By Barry Bogage
Maryland/Israel Development Center
The July 18 New York Times article, “Israeli Diplomat Is Man in Middle,” recounts the busy life of Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren and notes his role in the “ribbon-cutting ceremony in Maryland to open the North American headquarters of an Israeli military contractor.” This is the headquarters of Elta North America, the American branch of Elta Systems Ltd., the fourth largest radar manufacturer in the world.
Attracting Elta to Maryland was one of the biggest successes of the Maryland/Israel Development Center (MIDC). It will create 100 new jobs in the state, and as the company’s U.S. market share increases, it will help expand Elta’s R&D and manufacturing operations in Israel thus creating jobs in that country as well. In these times of high unemployment, there is no greater mitzvah.
Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the MIDC is a nonprofit “public private partnership” between The ASSOCIATED: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, Maryland’s Department of Business and Economic Development and Israel’s Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor. Its mission is to help create jobs in both communities by promoting bi-lateral trade and investment. Essentially the MIDC is a shadchan, a matchmaker, between Maryland and Israeli companies, helping them find new business opportunities so they can grow and prosper. As MIDC Chairman Abba Poliakoff likes to say, “We facilitate the soft landing of Israeli companies in the U.S. market.”
Known as “The StartUp Nation,” Israel’s high tech entrepreneurs develop some of the world’s leading technologies including much of the inner workings of cell phones and computer chips. They also develop many of the products found in your medicine cabinet and local hospital such as generic drugs, heart stents and the “PillCam,” a miniature camera stuffed inside a capsule. A patient swallows the camera and it then beams out images of their insides for the doctor to diagnose. Amazing!
To help Israeli startups take root and grow, the MIDC also created a venture capital fund to invest in Israel’s exciting entrepreneurs. We spun off a for-profit subsidiary that partnered with Israel’s leading investor in startup companies, The Trendlines Group, to invest in biomedical, agri-tech, and clean-tech companies, all areas in which Israel excels. To date, the fund has raised over $4 million from 42 individuals throughout the state and has invested in 11 exciting Israeli companies. Three quick examples.
GreenSpense has developed an environmentally friendly alternative to aerosol spray cans. Currently, over 12 billion aerosol units are manufactured each year presenting extensive safety and environmental hazards. The market is crying for a new approach.
LapSpace Medical, is a true Maryland/Israel joint venture. While the technology was developed by a Johns Hopkins University scientist in Baltimore, the company is being set up in Trendlines’ Misgav Venture Accelerator in northern Israel (which was named the “best incubator in Israel” in 2010). The technology was developed to address a critical problem during laparoscopic surgery. Often organs block a surgeon’s view of the area to be operated on. The device creates a soft, umbrella-shaped basket to retract organs out of the way.
The company farthest along the development path is Stimatix which has developed an alternative technology for colostomy bags. There has been no major breakthrough in stoma care for ostomy patients in 50 years. Developed by two Israeli surgeons, this invention heralds great relief and comfort for the 1.3 million people who must use these devices daily. The company recently received FDA approval; it was also named “Israel’s outstanding startup company” by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor.