As the New Year approaches, we asked experts in every area of innovation we cover – technology, health, culture, environment, travel and social action – to look into their crystal balls and predict the three biggest trends in Israel for 2016.

From mega exits to digital healthcare, sustainable agriculture and shared economy companies, our experts gave us a great deal of exciting things to think about.

Follow ISRAEL21c’s coverage of innovation news in these areas over the coming year and see if their predictions were right.

TECHNOLOGY

Jonathan Medved, CEO of OurCrowd, venture capital-crowdfunding hybrid platform for investing in Israeli startups:

Trend 1: More investment in Israeli technology companies, especially Asian and private-equity investments

Medved predicts “mega exits” for Israeli high-tech in 2016 as Israel’s exciting “romance with Asia” heats up even further and as more private equity drives Israeli tech forward. Serial entrepreneurs are coming back for more startup success – always a positive sign, says Medved. “2016 will be the year that when you thought it couldn’t get better it got a lot better.”

Trend 2: Israeli strengths will match the world’s technology demands

“Things that we do well in Israel are going to be more important for the world in 2016 — even more than they were in 2015 — like drones, robotics, optics and machine vision, big data and analytics, and cybersecurity,” Medved says, noting that Israel excels at building very hardcore technology. “We’re going to take a more important role in the world. The demands of the tech market are coming to our home-court advantage.”

Trend 3: More crowdfunding platforms and related regulations will let the public get involved in investing

“Until now, [Israel’s] great technologies and investments were pretty much off limits for your average reader or investor in the world,” says Medved. “People now have the option of not just reading about it and saying ‘Oh that’s cool, I like that,’ but, ‘I want to invest in it.’ Until now these kind of private investments were impossible.”

Industry reports indicate that crowdfunding will account for more investment in 2016 than will venture capital. New crowdfunding rules mean startups can solicit capital from any interested investor.

Israeli cybersecurity technologies are going to become ever more vital for the world. Graphic courtesy of BVP Israel
Israeli cybersecurity technologies are going to become ever more vital for the world. Graphic courtesy of BVP Israel

HEALTH

Dr. Shai Melcer, executive director of BioJerusalem:

Trend 1: Israel will provide digital-health salvation

Melcer says that in 2015, the “world talked about what is needed in the digital-health sector and 2016 is going to be a year characterized with much more actual activity” in mHealth, health IT, telemedicine, wearables, eHealth and other areas of the digital healthcare revolution. Israeli companies will provide “a large portion of this solution. The US is looking to Israel for salvation in digital health. There’s no doubt that we have what it takes to mark the main targets.”

Trend 2: Partnerships will advance personalized medicine

“It’s going to be a year where big pharma and healthcare systems will be combining different types of solutions to give better healthcare,” says Melcer. New or improved drugs will be combined with new or improved diagnostics to personalize medicine. More pharma companies will sign contracts with Israeli diagnostic startups to provide personalized healthcare kits to make therapy cheaper, easier on the patient and more successful.

Trend 3: Medical devices and biotechnology for cancer, brain conditions, diabetes, cardio, vision and asthma

Melcer says Israeli med-tech and biotech will focus on cancer and brain solutions in 2016, as well as diabetes, cardio, vision and asthma. Expect to see improved drugs and drug-delivery platforms, cancer immunotherapy, vaporizers to help drugs to pass the blood-brain barrier, virtual reality and robotics to aid surgeons, and advanced stents and implants.

 Israeli med-tech and biotech technologies will keep the world healthier in 2016. Photo illustration by Shutterstock.com
Israeli med-tech and biotech technologies will keep the world healthier in 2016. Photo illustration by Shutterstock.com

 ENVIRONMENT

Jack Levy, Israel Cleantech Ventures founding partner:  

Trend 1: More investment in “sharing economy” companies to reduce the environmental footprint of various industries

As an example, Levy points to Via, an Israeli ride-sharing app launched in 2012 and so far available in parts of Chicago and New York City. Book a ride and in under a second the algorithms match you with a vehicle going your way, driven by a licensed taxi driver. Rides are $5 plus tax prepaid or $7 plus tax per ride. Last April, Via raised $27 million in a financing round led by Pitango.

Trend 2: More investment in sustainable agriculture, including bio-ag and precision-ag technologies

Levy’s examples include Groundwork BioAg, which is developing and commercializing natural mycorrhizal fungi to help crops better absorb nutrients; CropX hardware and software systems that help farmers improve yield by understanding the status of their soil in real time; and Rootility, whose root-focused, GMO-free breeding methods dramatically increase crop yields and overall agronomic performance.

Trend 3: Continued growth of established water-treatment companies

Advanced, energy-efficient water and wastewater treatment technologies for municipal and industrial plants from Israeli companies such as AqWise and Emefcy are becoming ever more in demand as places such as California look to Israel for solutions for smart water management.

 Isaac Bentwich of CropX. Photo: courtesy
Isaac Bentwich of CropX. Photo: courtesy

TRAVEL

Pini Shani, head of the Overseas Desk in the Tourism Ministry’s marketing department:

Trend 1: More individual travelers — FITs (fully independent travelers) — rather than organized groups

“We see this trend in the world, not only in Israel,” says Shani. “The Internet and various Open Skies agreements between countries created this possibility by allowing people to travel for more reasonable prices. All of this makes Israel more accessible to FITs and we believe the trend will grow.”

Trend 2: More tourists from the Far East

“We anticipate a growing number, especially from China and India. This will create an interesting dimension because Far East tourists will require the Israeli industry to adapt local habits a little to make them feel comfortable,” says Shani. For instance, Israel will need more guides who speak Mandarin, easier visa processes and more Asian foods on the breakfast menu at hotels.

Trend 3: Tourists considering Israel as a safer destination

“We are entering an era of terror threats becoming more common around the world,” says Shani, “and we think that this will bring the public to look at Israel in a different way.” Israel is, after all, well-known for its excellent airport security and savvy security measures everywhere tourists travel. “The game has changed,” says Shani. “Two years ago, if I said Paris was not safe you would have laughed at me.”

The Israel Tourism Ministry is expecting more tourists from the Far East. Photo by Miriam Alster/FLASH90
The Israel Tourism Ministry is expecting more tourists from the Far East. Photo by Miriam Alster/FLASH90

CULTURE

Ayelet Dekel, founder/blogger, Midnight East:

Trend 1: Then and now: Revivals of previous hits

Dekel predicts that the “incredible revivals and reunions, covers and tributes” in the culture arena throughout 2015 will grow in 2016 as Israel’s culture scene has matured over the past 67 years. In music, examples are ’90s punk-metal Israeli band Infectzia, ’80s psychedelic pop band Rockfour, and the Meir Ariel tribute band Dlatot Niftachot Me’atzman. In dance, prominent examples include Inbal Pinto & Avshalom Pollak Dance Company’s revival of their 1997 Wrapped; and Ohad Naharin’s much anticipated re-envisioning of Yag from 1996.

Trend 2: Breaking boundaries and doing your own thing

The global cultural trend of breaking down boundaries between genres is prominent in Israel, too. Dekel gives examples of musicians Shai Tsabari, Liron Amram and The Panthers, A-WA, Shefita and Gitla.

“Gitla is a good example of this individual path. She has this hauntingly beautiful clear voice and these stirring ballads … coming from deep within her inner landscape. Shefita, is another example. She has this freedom to take from Nirvana and do an Arabic-infused cover.” Dekel predicts choreographer Danielle Agami and Israel’s “vital, fringe theater community” will break additional genre boundaries in 2016.

Trend 3: Proliferation of smaller arts venues

Big-city theater halls, music auditoriums and dance spaces are packed, but because “there’s such a surge of creativity here,” Dekel says, we’ll see a growing proliferation of smaller performances and venues. “Israelis are early adopters of the arts and are very eager for new things. Wherever you are, there’s a place to access culture,” Dekel says, noting that sometimes “you could see something first” at a smaller venue.

Gitla transcends boundaries with her “hauntingly beautiful clear voice and stirring ballads.” Photo by Tal Bruchiel
Gitla transcends boundaries with her “hauntingly beautiful clear voice and stirring ballads.” Photo by Tal Bruchiel

SOCIAL ACTION

Allan (Chanoch) Barkat, founder and chairman of Dualis Social Investment Fund, which runs 11 social businesses in Israel including the popular Liliyot restaurant in Tel Aviv:

Trend 1: Israeli philanthropy is growing and turning much more professional

“A lot more Israelis from the high-tech sector are now giving back to society and that has a lot of influence on how nonprofit organizations are managed,” says Barkat. “Jewish federations outside Israel are much more interested in results-driven philanthropy and that is a trend continuing to get stronger as the younger generation evolves.”

Trend 2: Government investment in social businesses

In 2015, Dualis and the Israel Venture Network were awarded the Israeli government’s first-ever tender to operate and co-fund a social-business investment fund, the Yozma Fund. This is considered a significant milestone in the evolution of Israel’s social-business sector.

“I believe 2016 will be a turning point in the next step of growth in social investing and social businesses,” says Barkat. “It’s gone from being a fad to being a trend. More and more nonprofits and municipalities are looking at that model as a source of income. I believe there is an opportunity for philanthropic groups outside Israel to join that trend as part of their activities because the return on investment socially is significantly higher than just giving money.”

Trend 3: Outsourcing of social services

Barkat believes 2016 will see a growing number of organizations gearing up in terms of size, service and professionalism to take over social services from overburdened and under-funded government agencies.

At the opening of Dualis Social Investment Fund’s Klafte clothing store for the benefit of young women at risk, in downtown Jerusalem, from left: Itzik Sabato of the National Insurance Institute, Klafte manager Smadar Portnoy, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, Dualis board member Zvi Ziv and Dualis chairman Allan Barkat.
At the opening of Dualis Social Investment Fund’s Klafte clothing store for the benefit of young women at risk, in downtown Jerusalem, from left: Itzik Sabato of the National Insurance Institute, Klafte manager Smadar Portnoy, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, Dualis board member Zvi Ziv and Dualis chairman Allan Barkat.