The BIRD Foundation – Innovation and Partnering
According to a recent OECD innovation report*, a substantial part of productivity growth can be attributed to innovation. Access to the Internet by billions of people around the world enables knowledge diffusion and the creation of previously unimaginable markets for new products and services.
There is a global realization that innovation, specifically technological innovation, is the main engine for economic growth. This poses new challenges for the incumbents, those countries and societies who have invested in their technology and innovation for decades in order to attain their relative leadership positions. Such is the case for Israel, praised and even admired for its achievements in innovation and technology. Even the U.S., though still ranked at the very top in science and technology, is undergoing global competitive stress. American companies and sectors are feeling the pressure and are constantly looking for ways to stay ahead.
Governments around the world are looking for ways to energize their innovation eco-systems. Israel has made a very significant move by establishing the National Authority for Technology and Innovation, which will function as the executive arm of the Office of the Chief Scientist at the Israel Ministry of Economy. In the U.S., President Obama asked in his recent State of the Union speech: "How do we reignite that spirit of innovation to meet our biggest challenges?" His answers include: protection of an open internet, advanced manufacturing, curing cancer, fighting climate change and using advanced technology to ease the bureaucracy for entrepreneurs.
As stated in the OECD report, "global cooperation on research, i.e. joint funding and mechanisms to facilitate cross-border and cross-field cooperation – will become increasingly important." The BIRD Foundation is such a mechanism, serving both Israel and the U.S. for mutual benefit and widely recognized as a successful model, worthy of being studied and replicated.
An analysis of the BIRD Foundation’s results and developments for the year 2015, reveals stability in the number of projects approved (26 projects, including BIRD Energy), relative to the previous two years. As for industry sectors covered, we see a growing number of projects in Agrotechnology, Energy and Water. For the first time, BIRD approved a nano-satellite project. Healthcare IT (or Digital Health) is another sector of increasing importance, attracting growing interest by the private and public sectors in both the U.S. and Israel.
The BIRD Energy program, now in its eighth year, shows significant achievements despite the rather adverse market conditions for companies and investors in the clean energy space.
In December 2015, the BIRD Foundation launched a new program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Israel Ministry of Public Security (MOPS). The program "NextGen First Responder Technologies" focuses on advanced, innovative technologies for First Responders, including firefighters, law enforcement forces and emergency medical services. We are proud of our relationship with DHS and MOPS and look forward to a long-term and fruitful cooperation.
As the BIRD Foundation rapidly approaches its 40th anniversary (to be celebrated in 2017), I can assure you that we are, and will always be , attentive to an ever evolving technology landscape and to the needs of entrepreneurs and companies, faithful to the Foundation's culture of U.S.-Israel collaboration.
*OECD Innovation Strategy 2015 - An Agenda for Policy Action, June 2015
Eitan Yudilevich, Ph.D.