Here's how Israel is changing the way we travel
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Here’s how Israel is changing the way we travel

Here’s how Israel is changing the way we travel

Nicknamed as ‘the startup nation’, Israel stands out as one of the world’s most innovative countries. But how did it become a technological behemoth and a hub for IT corporations?

“Israel’s innovation and ingenuity contribute greatly to the world. If we channel our efforts, our energies and invest in tackling real-life problems, we in Israel can make a huge difference,” the country’s Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, said at the Smart Mobility summit, which was held at Tel Aviv on November 8-9.

True to his words, Israel is making a significant impact and transforming into a global technological and entrepreneurial powerhouse. According to Reuters, the country’s GDP is anticipated to increase 7.1 per cent in 2021 and 4.7 per cent in 2022.

Revolutionising mobility

Although Israel does not have a car manufacturing industry, it is quickly becoming a source of future mobility tech and events like the Smart Mobility Summit are fuelling this progress.

The summit, a global event focusing on the automotive and transportation sectors, drew 5,000 attendees including automakers and government leaders. The speakers dicussed aspects such as vehicle electrification, artificial intelligence and big data and their influence on transportation, the transition to Mobility as a Service (MAAS), and more.

“Spearheaded by the Prime Minister’s Office and launched in 2011 as a joint government effort of 13 government ministries and authorities, the Smart Mobility initiative aims to establish Israel as one of the world’s leaders of know-how and industry in the field of smart mobility,” says Daniella Gera Margaliot, deputy managing director, The Smart Mobility Initiative.

Several announcements were made at the conference, including Israel and Hungary’s first scientific-technological partnership and Mobileye’s president, Amnon Shashua, stating that his company will debut a robotaxi (autonomous taxi) in 2022 and expand its operations in this sector by 2024.

Working together towards success

Nicknamed as ‘the startup nation’, Israel stands out as one of the world’s most innovative and technologically advanced countries. “Israel’s most valuable source of energy is the energy of our people. This is what fuels our innovation and ingenuity. And this is where our greatest contribution to the world can be made,” adds Bennett.

“Talented Israelis across the country are developing groundbreaking technologies that are providing solutions to the world’s most urgent mobility challenges. Just in the last five years, the number of smart mobility startups has increased ten-fold in Israel, from 60 companies to 600. Billions of dollars in investment capital have poured in here, and there have been quite a few blockbuster exits and acquisitions.”

The summit welcomed dozens of Israeli startups who exhibited their innovations in the field of smart transportation.

Gil Laser, CEO, GoTo Global

GoTo Global presented its multi-mobility solution to the audience, with the goal of improving environmental quality, making cities greener, and reducing traffic congestion. The company demonstrated its app, which allows users to access a myriad of modes of transportation, including kick scooters, mopeds, and cars, based on their needs.“The company is a one-stop-shop for a wide variety of vehicles, providing consumers with mobility confidence – the confidence that they can get to their destination using just one app and a choice of hourly-rented vehicles. We are the solution to reducing our reliance on private automobiles and addressing urban transportation issues,” says Gil Laser, CEO, GoTo Global.

Meanwhile, ElectReon showcased its shared energy platform that provides electric charging for vehicles on-the-go. “We understand that the world is going electric. We have 1.4 billion vehicles on the planet. And if we need to sustain it, we will need 1.4 billion batteries, which I doubt the world can handle. As a result, the planet’s resources are insufficient to support this change. So, we need to provide energy to those vehicles during the daytime and not just overnight and think about how we can reduce the size of the battery. This is what wireless charging does. As wireless charging can be deployed everywhere, we can provide energy to the vehicle anytime,” comments Oren Ezer, co-founder and CEO, ElectReon.

Ezer believes that Israel will continue to see the mushrooming of innovative startups in the coming years. “Israel has a nice ecosystem that supports startups. We have venture capital firms, government support and a huge market. So, if you combine all of them, this is the right place to be.”

ElectReon expanded its partnership with the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality and the Dan Bus Company earlier this year, with plans to undertake a large-scale commercial deployment of its wireless charging infrastructure to electric buses in Tel Aviv.

The $9.4m deal includes a five-year agreement to provide 200 public buses operated by Dan with active charging at city terminals between bus trips while passengers board and disembark. In the first stage, ElectReon will integrate its charging systems into 100 buses at the Reading public transport terminal in north Tel Aviv, after which the charging infrastructure will be expanded to other major terminals in the city and the southern region of Israel for a total of 200 buses.

Yaniv Fainshnaider, global CMO, Watergen and Netanel Benishai, mobility product manager, Watergen

Another interesting showcase at the event was Watergen’s Mobile Box device which generates “pure” drinking water “out of the air”. The Mobile Box can produce up to 25 litres of fresh drinking water every day, eliminating the need to transport bottled water and decreasing plastic waste.

“Our technology extracts water from the air, goes through multiple filters to clear dust particles, odour and taste and then adds minerals to it. The water also passes through a UV light to kill the bacteria, which produces fresh quality drinking water,” says Yaniv Fainshnaider, global CMO, Watergen.

“The unit needs a 12V power supply and access to fresh air to produce the drinking water. The Mobile Box unit is mounted externally on various types of vehicles, including trucks, trailers, buses, RVs, motorhomes and all modes of luxury land and sea transport. At only 30kg, the unit’s impact on fuel consumption is minimal. All the system requires for optimal water production is access to fresh air, a temperature between 59–113°F and 20-99 per cent humidity. The device is equipped with replaceable filters and a mineralisation system to ensure a constant and reliable supply of water,” explains Netanel Benishai, mobility product manager, Watergen.

Watergen aims to address the issue of water scarcity and hopes to be able to help more people in the future.

 

Secret to success

Ran Natanzon, head of Innovation and Brand Management, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Israel’s strong economy and innovative approach, backed by strong government support are just a few factors that make its ecosystem one of the most successful in the world. The nation’s tech sector broke capital-funding records, with firms raising a total of $17.78bn in 575 deals since the start of 2021, almost double the capacity raised in all of 2020.
“Israel invests about 4.3 per cent of its GDP in R&D, which is one of the highest in the world,” says Ran Natanzon, head of Innovation and Brand Management, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Natanzon further discloses the Israeli high-tech sector’s top four achievements – global recognition as a leading innovative technology centre; Israel’s position as being second only to Silicon Valley in innovation; the economy’s growth engine; and human capital emerging as the principal Israel resource. He also states that 10 per cent of Israeli employees work in high-tech, and they pay 25 per cent of all income tax. Moreover, 15 per cent of the country’s GDP is generated by high-tech companies.

Sagi Dagan, executive VP, head of Growth, Finance and Strategy, Israel Innovation Authority

Further supporting the high-tech sector, the Israel Innovation Authority helps fund R&D projects for its diverse range of clients such as first time entrepreneurs, startups, growth companies, industrial corporations, and others in all fields of technological innovation. The authority offers them varied, designated and personalised funding programmes, some of which include additional services. For instance, young startups at a very early stage can participate in technology incubators that offer both funding for R&D and a comprehensive support framework. The authority also provides numerous funding options for collaboration in R&D with researchers in academia, global partners’ testing sites for conducting pilots and more. Most of the R&D programmes are technologically neutral, and the grant is based on technological innovation and its commercial feasibility.

“Approximately 70 per cent of projects fail, indicating that either the technology is not achieving the capabilities required to enter the market or, in most cases, technology is succeeding, and the majority of failures are introducing the development into the market,” says Sagi Dagan, executive VP, head of Growth, Finance and Strategy, Israel Innovation Authority. “Currently, we are working with the government to create a larger project which might fail, but if it succeeds, we can change the way the economy works.”

Meital Lehavi, deputy mayor, Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality

Meanwhile, in support of the new emerging companies, Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality offers its city lab to startups to create a technology. “If a company provides us with a technology that fits our vision and needs, we provide them with a space to develop it while simultaneously offering them the opportunity to test it in real-time,” says Meital Lehavi, deputy mayor, Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality.

Also, investment platforms such as OurCrowd are empowering institutions and individuals to invest and engage in emerging companies. The company assesses and picks businesses, invests in them, and allows its global network to co-invest and offer connections, talent and deal-flow.

“Our team of investment professionals see 150-200 new opportunities every month, meet 20-30 management teams, conduct in-depth due diligence, then select, on average, two or three companies to invest in,” says Yakir Machluf, VP business development, OurCrowd.

Yakir Machluf, VP business development, OurCrowd

“We have invested in about 40-45 companies from the Israeli ecosystem and are currently investing in new modes of transportation, micro-mobility electrification, charging stations and more,” he adds.

Machluf believes that public transport will be driven by artificial intelligence in the next few years, and cities will see a massive increase in micro-mobility usage and bike lanes compared to personal transportation.

Powering ahead

Karin Chen, head of Sectors – Automotive and Industry 4.0, Israel Export Institute

Karin Chen, head of Sectors – Automotive and Industry 4.0, Israel Export Institute says that although the country doesn’t have a car manufacturing industry, Israel has all the technologies to help vehicles become more efficient, save more energy and move towards the autonomous sector. “We see traction worldwide, including from Europe, Southeast Asia and the US,” she says.

Chen believes that having Israeli technology installed in a car and the user not knowing is key to the success of the Israeli ecosystem. “You may have an Israeli technology embedded in the car radio, and the user would not even know,” she adds.

Call it the ridesharing era, the age of on-demand transportation, the autonomous vehicle revolution, or the connected car revolution. Terminologies aside, the way individuals travel from one place to another is fundamentally changing.

The world is on the verge of a mobility revolution, and Israeli technology is hoping to play a key role in supporting this transition.

 

Read: Israel’s Smart Mobility Summit explores the future of smart transportation

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