Israel’s Mellanox Technologies and Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP) are part of a group that won a tender this week by the Israeli Innovation Authority to develop Haifa’s technology and innovation ecosystem with an investment of NIS 50 million ($14 million) over the next four years.
Mellanox and JVP are joined by Mati Haifa, an innovation center that nurtures Haifa-based startups in development, and the Israel Initiative 2020, an NGO led by JVP founder Dr. Erel Margalit that works to bridge socio-economic gaps in Israel, to form the ILAB group.
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ILAB will receive a NIS 25 million ($7.22 million) grant from the Israel Innovation Authority and will match that amount to promote and integrate extensive entrepreneurial activity in the city.
The goal is to turn Haifa into a major innovation center in the areas of digital health, energy environment, advanced industry 4.0, and smart transport, the group said in a statement. ILAB has had a similar goal over the past three decades — to transform the downtown area of Haifa into a vibrant entrepreneurial, social, and cultural district while creating an affinity for Haifa’s ecosystem, leveraging the city’s human capital, hospital, research institutions, and companies, and encouraging entrepreneurship and prosperity of the city’s diverse population.
ILAB plans to support 150 startups by establishing dedicated workspaces and launching unique acceleration programs across the city. The group will also set up an innovation and entrepreneurship center in the downtown area for startups.
“Haifa is not only the capital of the north but also the first city from which Israeli high-tech emerged,” Dr. Margalit said in a statement. “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.
“The connection between investors and companies JVP, Mellanox, Mati Haifa, and academic institutions such as the Technion and the University of Haifa, will not only bring investment and startups to Haifa, but also breathe life into downtown Haifa and make it a place that young people not only want to work in but stay and create the next big thing. We are proud to be the first venture capital fund to launch investment activities in Haifa.”
“Mellanox Technologies started 20 years ago as a startup company and still maintains that spirit. We appreciate the vision, courage and entrepreneurial spirit that underpins technology ventures in their early stages,” said Eyal Waldman, CEO and founder of Mellanox, which is set to be acquired by Nvidia for close to $7 billion in a deal announced earlier this year.
“We believe that through ILAB, Mellanox will help realize Haifa and northern Israel’s technological potential by contributing from its experience as a startup and through its extensive global network,” Waldman said.
“The combination of the Innovation Authority’s budgets along with the capital coming from leading businesses and efficient resource management is what is needed for local startups in Haifa to prevent negative immigration of young people and spur unprecedented technological entrepreneurship,” said Eran Alfonte, CEO of Mati Haifa.
Entrepreneurs and startups involved in the initiative will be able to tap into
JVP’s and Mellanox’s international business relationships as well as benefit from their investment abilities, tech platforms, and experience with regional branding and development.
Last year, JVP inaugurated a new, international digital health center in Haifa’s downtown area.
JVP has also been pursuing food tech innovation in northern Israel, opening a food tech accelerator in Kiryat Shmona in the Galilee last year.
The food tech center is also part of Margalit’s Israel Initiative 2020 economic development plan to create tech hubs in seven regions in Israel that are remote to Tel Aviv, in hopes of bringing more families and young professionals to live in those areas and upping the standard of living.