Israel’s defense ministry gets into startup business with innovation accelerator

The new accelerator will mentor 10 startups that are working on projects suitable to both civilian and security markets.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Israel’s defense ministry is getting into the innovation business by collaborating with a global innovation platform and veteran accelerator in the security field to find the next generation of cutting-edge technology for the country’s defense, Globes reported Monday.

Called INNOFENSE, the innovation center will soon be inviting to its program 10 start-ups that are developing dual-use technologies – applications that can be used for both the commercial and military spheres.

Half will receive support services from the iHLS (Israel Homeland Security) Startups Accelerator, and half from SOSA, a global innovation platform. Both are located in Tel Aviv.

In the initial pilot program, the companies will each receive $50,000 for a six-month period from the Ministry of Defense (MOD), said the report. They will be chosen by a group of professionals in the MOD, the Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure, IDF ground and air forces, and INNOFENSE itself.

“The innovation center will operate in all the worlds of content that might interest us,” a senior Israeli defense source told Globes, “from outer space to deep water and everything in between. It could be new methods or approaches in the field of cybersecurity, medicine and more.”

The source said that the plan was to financially support the companies for two to three years, and “if out of these 10 projects we will find the next Iron Dome (Israel’s short-range missile defense system), then we will be very satisfied.”

SOSA and iHLS will provide the business know-how, including facilitating investments and strategic partnerships, penetrating the relevant commercial markets, and providing legal expertise and networking opportunities. The companies will also be guided throughout by the relevant defense agencies regarding the specific needs that should be addressed.

According to the iHLS website there is a huge range of fields that could be relevant to the defense and the civilian market simultaneously, including robotics, video analytics, nanotechnology, deep learning, and electro-optics.

“The collaborative development of the technologies will advanc[e] and improv[e] their integration in both markets, the website says.

In a move that will help the successful companies financially, the MOD will not get patent rights on the commercial product, and will receive a special license only for any military systems that are developed.

In this way, it mimics Libertad Ventures, the high-tech fund established by the Mossad in 2017 to back civilian companies that create innovative technologies needed by the agency in exchange for a non-exclusive license to use what they develop.