Bio-convergence – Israel’s Next Growth Engine

This is not science fiction, it’s tomorrow’s reality: bio-convergence as a national program and the Innovation Authority’s support of Israeli companies that will use bio-convergence to lead and expand Israeli high-tech.

The world has been contending with several pressing macro-level problems in recent years, including climate crisis, food shortage, and spiraling health costs. All these create tremendous economic burden on governments and necessitate accelerated and exceptional technological solutions.

In general, these innovative solutions can no longer be based on mono-disciplinary conceptions as in the past but rather, require multidisciplinary approaches that integrate the worlds of biology with the worlds of engineering. The Innovation Authority has chosen to call these approaches bio-convergence (similar terms are known around the world, such as – Bio-Intelligence, Bio-Economy, Bio-Engineering).

The Innovation Authority pre-empted the global trend and decided, already in 2019, to promote bio-convergence initiatives, some of which appeared to many to be science fiction. The decision to invest in this field stemmed from the understanding that this is the direction the entire world is headed. It was also based on two insights: the first, that Israeli high-tech is condensing primarily into the worlds of software; and the second, that Israel possesses a very significant asset in the form of high-quality researchers and scientists (with an emphasis on female researchers and scientists) in the fields of biology and life sciences capable of creating excellent IP that gains only partial economic impact in Israel.

In 2020, the Innovation Authority proposed the idea of promoting bio-convergence as a national program via the “TELEM” Forum (The National Infrastructure Forum for Research and Development). The forum adopted the proposal and in April 2022 launched a five-year program with an initial budget of 1.3 billion shekels. As part of the program, each of the participating entities will conduct unique activities based on bio-convergence with the aim of creating a new economic growth engine for the State of Israel.

The efforts of the Innovation Authority and its partners in the worlds of bio-convergence take place in a diverse range of levels and areas. Among these are the establishment of an infrastructure for synthetic biology capable of creating biological building blocks that do not exist in nature e.g., new biological construction compounds, self-illuminating trees, or bacteria that can identify landmines; advancing the field of fermentation, which opens up new and exciting possibilities such as the creation of alternative protein for food-tech; and support for biochips in the world of medicine, enabling the discovery and development of pharmaceuticals at mind-boggling speed and cost. At the same time, the Authority and its partners are striving to establish technology incubators which combines the worlds of biology and engineering in academia and the defense system. That, alongside regulatory measures such as the approval for marketing “cultured meat”, helps the Israeli industry to develop.

The Innovation Authority invests between 100-150 million shekels each year in bio-convergence and supports approximately 70 Israeli companies engaged in these technologies in the fields of food, climate, agriculture, and health. Indeed, risks exist, but if we succeed – and we believe that we will – Israel will be a central player in tomorrow’s world of technology.

This blog is part of a series of articles in which experts from the Israel Innovation Authority explore of how Israeli leadership in bio-convergence is spearheading global development in the field. For more articles:

About the Author
Zachi Schnarch is the Deputy CEO and Head of the Technology Division of the Israel Innovation Authority, an independent public entity that operates for the benefit of the Israeli innovation ecosystem and Israeli economy as a whole.
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