An aerial shot of Tel Aviv during Israel's annual Independence Day airshow, April 19, 2018.
(photo credit: ANNA AHRONHEIM)
Start-ups across Israel can now apply to a government-backed, NIS 30 million ($8.73 million) pilot program that pairs up companies with public HMOs, in an effort to harness innovation and cement Israel’s leading stature in digital health.
The program is part of a larger, billion-shekel national digital health initiative that the government announced to much fanfare some two months ago.
The Israel Innovation Authority (IIA), in cooperation with the Ministries of Health and Social Equality, are backing the new program.
Start-ups can apply with specific R&D proposals in the field of digital health and medicine.
“This program will make it easier for companies to have access to information not currently available to them and will help build a bridge between them and Israeli healthcare institutions,” said Economy Minister Eli Cohen.
Companies that are accepted will get at least 20% to 50% of their expenditures covered.
Other start-ups can get up to 60% to 75% of their costs covered if they demonstrate “the potential to significantly advance the public healthcare system in Israel and around the world, or that promise a breakthrough in their field.”
The goal behind the program is to help start-ups market their products and subsidize companies for exorbitant research and development costs.
If companies are later profitable, they will provide some royalties and repay their grants to the IIA.
“The launch of this pilot program illustrates our commitment, along with our partners, to a quick and full implementation,” said Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel. “The national digital health program is revolutionary and groundbreaking, and it will position Israel as a superpower in digital health, with healthcare services among the most advanced anywhere in the world.”
One facet of the digital health initiative is to provide a massive trove of anonymized data – medical files collected on 9 million Israeli citizens over 20 years – to researchers and companies, in an attempt to detect trends and solve medical mysteries.
That said, some experts have warned about the privacy risks of opening up the huge digital database for commercial purposes.
Another objective of the billion-shekel program is to provide additional services in individualized medicine and preventative healthcare.
Ami Appelbaum, chairman of the IIA, expressed enthusiasm about the program’s potential.
“Operating programs and pilots in real-time environments with adapted regulation will allow Israeli technology companies to offer proof of concept and quickly penetrate markets, thus helping them grow into large-scale companies in Israel,” he said, adding that: “The commercialization of innovative technologies in Israel will improve the local market and the government’s regulatory capabilities and will help government entities propel tech companies.”