Northern Israel’s unofficial capital city, Haifa, already hosts many offices of multinational corporations. Now it could become the country’s next innovation epicenter, thanks to a $14.4 million infusion of dedicated funding.
The Israel Innovation Authority has awarded a four-year ₪25 million ($7.2 million) grant to the ILAB Group, consisting of communications giant Mellanox, venture capital fund JVP (Jerusalem Venture Partners), the non-profit Israel Initiative 2020 and business promotion group MATI Haifa. ILAB will match that amount for a total of $14.4 million.
“We will bring Haifa back to the forefront of the global high-tech scene and position the city as one of Israel’s innovation capitals,” stated JVP founder Erel Margalit, who also is behind Israel Initiative 2020, formed to bridge socio-economic gaps in Israel.
The ILAB initiative aims to support some 150 startups in digital health, energy, environment, smart mobility and what’s been dubbed “industry 4.0. ”Last year, JVP backed a new center for digital health innovation in downtown Haifa.
The ILAB plan includes creating new technology accelerators, shared workspaces and an innovation center in the downtown area, leveraging Haifa’s human capital from leading institutions such as the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and the Rambam Health Care Campus.
In related news, last August Tel Aviv-based VC Sarona Partners teamed with several partners to open the first Haifa branch of its SigmaLabs accelerator. Located at the downtown harbor, the accelerator supports early-stage startups in fintech, healthcare, retail and insure-tech.
“The biggest R&D concentration of major internationals in Israel is in Haifa, but there are not many startups because there hasn’t been venture capital here,” says Eytan Pardo Roques, head of Sarona Partners Operations Haifa & North. “This represented a big chance for us and we thought we could make it happen.”