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2 billion NIS will be invested in Bio-Convergence projects in Israel

The program will focus on building infrastructure and developing capabilities in areas such as bioengineering devices, bioprinting, tissue engineering, environmental microbiome, synthetic biology and more...

Bio engineering. Photo: depositphotos.com
Bio engineering. Photo: depositphotos.com

The Telam (National Infrastructures for R&D) forum, in which members are Telam, MpaT, the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Technology, the Innovation Authority and the Ministry of Finance, approved the initial phase of a five-year national program in the amount of approximately NIS 435 million to promote the field of Bio- Convergence in Israel. In addition to the Telam program, the Innovation Authority intends to invest
Another 720 million NIS independently to promote the field. Accordingly, the state's total investment in the field of Bio-Convergence over the next five years is expected to leverage activity to the extent of close to NIS 2 billion.

The program will focus on building infrastructure and developing capabilities in areas where Israel has strengths and which include, among others, areas such as bioengineering devices, bioprinting, tissue engineering, environmental microbiome, synthetic biology and more, which will serve as technological building blocks in the worlds of research and development, and will serve industry and academia.

The field of Bio-Convergence combines knowledge and technologies from various types of engineering (electronics, software, materials and more), with a variety of biological fields. This is a world of groundbreaking content that is developing at an accelerated pace in the global industry and occupies an important place in the applications of medicine, security, clean energy, climate, agriculture, food and more, and is expected to be a leading factor in development and production in these areas in the coming years.

The leap of faith in the life sciences, following the integration of computational and engineering capabilities, led to the entry of defense R&D into the field. MPAAT, in the Ministry of Defense, established the field of biological engineering, within the framework of the national plan, it will lead a joint development channel with the Innovation Authority for dual-defense applications.

The head of MAPAT, Brigadier General (in resp.) Dr. Daniel Gold noted that: "MAPAT has set itself a central goal for the development of dual R&D projects (defense-civilian) in the field of life sciences. The development of technologies in the field are essential to the needs of the defense system in a variety of applications and researches that PAAT leads today, as a national technological body. Together with the Telam Forum, we are working to strengthen the trend in the field and promote the new program for training technological officers in the field of computational biology, whose graduates will be integrated into research and development projects in the defense system and security.

Dr. Ami Appelbaum, Chairman of the Innovation Authority: "The initiative comes against the background of the desire to leverage both the abilities of the high-quality workforce and the outstanding academic research in the fields of life sciences and biology that have existed in Israel for many years, and which so far have not yet matured into a significant segment of Israeli high-tech . The way to do this is by combining the strengths in the field of biology, with the strengths of the high-tech industry where a developed and successful entrepreneurial culture exists, alongside technological strengths in the fields of software and electronics, the ability to raise capital and bring companies to significant growth. The initiative will contribute to the diversification of the fields in which Israeli high-tech operates, which is currently very concentrated in the worlds of information, fintech and cyber.

Prof. Yossi Makori, Chairman of the Planning and Budgeting Committee: "The field of bioconvergence (combination of medicine and engineering) is a field of scientific and national importance. The issue will be brought up for in-depth discussion at the Ministry of Education as part of the next multi-year plan for the development of the higher education system and a decision will be made regarding the support for the advancement of this field at the interface with the field of sustainability and advanced biomedical research.

Hila Hadad Hamelnik, CEO of the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Technology: "Science and applied research are very important in the worlds of biotech, which can be a national growth engine for Israel's economy. The infrastructure problems and the regulatory challenges of the field, which hinder its development and the accompanying economic growth, must be solved, and the five-year plan is an important opportunity for progress in solving these problems."

The selection of the technological focus areas of the Telam Forum was carried out based on a deep mapping carried out by a committee headed by Professor Rivka Karmi, who served until the end of 2018 as the president of Ben Gurion University. The mapping was carried out in academia, industry and medical centers, relying on research surveys, round tables and meetings with the relevant actors, and examined the breadth of the field and whether it has a common denominator with other fields; The level and scope of research in the country were thus examined - number of laboratories/research groups, number of infrastructure research grants; Industry start-ups and application potential, as well as number of companies, investments, incubators, number of patents, applied research (knowledge orientation); The maturity of the field to create economic value. The work incorporated a connection to global trends and needs (for example, short-term medical applications compared to long-term security applications, production potential) and the potential for additional impact that is not economic (including synergy with other government programs and additional funding sources, impact on the periphery and employment of a diverse population).

The types of activities that will be included in the program:

• Embarking on a process of characterizing and establishing infrastructure centers for industrial applied R&D - for example in the field of bioengineering standards

• Promotion of associations of academia and companies in integrated fields of engineering and biology

• Going out in the voices of readers at the Academy for the Advancement of Science and Applied Research

• Launching a competitive program for civil-defense dual challenges (such as the DARPA Challenge) in which teams from several companies and universities compete for a significant prize given for achieving a scientific/technological achievement

• Promotion of applied training and placement of biologists in the civilian, defense and IDF industries

• Encouraging the germination of companies and the start-up activity of incubators dealing with Bio-Convergence

• Encouraging mature companies in the transition to the development of integrated biology and engineering solutions in the content worlds in which the companies operate
With the approval of the state budget, the Telam Forum will decide on the completion of the investment in the national plan to promote the field of Bio-Convergence, with an emphasis on investment in infrastructure in the research institutions that will enable joint academic research for researchers in the fields of biology and engineering. The center of gravity after the first five years is expected to focus on the growth stages of companies by leveraging the established infrastructures and the accumulated knowledge. As the field matures and at the end of the first five years, the State of Israel will find itself at a significantly different point that will require large investments with an emphasis on the private market for the growth of the companies that will be established and developed in the first five years.

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