Let’s not miss the opportunity to make Israel a ClimateTech leader

“In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity.”

This statement, attributed to Albert Einstein, is stenciled on the wall of one of the offices I walk by every day at work, and it gives me a boost of optimism every time I see it.

This saying applies to small everyday things, like the babysitter canceling last minute, which (though an annoying mini-crisis in the moment) can be reframed as an opportunity for me to trust my 9-year-old daughter to take care of her younger sisters for a couple of hours.

But it also applies to the big, global-scale crises that we as a species are experiencing.

There is no bigger crisis facing humanity and the planet today than climate change. According to the latest report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was released in late February, “Global warming, reaching 1.5°C in the near-term, would cause unavoidable increases in multiple climate hazards and present multiple risks to ecosystems and humans.”

Assessments like that are alarming, to say the least. But with Einstein’s words in mind, they also offer a glimmer of hope, because the report also says that “Climate change adaptation is greatly facilitated by science, technology, and innovation.”

And that’s where the opportunity lies.

Start-Up Nation Central has decided to make this global challenge a key focus sector and to grow the Israeli climatetech ecosystem.

In our vision, climatetech can become the new cybersecurity – a field of innovation that the world identifies with Israel, a field where Israelis are thought leaders and Israeli companies are market leaders, a field that has an entire ecosystem that supports it and nourishes it.

We have what it takes

“A fine vision,” you may say, “but how do you make it happen?”

I’m not saying it will be easy, but many of the building blocks are already there. We have the minds, we have the tech, we have the awareness, both in Israel and worldwide – all the components needed for Israeli innovation to thrive.

The first step is to give the sector a name and get people to realize that it already exists. Start-Up Nation Central recently published a ClimateTech Sector landscape map that includes more than 180 of the roughly 750 companies that have relevant technologies in the space, providing solutions to everything from renewable energy and energy efficiency to carbon sequestration, sustainable food production, and circular economy.

But the opportunity is actually far greater. One of the unique aspects of the climate challenge market is that it presents a chance for virtually every innovator, from all technology verticals, because all industries need to make themselves relevant to the climate conversation.

There is every reason to believe that a company that produces an AI solution for monitoring employee attendance, for example, can relatively easily pivot so that the AI monitors efficient use of air conditioning, and thus contributes to measuring the company’s environmental footprint.

The same goes for sensor technologies, IoT solutions, or big data: Israel’s global leadership in cybersecurity, big data, and data privacy realms will surely come in handy in a world where more electric utilities start monitoring and optimizing the incorporation of renewable energy resources at the customer level, without undermining security and privacy concerns.

The Climate Solutions Prize

But innovation alone doesn’t create an ecosystem. For that, we require bigger collaborations involving additional players: investors, multinationals, academia and government.

That mission got an incredible push earlier this month when we – together with our partners JNF Canada, KKL-JNF, and the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation – launched the Climate Solutions Prize.

The prize aims to incentivize climatetech innovation in Israel by offering more than $2 million in awards to scientists and companies that develop solutions.

In addition to the philanthropic donations for the prize, we brought aboard some of the most forward-thinking private companies operating in Israel to vet the solutions submitted and provide investment and partnership opportunities, with challenges tailored to their specific needs.

As Israeli President Isaac Herzog said during his address to the launch event participants – 250 of the country’s biggest climate leaders – “This prize excites the famous Israeli creativity and curiosity that turned us into the startup nation and compels us to live up to this reputation. This is Israel’s opportunity to be a global leader in meeting the challenge of climate change.”

The building blocks exist. We have hundreds of companies already producing technologies applicable to climate challenges and scores of others that can pivot into the domain.

A source of solutions

Capital investment in the field is climbing year after year, with 2021 seeing more than $1.7 billion invested in the sector.

There is incredible demand from multinational companies for climatetech solutions, with more and more countries and shareholders demanding that companies meet ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) goals.

The Israeli government is a willing and eager partner, setting up new incubators in the field, providing millions of dollars for investment in early-stage companies, and working on the necessary legislation to help innovation grow.

My goal as ClimateTech Sector Lead at Start-Up Nation Central is, together with many partners both in Israel and around the globe, to help build up and fortify an entire ecosystem.

It is a big challenge, but as Einstein reminds me every day, it is also a huge opportunity – an opportunity to ensure Israel is at the cutting edge of a promising market, but even more importantly, an opportunity to make Israel a force of good in the world, to punch above its weight, and be the source of solutions that will help ensure Earth and its inhabitants’ continued survival.

I invite you to join us in turning this crisis into an opportunity and be part of this exciting new chapter of Israeli innovation history.

This article was first published by Israel21c

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