Getting Funded and Working with Innovation with the Israeli Utilities: Dos and Don’ts from Leaders of Innovation at WaTech™ and KARAT – CleanIsrael Network Meetup
Positive Signs of the Times: Israeli Utility Giants are Evolving and Commercializing to Make the World Greener and Cleaner
Getting Funded and Working with Innovation with the Israeli Utilities: Dos and Don’ts from Leaders of Innovation at WaTech™ and KARAT – CleanIsrael Network Meetup – August 2nd,2011, 9 am. (RSVP: http://www.meetup.com/cleanisrael/events/25000871/)
by Shelli Zargary
In the context of the relatively small Israeli domestic market, utility corporations such as IEC – the Israel Electric Corporation – and Mekorot the Israel National Water Company are giants that benefit from a large bank of employees, a dependable customer base and relatively high economic stability. But these giants don’t slumber in their comfort zones; on the contrary, like the stereotypical Israeli Sabra, they are technologically advanced, ingenious pioneers who embrace wholeheartedly their mission to manage the responsible consumption, development and protection of Israel’s scarce natural resources. To do so, both Mekorot Israel National Water Co. and Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) have accumulated great and diverse assets in terms of knowledge, technologies, human resources, sites and equipment that today they are more aware and interested in leveraging to drive commercially, technologically and ecologically valuable projects that will serve the interests of the utility companies themselves, the water and energy sectors, the State of Israel and sustainability worldwide.
To achieve these both lofty and profit-driving goals, each company has set up a kind of internal incubator to identify, invest in, collaborate with and otherwise promote research and venture projects in their areas of expertise. Israeli cleantech entrepreneurs developing potential ventures in the water and energy sectors, especially ventures whose business models will require any kind of cooperation with the utilities companies, would be wise to consider approaching Mekorot’s WaTech™ and IEC’s KARAT. CleanIsrael Network is hosting a discussion with Amikam Levanon, currently Special Advisor to KARAT, CEO & President at Alimo Holdings and former General Manager of Negev-based incubators Iris Ventures and Rotem Ventures; and with Yossi Yaacoby, Director of WaTech™ and former Marketing and Projects Manager at EMS Mekorot Projects. The session will take a look at how the incubators operate and what entrepreneurs can and should do to maximize their chances of winning KARAT and WaTech™ investment and support.
Mekorot founded the WaTech™ Water Technologies Entrepreneurship Center in 2004 to leverage Mekorot’s values to promote water technology solutions in Israel and worldwide. Aptly titled “water technologies accelerator”, WaTech™ focuses on four primary areas. These include water technology-related business ventures and collaborations; applied research using Mekorot’s internal and third-party knowledge; intellectual property development and patenting, again as a service both for internal, joint and external IP; and water sector information management. In all these activities the company invests significant resources to promote sustainability and environmentally friendly water technologies that capitalize on non‑perishable natural resources.
WaTech™ manages projects in the categories of water quality, desalination, wastewater treatment and effluent reuse, sustainability (environmental quality and green energies), water security, engineering services, water supply command and control systems and models for optimized water system operation and management. Readers can download a detailed description of Mekorot’s “wish list” as to the technologies they would be most interested in supporting using the following link: http://www.mekorot.co.il/Heb/WaterTechnologies/Documents/WaTech_Reshima-eng.pdf To date WaTech™ has participated in some 20 joint projects from among the some 560 proposals they have evaluated. The supported ventures have benefited from access to a wide variety of Mekorot facilities including alpha and beta testing procedures and sites, professional experts, engineering support, business counseling and a wide network of international contacts. Some of the companies that have collaborated with WaTech™ include Atlantium, Aqwise, Bacsoft, Kinrot Ventures, Lesico Cleantech, Rotec, Solaris Synergy and many others.
The IEC, the national Israeli utility that generates, transmits and supplies electricity set up Karat (Hebrew acronym for “Accelerating Technological Ideas”) as an internal venture management unit within the company to support and invest in innovative initiatives in energy-related fields that promote “green” (clean) electric energy, lower energy costs, and higher energy efficiency, all in concert with the aim to reduce national and global dependency on carbon fuels. Early-stage ventures participating in the KARAT program receive access not only to funds (up to NIS 2m) and to fund-raising efforts, but also to the electrical grid that is so critical for testing and validating technologies, as well as to IEC’s scientists and engineers, strategic partners and other services that significantly facilitate the ventures’ business success.
Karat promotes energy-related initiatives, in particular in the areas of renewable energy (materials, devices, systems, control, etc.); environmental protection (reduction of greenhouse gases, electromagnetic fields and other emissions, recycling, waste treatment, etc.); use of electricity generation process by-products; improved energy efficiency, storage and smart-grid systems. Karat has clearly defined criteria and procedures for acceptance that seek out the most unique yet commercially viable technologies; it now plans to expand support for its portfolio companies by setting up a Global Partnership Program. Hundreds of ventures have been screened; the list of innovative companies approved and operating within KARAT includes promising startups such as InnoSave, Metrycom, Burning Solar Ltd., Even-Or Technologies, PVnanoCell and Powercom.
The thresholds are high and the application processes are not simple, but they can make the difference. Ventures that go the route of applying to Karat and WaTech™ will already benefit from the evaluation process itself. Needless to say, those ventures selected as participants will get a big basket of goodies, including funding, publicity, technical and business support and access to strategic local as well as global players that can be the deciding factor to bring rapid business success.