Israel prides itself as being an Innovation Nation, and with the bilateral initiatives to help the startup ecosystems underway, “Bengaluru is the place to be, it has all the ingredients and it’s just very easy to be a matchmaker here”, says Consul General of Israel for South India, Dana Kursh in an interview with Sandhya Mendonca. While Israel has long term diplomatic presence in New Delhi and Mumbai, it chose Bengaluru, with its futuristic ethos, as its third destination to reinforce its economic connection with India.
Both India and Israel are keen on finding next-gen solutions in agriculture, water, healthcare, cyber, AI, among others.The big picture lies in the Triple I – India, Israel, Innovation that form a unique partnership between cutting-edge startup nations and two entities that are leading innovation solutions. The historic visits of the Prime Ministers of both countries in 2017 led to creation of the $40 million I4F (India-Israel R&D and Technological Innovation Fund), and the India-Israel Innovation Bridge.
The consulate here focuses on enhancing bilateral trade opportunities by “connecting innovators who are creating a better future for the world”. The state of Karnataka, and its capital Bengaluru, are both important in implementing the strategic partnership, says Kursh. Bengaluru and Tel Aviv share the same triangular connections between business, academia and the government that drive innovation. “If we are able to connect these ecosystems, it is a win-win for both”, says Kursh.
While culture and travel have their place, it’s primarily the B2B connections that set the pace. Flipkart, the Bengaluru headquartered internet unicorn which has invested in Israeli startup Upstream Commerce. As a ‘diplomatic matchmaker’, Kursh hopes to get more connections like these. Some of the measures that are helping find partners to help build an innovative ecosystem include:
- Signing of an MoU between the Karnataka state ITBT Ministry and Israel, called KIRD (Karnataka Israel R&D Programme) – to help Israeli and Karnataka startups partner with each other.
- An MOU with Intel India to extend its Maker Lab facilities to Israeli startups which are expected to harness AI, 5G connectivity, and assisted-driving, to solve the issues in healthcare, agriculture, and road safety.
- The Israel Centre at the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore (IIMB) is training Israeli and Indian startups, and facilitates student exchanges and offers a crash course of how to do business together.Israel also offers incentives to startup partners in both countries, and the results include
- An answer to a challenge to solve a real world problem of water usage by an Israeli company called Soapy. It developed a hygiene micro-station powered by smart capsules that dispense accurates dose of soap and water. It worked with a non-profit, Swasti Health Catalyst, to instal the handwashing units in schools in Bengaluru district.
- Bengaluru based Medical simulation startup Mimyk was one of the five start-ups that won the Start JLM Jerusalem competition and participated in an innovation ‘boost camp’ for early stage startups.
With food security being a focus area, Israel also shares best practices with local farmers in AgriTech, and the Karnataka government’s agriculture and horticulture departments are implementing the Israeli drip irrigation model on 40,000 hectares in different parts of the state. This technology has already begun to improve the yield of mangoes in Kolar, pomegranates in Bagalkot and vegetables in Dharwad.
Kursh paints an engaging picture of Israeli and Indian companies working together “in open spaces, in small apartments, in campuses …partnering to find the best solutions in agriculture, water, cybersecurity, AI ..working together on the next big innovation, to create a wonderful future for both our nations.”