Ramot CEO Shlomo Nimrodi 370.
(photo credit: Courtesy Ramot)
India’s largest conglomerate, Tata Industries, announced its first major
investment in Israel Monday in a fund run by Tel Aviv University’s (TAU)
technology transfer company Ramot.
Tata has committed $5 million of the
$20m. planned for Ramot’s Technology Innovation Momentum fund, which will invest
in commercializable university research. TAU says its the first such investment
“I’m not aware of any other academic institution that has
received an investment from a conglomerate – not a donation, but an investment,”
says Giora Yaron, chairman of Ramot’s board. “Their experts will be working with
our scientists to guide the science to develop innovative products.”
investment serves a dual purpose for Tata. On the one hand, it will give the
company the option to commercialize breakthroughs developed through the fund at
TAU, turning the university into a sort of R&D project incubator for the
But perhaps more importantly, Tata is looking to the university
as a microcosm of Israeli research and innovation in general.
our attempt to scout out the horizon and engage more deeply and broadly with
Israel,” says K.
R. S. Jamwal, executive director of Tata Industries,
which had annual revenues of over $100 billion in 2012, over half of them from
international operations and subsidiaries such as the UK’s Jaguar Land
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“Rather than just scouting around and having conversations, it
allows us to show our commitment and show that we’re keenly interested to do
more,” he says.
“We’ve found this structure to be very innovative, and at
the moment we have not seen any other university offering such a an interesting
structure,” says Jamwal.
Tata says it was drawn to the university’s
interdisciplinary capabilities and track record of developing marketable
technologies, such as datastorage algorithms used in SanDisk flash-memory drives
and the pharmacological breakthroughs used in Blistex’s Dentyl
From Ramot’s perspective, the partnership is an opportunity to
add to the NIS 70m. it brings in each year, which can can be reinvested in the
“The potential is in the hundreds of millions of dollars,”
says Ramot CEO Shlomo Nimrodi, who believes the fund can bridge the distance
between academic work in the ivory tower and marketable innovation. For every
dollar earned on royalties, 20 cents will be reinvested in the research labs and
40 cents will go to the scientists themselves, providing an inviting incentive
for the academics.
“The problem in most academic institutions is getting
the innovation from step 1 to step 10,” he says. “The fact that we have Tata in
the mix increases the likelihood that two things will happen: one, we will
develop the things that the market needs and, two, that there’s an exit partner
Not only that, he says, but the fact that the research is
happening within a university setting means that, unlike in many corporate
R&D labs, projects with longer time horizons will have a space to
That fits into Tata’s overall strategy of investing in research
and innovation as their main source of growth in the coming years.
Tata group is looking to leverage innovation and research and development as a
key area of focus and a source of competitive advantage going forward,” says
Looking to the future, Yaron thinks that the cooperation between
academia in business can encourage the entire area’s business
“Tel Aviv University can do for Tel Aviv what Stanford did
for Silicon Valley,” he says. “If we do it right, we will end up driving a
revolution that will change the standard of living in Israel.”
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