The University of Haifa has become the latest Israeli university to launch a student venture capital fund, seeking to boost entrepreneurship on campus by investing in start-ups run by students, academics and recent graduates.
The HIL Fund was established by the University of Haifa Innovation Labs (HIL) in partnership with fresh.fund, an Israeli early-stage venture capital fund specializing in student-run funds and helping academic institutions build their own investment vehicles.
Leading universities in Israel and worldwide have increasingly turned to student-run or student-focused funds to identify and accelerate campus-born innovation, including at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Tel Aviv University.
Pico Partners-backed fresh.fund, which promises up to $200,000 in pre-seed funding for selected start-ups, will run a course offering University of Haifa students hands-on experience in venture capital investing. Last year, fresh.fund invested in 11 start-ups.
A group of participating students will be chosen to sit on the HIL Fund investment committee and play an active role in deciding what companies to back, collaborating with representatives from the university, fresh.fund and the local hi-tech industry.
“The true mission of an academic institution is to give students the tools and means to develop innovative solutions and learn how to implement them,” said University of Haifa rector Prof. Gustavo Mesch.
“Our goal is to enable every student at Haifa University to understand and reach their potential.”
To accelerate the operations of the new fund, a start-up pitch competition was held by fresh.fund and HIL for teams based at the University of Haifa.
The winning ventures included an advanced image processing technology within a sterilized box to assist beekeepers recognize the Varroa Mite pandemic; a digital mental health platform using psycho-dramatic methods; and an educational virtual reality program seeking to change the way students are educated about the Holocaust.
“We are pleased to bring fresh.fund’s unique model to the University of Haifa,” said fresh.fund managing partner Zaki Djemal.
“The University of Haifa stands out in the Israeli academic landscape in terms of its vibrant and diverse student body and its excellence in the fields of oceanic sciences, digital health, mental health, wellness, social work, ed-tech and the third age economy [silver tech]. We are excited to be part of the steps the university is taking to tap into this potential and develop student innovation on campus.”