Another good news for those who might be interested is that no exit strategies exist, in the sense that also once outside the two-years period, the incubator will maintains its stocks, granting a better financial stability and confidence with third parties. In addition, in case of success, only royalties will be demanded and in case of failure the invested capital will be considered as a grant.

European countries, why not to take example from our overseas neighbours? Welcome to Israel!

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Day 3: what we have seen or learned in Nazareth

Here is a list of what we have seen or learned today in Nazareth:

  • hummus is heavy.
  • you can’t enter a church dressed with a skirt.
  • you can easily meet a priest and add him on Linked In, as Ricardo did.
  • the separation beteween arabic and Jews is visible in the city.
  • green is the color of Islam. Arabic cities are illuminated with green lights at night.

The anecdote of the day: passport n°001

Chaim Weizmann, who gave his name to the famous Weizmann Institute we visited, was the 1st president of the State of Israel. So his Israeli passport had the number 001. Quite easy to remember!

The city of Nazareth

The city of Nazareth

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Better place: we tried the electric car and loved it!

On April 23th 2012, Ronit welcomed us at the headquarter of Better Place, an Israeli company which is located in an old water tank in Tel Aviv, and invited us to enter a theater built with recycled vehicle seats.We were shown an amazing 3D movie about the company stategy. Better Place is a company created in 2005, which mission is to make the world a better place (yes, it sounds like a Michael Jackon’s song). The electric car can look like an utopia, but it’s already here.

Charging an electric car at Better Place

Charging an electric car at Better Place

The introduction of electric vehicules in the car industry

One hundred years have passed after the invention of cars and if many innovations have been made, they are still mainly  combustion engines. Yearly, 85 million barrels of gasoline are used  worldwide and almost half of it is used for transportation. Approximately 750 million cars are active currently.

A possible solution is the hybrid engine, that combines a traditional engine with an electric or gas motor to reduce consumptions by about 20%, but from 1995 to 2005, only two million hybrid cars were produced and sold.

Pollution is a crucial issue. A research shows that 70% people think the dependence on gas has to be stopped.

For Better Place, the electric car is the solution. Through a partnership with Renault and a collaboration of twelve different countries they have created a network to solve the autonomy limitation of these cars.

Better Place has decided to expand the electric car ecosystem by building up a model which consists of:

  • Electric Cars
  • Park and plug
  • Switch stations
  • Integrated services

Renault, in partnership with Better Place, produces the Fluence, the 1st car with replaceable battery. The new lithium battery allows an autonomy of 160 km. To travel over longer distances, Better Place has developed a network of battery replacement, which allows in five minutes to walk away with a new charged battery. With the purchase of the car, the company will also install a plug at your home for reloading daily your electric car (a full charge lasts 7h). Better Place is also able to provide information, and tells you where are the stations to adjust your journey.

Inside the electric car, Better Place office in Tel Aviv

Inside the electric car, Better Place office in Tel Aviv

The electric vehicle in practice: a new comfort on board

Why chosing electric energy for vehicules? The vehicles are silent, the acceleration is immediate and especially the engine performance is better. In addition, electrical energy can come from renewable sources instead of gasoline. But with Israeli sources derived gas, the use of electric power guarantees only a saving of 30%.

Then we could try the car for a mixed course of one kilometer. The students with a driving licence took a key, entered the car with 2 or 3 passengers, and had a trial. We were all very excited! Impressions? Silence is impressive, especially when starting out. Only braking is different. The engine is reversed and recharges the batteries that provide a good engine braking. Now there is the car, the infrastructure, the solution… The question that arises is: are people willing to change?

Ricardo driving an electric car: Renault Fluence

Ricardo driving an electric car: Renault Fluence

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A discussion with Prof. Shechtman, 2011 Chemistry Nobel Prize

A solution for a more peaceful world: technological entrepreneurship!

During our 2nd day trip in Israel, we also met Dan Shechtman. He is Philip Tobias Professor of Materials Science at Technion – Israel Institute of technology located in Haifa, one of the most respected Engineering University in the world.

He was awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for “the discovery of quasicrystals and he has been teaching the course of Technological Entrepreneurship to C.10000 engineers during the last 26 years.

Prof. Shechtman argued that Entrepreneurship is the best way to create job places and, particularly, technological one which provides better tools to all the other kinds of entrepreneurships to be developed.

At the end of his very interesting speech, he started answering our questions, giving us many insights about Israel start-ups proliferation: he compared Israel to Far East countries, where, if your company goes bankruptcy, it’s a shame for all your family whereas in Israel is the opposite: someone who failed with his company, is considered to have become a better business man.

Last point was about nuclear energy, that, in his opinion, remains the best way to produce energy by far: he condemned countries like Germany and their shortermism simply saying that the question shouldn’t be going or not going for nuclear energy, but how to produce safer centrals.

Question-answer session with Prof. Dan Shechtman, at Technion

Question-answer session with Prof. Dan Shechtman, at Technion

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In the heart of Technion: scientific research in Israel

Early wake up for the innovators on Monday! We left Tel Aviv in order to reach Haifa where we visited Matam,  the largest and oldest hi-tech park in Israel, and Technion- Israel Institute of Technology, a public research University and also the oldest and most famous in Israel.

Welcome at Technion!

Welcome at Technion!

At the Technion we have had the pleasure of attending, with other French students from EDHEC and SUPELEC, two very interesting conferences. The first speaker was Mrs Keren Rubin, the director of BEIC, the Bronica Entrepreneurship & Innovation Center, placed in Technion.

Why Israel?

In the first part of her presentation, Mrs Rubin told us the major reason (now clear to all of us…) that led the Israeli high technological growth in the ’90:

  • a highly developed defence sector and its strong relation with Universities
  • a double digit growth in engineering/science graduates
  • the influx of Russian scientists and engineers that immigrates in Israel in order to find a job
  • the support of governments through specific policy and funds
  • the influx of US VC capital thanks to specific funds dedicated to Israel
  • high tech multinationals investments in R&D
  • the Israeli cultural, social and entrepreneurial capital

Entrepreneurship at Technion

Mrs Rubin then showed us how elevated is the entrepreneurial spirit in Israel and in particular at the Technion: there are several organisations that have all the same goal of develop and boost the technical entrepreneurship among Technion students.
These organisations include the BEIC, the knowledge center for innovation (KCI), the Technion R&D Foundation  (TRDF), the Alfred Mann Institute (AMIT) and the Technion incubator.

The ESCP Europe students listening to a conference at Technion

The ESCP Europe students listening to a conference at Technion

The BEIC: teach, outreach and research

Since Mrs Rubin is in charge of the Bonica Entrepreneurship & Innovation Center, she concluded her presentation explaining us which was her work there. The BEIC have as audience the students, the faculty and the alumni of Technion, and its missions are teach, outreach and research. Regarding the teaching aspect, the BEIC spreads the knowledge and develop the skills needed to have success as  entrepreneurs and boost network relationships thanks to its eClub (campus’ meetings every two weeks), eConference related to innovation and entrepreneurship topics , credited courses and programs, consulting services, bizTec (national business plan competition) and the “Technion for life” mentoring program (alumni that helps students).

Why studying in Israel?

After the conference, we had an informal meeting with French people studying at the Technion. Most of them have had a degree from a prestigious engineer school in France (Ecole Polytechnique, Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées, etc) and have decided to continue their studies here in Israel. We asked them what were their motivations. They explain that they had some personal motivation (possibility to live their faith) but above all they came for the very good quality of research in Technion and the strong technological applications of science in Israel.

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Discovering the internal innovation process at Qualcomm

A new busy day starts with the visit of Qualcomm, an American high-tech company. Its headquarters in Israel are located in the MATAM (international technology center) in Haifa. We had a 2 hours bus ride from Tel Aviv to join Haifa, which is located on a very beautiful place, very close to the sea. Nir Ofry, member of the Innovation Team, makes us a quick presentation of the company. Qualcomm is a global telecommunication corporation that designs, manufactures and markets digital wireless products and services. It is like Intel 25 years ago, as the world’s largest fables semiconductor company and first in wireless technology. They help developers to develop many applications and Nir showed us some of them like iOnRoad, an app which indicates the distance between you and the car in front of you. Very usefull but a little bit scary: it can prevent car accidents.

Qualcomm headquarters in Haifa

Qualcomm headquarters in Haifa

Qualcomm employs 22,000 people and tries very hard to maintain the entrepreneurship spirit. Why is that? Because technology companies cannot be late in any sectors. So Qualcomm developed Qualcomm Innovation Network (QIN), a system for promoting corporate entrepreneurship and innovation. To know more about the internal innovation process at Qualcomm, read the dedicated article on Israel Valley.

At least, Nir told us about his personal story. He had to go to the army when he was 18 and became responsible of a huge information system in Tsahal (the Israeli army). As his mission had to remain a secret, he couldn’t tell anyone about his activities, so he developed the ability to solve problems on his own.

In Israel, geniuses are detected at a young age (around 10) at school, and they are then directed to special units in the army to develop their high potential.

The Innovators Nation team with Nir at Qualcomm, in Haifa

The Innovators Nation team with Nir at Qualcomm, in Haifa

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Day 2: what we have seen or learned in Haifa

Here is a list of what we have seen or learned today in Haifa:

  • The average age of 1st year students at university is 25 (due to military service).
  • The cost of living is higher than what we imagined, particularly in supermarkets.
  • We are surprised we still have not seen any policeman or soldier in the street.
  • Food seems to be very important in innovative companies (provide free food and drinks to make your employees more innovative!).
  • After the military service, young people often travel all over the world, in Asia, South America, or anywhere else.
  • Houtspa! It’s a Hebrew word to describe the Israeli people’s state of mind. It’s hard to translate. It’s a mix between courage, crazy and nerve.
  • Road signs are written in Hebrew, Arabic and English (lucky us!).
On the road, from Haifa to Tel Aviv

On the road, from Haifa to Tel Aviv

The anecdote of the day:

Around 2,000 French people emigrate to Israel each year. And around 600 coffins travel from France to Israel each year. It concerns French people who decided to be buried in Israel after their death. And guess what? This is a very profitable business for some companies, since families often accompany the deceased to the funeral in Israel.

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