Greening Jerusalem’s research with a million dollar fund

Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s technology transfer company Yissum has earmarked $1m. towards green technologies being developed at the university. Private investors may be psychologically frozen, and people with money in the bank afraid to put their dollars into new ideas, …

Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s technology transfer company Yissum has earmarked $1m. towards green technologies being developed at the university.

Private investors may be psychologically frozen, and people with money in the bank afraid to put their dollars into new ideas, but Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s technology transfer company Yissum has just earmarked $1 million dollars towards “green” technologies of the future. The money, it says, will be spent on the university’s academic research towards new clean technology solutions.

Yissum plans that the recently launched fund will bridge the gap between the university’s research in these fields and the product-based industry, so that “green” technologies can benefit all.

Yehuda Bronicki, chairman and CTO of the geothermal alternative energy company Ormat, gave a keynote address at the opening event. Bronicki was instrumental in choosing which of the five Hebrew University research projects will benefit from the money.

Addressing water, energy, and the environment

Yissum’s business partners currently include an impressive number of major pharma and high-tech companies such as Novartis, Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, and Intel; it is the most profitable university tech transfer company in Israel, with much thanks going to Nava Swersky Sofer, the president and CEO of Yissum. She left the big business world of pharmaceuticals to take on the job of running Yissum from an office in Jerusalem.

The new cleantech investment fund comes in the wake of a windfall of a successful exit by a Yissum company in the last year, Sofer tells ISRAEL21c. The new fund will address the growing need for alternative energy solutions, novel technologies to combat water shortage and cleaner technologies to protect the environment, she says.

“We felt that this was an area of great importance, not commercially, but I must say socially,” Sofer tells ISRAEL21c. As Israel’s leading research university “we should give a commercial push,” she explains.

Experts handpick green technologies

With the help of Ormat’s Bronicki, Yissum selected its research ideas. Sofer explains that Bronicki believes that the poor current market situation is an opportunity to go back to the drawing board — to focus on basic research — so that when the world comes out the other end of it, the university will have some attractive projects ready.

Initially, five novel technologies were chosen. Two of them were presented at the launch: Prof. Uri Banin, who applies nanotechnology and chemistry to unlock the sun’s power for solar energy; and Prof. Yoel Sasson who is looking for ways to reduce the harmful mercury pollution from the off gassing of coal powered plants. This is both “practical and necessary,” says Sofer, who expects commercialization of the research projects being funded to begin anywhere from three to five years from now.

“You’ve got to start somewhere,” she concludes.

About Karin Kloosterman

Karin Kloosterman lives in Jaffa, Israel. She is a journalist, writer and blogger who focuses on the environment and clean technology from Israel and the Middle East. Published in hundreds of newspapers around the world, Karin also writes for the Huffington Post and Green Prophet.