The Jewish National Fund (JNF) Canada, in collaboration with Israeli NGO Start-Up Nation Central (SNC) and Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) and with the support of the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, have officially launched a call for applications for the “Climate Solutions Prize,” a competition divided into two tracks to encourage the development of made-in-Israel technologies to combat climate change.
This is the largest Israel-focused incentive prize in Israeli history, the organizations said.
Prizes worth over $2 million will be awarded to Israeli researchers and startups offering innovative solutions in the climate space. Winners in a number of categories will be announced at a special climate innovation event to be held in October.
In an event launching the call for applications at Peres Center on Tuesday, Amit Harel, a partner and co-leader of Deloitte Catalyst and one of the panelists speaking about the Israeli Climate Tech Ecosystem called the day “historic” and said Tuesday, March 1 “would always be remembered as a day that climate was really launched in Israel.”
“If we really wanna move the needle on climate change, we in Israel can contribute our most valuable resource – the energy and brainpower of our people. That’s where we can make a difference,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said as he virtually addressed the event’s crowd of government representatives, investors, CEOs, and academics in a recorded video message, “If the world wants to reach its goals it needs new technologies that have not yet even been invented. And we in Israel need to innovate, invent and execute,”
“It’s my hope that this prize will further enable Israeli technology to fight climate change and beat this war, win this war,” he added.
The event to open the call for applications was held at the Peres Center and featured discussions, panels, fireside chats, and later invite-only roundtable discussions with Israel’s leading climate and tech experts including Avi Hasson, CEO of Start-Up Nation Central, Uriel Klar, head of PLANETech, Ari Siegmann, director of business development at the Israel Innovation Authority (IIA), and Chemi Peres, son of the late Shimon Peres, partner and co-founder of venture capital firm Pitango, and chairman of the Peres Center. Israeli president Isaac Herzog also addressed the crowd in a video address.
“We are joining forces with partners from the philanthropic and business realms to harness Israel’s agile and creative tech ecosystem to come up with solutions to the biggest shared challenge of our times,” said Hasson.
“Climate should be the next cyber for Israel,” Harel said. He was comparing the potential of Israel’s relatively new climate tech sector to the cybersecurity sector, a field where the country is known as a world leader.
The initiative operates two tracks. One is the Breakthrough Research Prize offering a $1 million grant for Israeli scientists and researchers. The prize will be granted to a maximum of four researchers in recognition of their work on promising solutions to the climate crisis. Proposals will be evaluated by a world-class judging panel and the recipient will be announced during a live competition in Israel which will be broadcast, worldwide. Applications must be submitted by June 1st.
The other is the Startup Track, which runs a series of challenges that offer a startup a $1 million equity investment from climate tech and sustainability-focused investment company Capital Nature; a $40,000 cash prize from Israeli-American international manufacturing company Kornit Digital to promote sustainability in the textile industry; a $40,000 cash prize from Israeli smart energy solutions firm Solar Edge for an energy tech solution for energy management, renewable energy, and more; a $40,000 cash prize from German multinational science and tech giant Merck for a solution dealing with greener materials, packaging, and supply chains for biotech and semiconductors; a $40,000 cash prize from Singapore’s Temasek Foundation to promote sustainability in urban environments in Southeast Asia; and two $20,000 cash prizes for two different winners from ESIL (Environmental Sustainability Innovation Lab) for early-stage rising stars and mature startups pivoting towards climate tech. Applications must be submitted by May 25th.
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The competition is another push to position the country as a global hub for climate tech innovation.
“We are seeing the dramatic impact of climate change all over the world and it is clear that this important issue has become urgent. But in a world of interests and fears, in a world tearing with distrust, a global crisis can become a catalyst for partnerships because latent in every crisis is an opportunity,” said President Herzog in his video address, “This is why the Climate Solutions Prize initiative is precisely what we need today. This prize excites the famous Israeli creativity and curiosity that turned us into a startup nation and compels us to live up to this reputation. This is Israel’s opportunity to be a global leader in meeting the challenge of climate change.”
Israeli PM Bennett stressed the importance of innovation in the battle against climate change. “It’s my hope that this prize will further enable Israeli technology to fight climate change and win this war. Israeli scientists have transformed Israel into a world leader in this field, but we’ve got so much more to offer. Together we can join forces so our children can breathe cleaner air, drink cleaner water, and live in a world that will treat the planet better than we did,” he said.
Climate innovation nation
In late October, Israeli PM Bennett told world leaders at the UN’s COP26 climate summit in Glasgow that Israel can “lead the way” and “become a climate innovation nation.” Just two weeks prior, PLANETech, the Israeli nonprofit community focused on climate technologies established earlier this year as a joint venture of Israel Innovation Institute and Consensus Business Group, released an extensive report on the climate tech sector. The report showed that while there were still challenges ahead and room for improvement, there had been an appreciable spike in the number of new startups dealing with climate issues in Israel.
Climate tech firms in Israel, as defined by PLANETech, IIA, and SNC, are companies that are making an effort to tackle climate issues through their companies, without necessarily having products that focus solely on climate change. According to SNC, Israel is currently home to more than 700 technology companies that are already developing solutions for addressing climate challenges, including sustainable food systems, circular economy, clean energy, efficiency and storage, sustainable mobility, sustainable manufacturing, nature protection, and many more. During the prize launch, a new landscape map detailing the leading companies with solutions to address the climate crisis was released.
PLANETech has said that climate tech has become the fastest growing and most promising field in the high-tech industry in Israel, but only recently has it become clear that Israel was joining the global trend.
Israel has been poised to become one of the major players in the climate innovation and tech sector. In 2021, climate tech companies in Israel raised more than $2.2 billion in investments, according to PLANETech, the Israeli nonprofit community focused on climate technologies established earlier this year as a joint venture of Israel Innovation Institute, led by Dr. Jonathan Menuhin, and Consensus Business Group.
“By the end of 2021, the annual investments in Israeli climate tech companies reached $2.2 billion, exceeding last year’s fundraising record of $1.4 billion by 57 percent,” said PLANETech director Klar when the data was released near the end of December.
Israeli researchers and companies with Israeli solutions to deal with renewable energies, carbon absorption, recycling, waste reduction and other climate issues can submit applications for the Climate Solutions Prize here.