The Israel-US Bi-national Industrial Research and Development Foundation (BIRD) this week approved investments totaling approximately $13 million for 14 joint US- Israeli development projects in various technological fields.
This year's list of Israeli companies includes numerous start-ups such as Veterix, a developer of cattle health diagnostic systems and Sandlinks, which is researching Radio Frequency Identification tags for tracking assets. Their US counterparts are comprised of major corporations with over $20 billion in annual sales and include such big names as IBM, GE and Avaya.
Founded in 1977 with a $110m. endowment from the Israeli and US governments, the BIRD Foundation promotes strategic partnerships between Israeli and American companies in various technological fields. Under the model established by the foundation, the Israeli and US companies must show that they are each invested equally in the project's development.
BIRD funds up to 50 percent of the costs for each project, up to $1m. If the project is successful, the companies use their revenues to repay the grant, but unsuccessful projects are not under obligation to reimburse the investment, explained BIRD Executive Director Dr. Eitan Yudilevitch.
"We share risk from companies, but we don't take any equity and that is big advantage for the company," he said.
Over 40% of the projects funded this year were in the life sciences area reflecting a growing trend in recent years, according to Yudilevitch. He explained that life science research entails high-risk investments, facilitating a need for greater capital in the field.
In addition, companies trying to penetrate the US market lack the same market foundation as companies operating in more established hi-tech industries.
Since its founding 29 year ago, the BIRD Foundation has invested $20m. in over 700 projects. To date, these projects have generated revenues of over $8 billion.