Innovation Bridge Between Michigan & Israel: The Great Lakes State Offers a Sea of Opportunities for Health Tech Startups

Known for its automotive industry, the U.S. State of Michigan is a bit less known for its strengths in other sectors, including health-tech, life sciences and hardware/software technologies. However, Michigan’s health-tech sector garnered 38% of the state’s venture capital investments in 2019, as reported by the Michigan Venture Capital Association. By contrast, the state’s mobility sector attracted only 7% of VC investments last year.

Michigan is considered a healthcare hub for its ranking in the top 10 U.S. states with the largest number (380) of pharmaceutical companies and medical equipment manufacturers, including Stryker, Diplomat Pharmacy, Abbott Laboratories, Zoetis, Pfizer, Medtronic and Thermo Fisher Scientific. At the onset of COVID-19, Michigan was quick to combine its manufacturing prowess with its healthcare strengths, and shifted assembly lines to address the growing need for PPE (personal protection equipment) for the healthcare sector amid disrupted supply chains. These recent developments, and others, present a host of new opportunities.

The two major connections between Michigan and Israel’s health-tech companies in the last years have been the collaboration between Detroit’s Henry Ford Health System (HFHS) Innovation Institute and Start-Up Nation Central, through our annual tech challenge targeting Israeli innovation, and HFHS’ partnership with Israel’s Sheba Medical Center. The other example of collaboration is Stryker’s acquisition of Israeli orthopedic company OrthoSpace in 2019. However, the potential for collaborations between Michigan and Israel’s health-tech ecosystems is much greater, as illustrated in this article.

Combining smart mobility with digital health technologies to save lives

The coronavirus pandemic has presented opportunities for innovation in Michigan’s veteran auto industry. Half of Michigan’s car manufacturers are currently shifting research, development and production plants toward autonomy, connectivity and electrification. Despite the slowdown of the industry in the wake of COVID-19, consensus remains in favor of these trends.

Detroit Michigan
Detroit, Michigan

Trevor Pawl, Michigan’s Chief Mobility Officer, says autonomous, connected, and electric vehicle environments present an opportunity for digital health solutions to detect the health and wellness of the vehicle’s passengers. With COVID-19, there is growing focus on vehicle disinfection. “You’re used to getting into a vehicle and worry about being in an accident or a traffic jam, but now you literally worry about the air you breath and where you are sitting,” he said at a recent panel discussion.  

Israeli innovation is well positioned to address this need since Israel is both a world leader in smart mobility and in digital health. Think of Israeli company, which enables the extraction of vital signs and mental stress measurements based on the analysis of a video taken with any camera. The startup is targeting automotive companies in addition to healthcare providers and insurance companies. The ability to measure the temperature of passengers in public transportation would come in handy during future pandemics.

Israeli startup MDGo, which has developed a real-time trauma analysis system for vehicles, creates a medical report in the event of a car crash on the type and severity of the passengers’ injuries in seven seconds, and automatically delivers it to first responders and relevant hospitals, saving lives, decreasing treatment and rehabilitation expenses, and liability claims.

Israeli company Moodify develops active fragrances designed to help drivers improve their performance, enhance passengers’ wellbeing, and increase their safety. Based on a decade of research at Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science, these fragrances affect the olfactory sense in a safe, noninvasive manner, with applications to improve the wellbeing of passengers and the performance of drivers in vehicles, keeping drivers alert, and even reducing stress and aggression in public transportation. The company is a part of the Renault-Nissan Mitsubishi Alliance TLV Innovation Lab, TLV CityZone, and DriveTLV innovation Center for Smart Mobility.

Benefiting from the geographic proximity to Canada

Now, back to Michigan. Geographically, Windsor (Ontario, Toronto) sits on the Canadian side of the Detroit River and shares many economic development opportunities with Detroit. The Detroit-Windsor Ambassador Bridge border crossing is the busiest commercial crossing on the Canada-U.S. border. This proximity could be an advantage for Israeli health tech companies that are looking to expand in both the U.S. and Canada.

Additionally, Southeast Michigan and Southwest Ontario both have growing medical innovation and healthcare industries. Healthcare systems in the region include HFHS, Beaumont Health, Ascension, Detroit Medical Center, University of Michigan Health System, Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, Windsor Regional Hospital, Bluewater Health, Chatham-Kent Health Alliance, and Erie Shores Healthcare.

To harness the advantages of this proximity, Start-Up Nation Central is working with the Michigan Israel Business Accelerator (MIBA) and MedHealth, a unique cross-border collaborative platform that connects, convenes, and educates the medical innovation ecosystems in Southeast Michigan and Southwest Ontario to accelerate the adoption of technologies that improve quality of care and contribute to economic growth.

“This collaboration will offer opportunities to connect Israeli innovation to the healthcare markets on both sides of the border,” says Paul Riser, MedHealth’s managing director.

The collaboration, which will officially kick off later this month, offers leading healthcare systems and corporations across Michigan and Southwest Ontario a curated gateway into Israel’s health-tech ecosystem of more than 1,500 companies, in order to improve the quality of care and contribute to the region’s economic growth.

Another interesting initiative led by MIBA is the launch of working groups chaired by local leaders to apply innovation to restart the economy in the wake of the pandemic. One of the groups is co-chaired by HFHS and Spectrum Health, two of the largest healthcare systems in Michigan, which aim to identify needs that can be matched with Israeli solutions, leveraging the data of the Start-Up Nation Finder, its counterpart, and other resources.

According to Scott Hiipakka, CEO of MIBA, “combining the breadth and depth of Michigan’s health and life sciences industries with Israeli innovation will result in amazing opportunities for collaboration and growth.”

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