Tel Aviv to house world's first construction tech hub

By
April 27, 2017 09:46

The partners aim to bring global corporations access to innovation that will “redefine the construction and real-estate sectors."

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SOSA

SOSA, also known as the Global Network of Tech Innovation, will be leading the effort to transform Israel into a ‘ConstrucTech Hub’ in partnership with the Economy Ministry, the Construction Ministry and the Israel Builders Association. . (photo credit:Courtesy)

With hopes of revitalizing an industry that has been slow to modernize, a team of government and business partners will launch the world’s first “Construction Innovation Zone” on Thursday morning.

Although construction enterprises have lagged behind in implementing technological solutions on a large scale, digital innovation has lately become an increasing priority for these companies as they reconfigure their direction, according to the Tel Aviv-based startup hub SOSA (South of Salame Street). SOSA, also known as the Global Network of Tech Innovation, will be leading the effort to transform Israel into a “ConstrucTech Hub” in partnership with the Economy Ministry, the Construction Ministry and the Israel Builders Association.

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“We are in a unique position to create the next ‘it’ technology field,” SOSA CEO Uzi Scheffer said in a statement ahead of Thursday’s launch. “Much like the efforts the Israeli government took to spark the auto-tech industry with grants and positive regulatory environment, our partnership will help to lay the groundwork for the fundamental disruption of the multitrillion-dollar global construction and real-estate development industry.”

Melding together SOSA’s global network of corporations and start-ups with the ability of government bodies to expedite the use of new technologies, the partners aim to bring global corporations access to innovation that will “redefine the construction and real-estate sectors,” he said.

“The entire construction industry, both here in Israel and globally, is in dire need of reform,” Economy Minister Eli Cohen said. “The innovative ecosystem, which has been created in Israel, has the potential to take on this pivotal revolutionizing role.”

While hi-tech and construction are huge industries both in Israel and around the globe, the two have thus far failed to become truly connected, Scheffer told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. The construction industry resembles many other traditional sectors, yet it confronts additional difficulties in the quest to modernize due to the fragmented nature of the building process, he said.

“It’s a traditional industry with methods that haven’t changed for the past 100 to 150 years,” Scheffer said. “It is facing problems and challenges such as a decrease in efficiency because of labor terms. Social conditions [for workers] are further increasing year after the year, but the methods stay the same.”

At SOSA, which brings together startups, innovators, corporate partners and government bodies under one roof, team members have begun identifying promising technologies from the construction sector and from other verticals (chains of supply and services) that could be pivoted into the building industry, Scheffer said.

“The key to success is really building the ecosystem,” he said. “That’s what we’ve been doing at SOSA since the day we opened. This activity will be based on the existing assets.”

The Construction Innovation Zone will have a physical home at SOSA, with a dedicated manager and team, including a structured yearly program with mentoring sessions for start-ups, Scheffer said. The goal is to attract all the relevant players to this “under-explored vertical,” he said, such as those people involved in planning, construction, regulation and inspection, as well as academics, entrepreneurs from other verticals and investors who have experience in supporting start-ups.

Two new Israeli companies in the sector that Scheffer already identified as exciting are Tel Aviv-based Dronomy, which uses autonomous drones for real-time construction inspections, and Beyon3D, based in Herzliya Pituah, which focuses on robotic building.

“Based on our experience in other traditional verticals, I expect to see a real change in awareness, which will also be translated into practical terms, meaning investments in new start-ups already in about six months,” he said.

The partners are investing NIS 1.6 million in the venture, with NIS 800,000 coming from the Israel Builders Association, NIS 400,000 from the Economy Ministry and NIS 400,000 from the Construction Ministry.

“We are championing the combination of new technologies to create new models of operation, improve methods of construction and accelerate production times,” Construction Minister Yoav Gallant said. “This initiative will lead to progress and innovation in the construction industry, and as more and more start-ups join, and as the program expands to new industries, many more breakthroughs will be created.”

Israel Builders Association vice president Chaim Feiglin stressed the importance of realizing “the potential that the global hi-tech community can offer to the ‘low-tech’ world of construction,” which until recently, has largely escaped the notice of entrepreneurs.

“This initiative will connect our industry with the hi-tech world and help actualize the monumental potential that Israel can bring to the world of construction technology,” he said.


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