Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad has launched a venture capital arm that will invest in cutting-edge Israeli technologies.
Called Libertad (which means “freedom” in Latin, but is also the name of a ship that carried Jewish refugees escaping the Nazis in 1940), the new fund will offer as much as $500,000 for research and development projects, and will support five startups a year for a total annual investment of $2.5 million.
The agency seeks to invest in innovative technologies in a variety of fields that have the potential to bolster its technological missions, including robotics, energy, encryption, web intelligence, personality profiling, and big data text analysis using machine learning.
In the field of robotics, Libertad is looking for technologies that include flexible robotics; biomimetics (concepts and principles from nature that are used to create new materials, devices and systems); miniaturized systems; and all-terrain capabilities.
In the field of energy, Israel’s spy agency is scouting for self-powered technologies that can increase performance and provide miniaturization techniques. And lastly, Mossad is looking for technologies that can automatically identify personality characteristics based on online behavior and activity.
An artificial contact lens that scans faces
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In a new video that looks like it comes straight out of a Hollywood spy movie, Mossad describes the futuristic technologies it’s looking for. In the ad, the protagonist inserts an artificial contact lens that enables her to scan the faces of passers-by and compare them to an online database for facial recognition. Once a bystander’s face matches the one of interest, she is able to send the information through the lens.
Libertad is not the first of its kind. A similar program, In-Q-Tel (IQT), exists in the US. Essentially the venture capital arm of the CIA, both IQT and Libertad reinforce the idea that technology is the basis for successes in intelligence.
Israeli and foreign startups are encouraged to apply for the $500,000 investment. In return, Mossad will receive a license to use the technology developed without imposing any restrictions on the intellectual property (IP), and without paying royalties, the agency stresses.
Unsurprisingly, Mossad will remain hush-hush about its investments. By committing to mutual commercial discretion, new startups can feel confident in the security of their product while also supporting the objectives of Mossad, which stated: “We are striving for a win-win situation, and feel we have built a model that will serve both us and the entrepreneurs.”
So, whether you have a contact lens that that can scan a face or maybe an all-terrain micro-robot that can shape-shift and drive itself, you may have found yourself a pretty cool new investor.