Israel: A Source of Innovation for GE

Unlike other research organizations within GE Global Research, my team is not tasked with developing technology for GE’s businesses. Instead…we hunt! Our job is to identify external innovation and facilitate partnerships with Israeli inventors and companies. Coined as the “startup nation,” Israel is a hotbed for entrepreneurship, technology & creativity.

Here are a few facts about Israel I’ll bet you did not know:

  • The external memory drive, known as “the memory stick,” was invented by an Israeli company called M-System, acquired by SanDisk in 2006
  • Apple’s only R&D center outside the US is in….
  • Israel (8M population) has the highest per capita US-Patent applications in the world
  • There are more Israeli companies on the tech-oriented NASDAQ than Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and India combined

And all within a 100-mile radius!

For those who wish to learn more about the Israeli High-Tech ‘miracle’ I highly recommend reading “Startup Nation” by Dan Senor & Saul Singer.

There are more than 4000 high tech companies in Israel in areas ranging from manufacturing to healthcare, from water to autonomous systems, from energy to enterprise IT & cyber security. Last year was an excellent year for the Israeli hi-tech sector with more than $2.3B invested in 662 companies (a 15-year record high) and $6.5B in M&A deals (representing a 16% increase over 2012). The reason? Lots of cool companies bringing solutions to the world’s most interesting needs.

For example, Check-Cap is developing the first non-invasive capsule for prep-free imaging of colon cancer. ThetaRay developed big data analytics cyber security solution to protect against unknown zero-day threats (really bad attacks by really bad guys).

So, with 3000 engineers & scientists, why does GE Global Research need external innovation? There are a number of good reasons; let me point out three:

  • Capital efficiency – A strong survival instinct and their ultra-lean processes allow startups to move fast and operate with exceptional capital efficiency. For example: it took Headsense less than 2 years and only $600K to develop a non-invasive Inter-Cranial Pressure monitor.
  • Cross disciplinary – While our own technical teams are world class experts, it is typically easier for startups to apply concepts developed for one domain over to another. For example, the team at Pentalum realized that specific defense-related optics technology could be utilized for remote sensing of wind in wind farms.
  • Innovation ecosystem – Extensive networking, entrepreneurship mentality and geographic proximity offer us access to ‘out-of-the-box’ innovation. For example, InSightec combines GE MRI with a unique ultrasound technology that can treat pathologies such as essential tremor.

What startups usually don’t have is the ability to scale. Entrepreneurs often face the reality that developing global distribution channels is a complicated & capital-intensive task. This is where we come in. When GE invests or partners with such companies, we do it in areas aligned with or adjacent to core GE businesses because we believe in the team, we like the technology & we think the market opportunity is big.

We started our local operation in 2008 and expanded the team in 2011. My team includes 6 people, working closely with GE Global Research centers, various GE business units and with GE Ventures, our corporate venture arm. I was happy to see that our daily interaction with startups and entrepreneurs is closely aligning with GE’s FastWorks initiative.

Check back for more posts about specific technology topics we cover.

– Oded


1 Comment

  1. Sumit

    “There are more Israeli companies on the tech-oriented NASDAQ than Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and India combined” …wow…superwow…gg