(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
An Israeli-Canadian partnership is developing the technology underlying the Iron Dome rocket defense system for Canadian electrical smart-grid management, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
“It will be the first ever [international] application of an Iron Dome tech for civilian purposes, and it has the potential to change grid management in North America and beyond,” said Henri Rothschild, president of CIIRDF – Canada-Israel Industrial R&D Foundation.
Though the Iron Dome is known for its precision in shooting rockets out of the sky, which saved hundreds of Israeli lives during Operation Protective Edge last summer, the underlying technology has a variety of other uses.
In November, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems subsidiary mPrest, which developed the Iron Dome’s control system, embarked on a partnership with the Israel Electric Corporation to use the technology for an “Information Grid” system.
“Similar to its ability to meet the ever changing threats encountered by the Iron Dome, IEC can tailor the system to its unique dynamic methods and various sensors and changes required,” mPrest CEO Col. (res.) Natan Barak said at the time.
The same algorithms that help Iron Dome respond to complex inputs quickly and efficiently were applied to monitoring and controlling the electric grid.
An official announcement is expected in the coming days, and may coincide with the visit of Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird’s visit to Israel this Friday.
The partnership was facilitated through a new CIIRDF fund called the Canada-Israel Energy Science and Technology Fund, a $5 million reserve that focuses on technological cooperation in the energy field.
Although Israeli-Canadian economic ties have been strong historically, the energy field has been a recent hotbed of activity between the two.
“What we found out is that there are a lot of technologies that could be relevant for the energy sector even if their prime business is not there,” said Avi Hasson, the chief scientist in the Economy Ministry.
Canada, with its booming business in extracting oil from tar sands and a heavy energy sector, is finding surprising uses for Israeli technologies originally designed for water efficiency, robotics, nanomaterials, big data analytics and even defense.
“There’s an increasing technological spillover from one sector to another,” said Rothschild. “It used to be that we could talk about software technology, biotechnology, mineral technology as if they were different.
They no longer are.”
Another CIEST project, for example, aims to implement round-the-clock monitoring of water quality in oil sands using technology that was designed to provide more efficient drug delivery by testing micro-chemicals in blood.
As it turns out, says Rothschild, “that kind of capability applies in industrial waters, as well.”
Economic cooperation between the two countries has flourished in part because of the warm political ties under the government of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
“I think they have been taken to a new level in terms of the tone and friendliness we’ve never experienced before, and that creates a climate that is very welcome for Israeli businesses,” said Rothschild.
Even without explicitly pushing stronger business ties, the political embrace helps facilitate them by bringing together governments and business leaders in official visits and forums, who find the synergies on their own.
Canada’s former Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver (now finance minister), for example, took an interest in Israeli energy and made an official visit to the country, which helped spur the creation of CIEST.
When Israel held the rotating chair of European R&D fund EUREKA, it helped Canada become a member.
“It certainly helps to have that tailwind from the political side,” said Hasson. “None of these programs were pushed by the political entities. It was really the professional teams who saw the value, and the end users. If you put smart, relevant people together, good things will happen.”