Merav Galili

Fueling a wartime economic revival through academic R&D

Illustrative: A scientist sits at his desk and consults an engineer about sophisticated coding and programming at a computer science research laboratory. (iStock by Getty Images)

On October 7th, thousands of hi-tech workers, from developers to CEOs, joined their brothers and sisters on the battlefield to defend their country. No sector of Israel’s economy has been immune to the current challenges; but perhaps no sector is more important to Israel’s economic prosperity.

Constituting a significant 17% of the gross national product, the Israeli hi-tech sector serves as a robust growth engine for the nation. Its contributions extend beyond economic metrics, influencing employment opportunities, bolstering tax revenue, and positioning Israel for enduring success on the global stage. It is the heartbeat providing the lifeblood of the economy.

While Israel today has an array of established companies, some listed on the world’s leading stock exchanges, at the core of our hi-tech sector still lies the famous Israeli startup ecosystem.

Therefore, it was a truly significant development, demonstrating a unique level of commitment to sustaining the Israeli hi-tech industry amidst the current turmoil, when the recently approved war budget allocated a substantial increase in funding for technological research and development (R&D).

In a period where budget cuts are prevalent across various sectors, the Innovation Authority’s budget was almost doubled to an impressive NIS 2.3-2.4 billion, emphasizing the recognition of the critical role played by innovation and technology in fortifying the nation’s resilience.

Another positive development, indicating a profound understanding of the challenges faced by fledgling companies, is the establishment of the Heznek fund – The Start-Up Fund. This new government-funded initiative adopts a venture capital fund model, directly investing in early-stage startups, with the goal of infusing new life into the sector, even in the most challenging of times.

Underpinning this ecosystem, we find the less famous unsung heroes of the start-up nation’s success, Israel’s universities. These world class academic institutions not only provide the human capital for the sector, but serve as powerful catalysts of innovation through relentless research and development.

This academia-centric vision of innovation lies at the heart of the worldview of KMAI Capital. Established as a joint initiative of the Menomadin Foundation and Katao Venture Partners to advance innovative impact-oriented technologies originating in Israeli academic institutions, KMAI aims to catalyze the development of academic-based Israeli startups in impact-oriented areas such as food security, alternative energy, recycle, and medical technologies.

KMAI’s unique initiative therefore operates at the intersection of academia and the business sector, helping impactful technologies realize their commercial potential and develop into successful startups.  They invest in processes that include scouting and ideation, hands-on management, creating the right product to market fit, teambuilding, and leveraging cooperation with prominent partners, both in the public and private sectors.

It recognizes that ideas germinate in the labs and classrooms of our academia, but without combining those ideas with funding and business acumen, far too many dissipate.

So as the nation navigates through tangible and testing challenges, investing in the unsung academic heroes of the start-up ecosystem, will not only serve to safeguard the hi-tech industry, but will pave the way for a future where groundbreaking innovations thrive, reinforcing both global impact and national resilience.

About the Author
Dr. Merav Galili is the CEO of the Menomadin Foundation, an international Israeli-based impact fund that promotes innovative solutions to sustainable development challenges in Israel and Africa, in a model that combines strategic philanthropy and impact investments. Over two decades in senior management positions in academia and non-profit organizations, Dr. Galili has specialized in establishing local and international partnerships to promote business and social initiatives. In her last position, she served as Vice President for Development at Bar-Ilan University.
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