Mass., Israel cooperate to build water innovation
An Israeli firm specializing in rapid microbiological water testing is set to showcase its system in the New England hi-tech hub.
TACount company. Photo: Daniel Selligson
As Massachusetts eagerly seeks Israeli partners in water innovation, a
Herzliya-based firm specializing in rapid microbiological water testing will get
the chance to showcase its systems in the New England hi-tech hub.
CEO Charles Gast, the TACount company was the winner among six finalists in the
W.E.T. (Water Export Technology) Revolution Competition on Tuesday in Tel Aviv,
organized by the Massachusetts Water Innovation Mission to Israel – a trade
delegation of 48 industry executives.
The competition was a business
opportunity for Israeli water technology firms to find a gateway to the North
American market, as well as a networking event for innovators and investors on
Massachusetts’s interest in Israel really began in 2010, when
a state survey showed that in 2009 nearly 100 Israeli companies were located in
the state, contributing 6,000 jobs directly and 21,000 jobs indirectly, as well
as generating $2.4 billion per year, explained Hadas Bar-Or, trade
representative to Israel for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
the survey, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick made a trip to Israel in 2011, and
at the end of the year appointed Bar-Or to be the trade representative
“This is the only trade office Massachusetts has outside of
Massachusetts,” Bar-Or said.
“It goes to show how highly important the
relationship is with Israel.”
For Jim Matheson, a partner at Flagship
Ventures and president and CEO of Oasys Water in Massachusetts, Israeli and
Massachusetts entrepreneurs are ideal cleantech partners. In addition to having
many Israelis studying and working in the state, particularly in the Boston
area, Matheson said that there is a “like-mindedness between New Englanders and
Israelis,” a straightforward way of thinking.
“When the governor came
here in March 2011 he got exposed to the world class water cluster based in
Israel,” Matheson said. “He came back to Massachusetts and started to inquire
what water resources are available there.”
For the past 18 months,
representatives from the state’s water industry have been working on developing
a similar type of cluster of resources.
“As a natural outcropping
activity in formalizing activity and strengthening relationship it was a natural
activity for us to come to Israel,” Matheson added.
McDevitt, executive director and CEO of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center
(MassCEC), agreed that Israel is a “natural partner” for the US
“We have similar sized economies, have similar strengths, and that
really is a focus on innovation and entrepreneurship, with life science,
hi-tech, Internet, cleantech, water technology,” Barton McDevitt said. “We have
natural linkages between our strengths each focusing on advanced research and
MassCEC runs a joint program to fund Massachusetts and
Israeli cleantech projects with Israel Industry, Labor and Trade Ministry chief
scientist Avi Hasson and MATIMOP, the executive agency of Hasson’s office that
generates international cooperation on and implementation of research and
The program, called Massachusetts- Israel
Innovation Partnership (MIIP), recently announced the winners of its first round
of funding, and will soon open a second round with $250,000 of funding from both
As one of the largest challenges in the world is water scarcity,
Barton McDevitt said she hoped that the two places could help pinpoint
world-saving technologies together.
Meanwhile, Massachusetts is perfectly
situated on the East Coast to be a “comfortable gateway to the US” for Israeli
entrepreneurs, she added.
John Harthorne, co-founder and CEO of
MassChallenge, the largest start-up accelerator in the world, was excited to be
part of the mission in order to meet with potential Israeli candidates for
participation in the accelerator. With an “overall mission to catalyze the
startup renaissance,” MassChallenge takes 120 start-ups under its wing every
“There’s a very welcoming community for Israeli innovators in the
Boston area,” Harthorne said. “We are eager to support more Israelis and
strengthen that existing bond.”
To that effect, the accelerator will
likely be launching an initiative called MassChallenge Israel toward the end of
January, the first accelerator program designed for start-ups from a specific
country, he explained.
Not only do Israelis tend to be well-educated and
focused, but “because Israel is small all Israeli innovators are looking
globally from day one,” Harthorne said.
From the Israeli side, a firm
called Desalitech, which focuses on reverse osmosis processes for effluent
treatment, used the event as an opportunity to announce that it would be
launching its commercial and operational headquarters in
“The State of Israel was welcomed so warmly there,”
Desalitech CEO Nadav Efraty said.
As far as the competition goes, Gast –
the CEO of TACount – stressed that “Massachusetts is a great hub for biotech,”
and that he hopes to form strategic alliances there. As part of his win, he will
get a week-long networking trip to the state to meet with potential investors and
customers, and 20 hours worth of pro bono legal advice from Massachusetts and
Israeli law firms.
“All of the types of companies we would be looking for
have a presence there,” Gast said. “It’s a great opportunity to evaluate
possibilities for R&D, sales and strategic alliances.”