The Directorate of Defense Research and Development (DDR&D), and the Chief Economist of the Ministry of Defense, are launching INNOFENSE, an innovation program for civilian, tech start-ups in the defense industry, which will be operated through the acceleration and mentorship programs offered by SOSA and iHLS.
The goal of this program is to promote the development and implementation of innovative technology in the field of security, by strengthening the cooperation and connection between civilian companies and entrepreneurs, and the defense industry. The new innovation center will enable the DDR&D and IDF to identify and integrate relevant technology for defense purposes. The program is operated by two companies: iHLS, an accelerator for homeland security and defense startups, and SOSA, a global network of innovation centers.
The Chief Economist of the Ministry of Defense has developed a new contracting and communications model for the companies that will participate in the program. The model provides the entrepreneurs with maximum flexibility and great access to the resources of the Ministry of Defense and the IDF. In the first phase of the program, a number of start-ups will be recruited for a period of six months. Each will receive a 200,000 NIS grant, in addition to the business support and mentoring provided at the innovation center.
At the center, SOSA and iHLS will provide each start-up with mentorship programs that will cover every stage of the professional and business development process. The companies will also enjoy mentorship by professionals from the DDR&D and IDF branches as relevant to their fields.
The program is tailored for dual-use (civilian and security), ventures. The Ministry of Defense will be able to use the information to test the technology but will not be considered a shareholder or owner of the company’s intellectual property. Furthermore, the activities conducted with the Ministry of Defense will not limit the entrepreneurs in their business activities in Israel and abroad.
Head of the DDR&D in the Ministry of Defense, Brig. Gen. (Res.) Dr. Dani Gold, said, “Within the context of an incredibly competitive market, the new innovation center established by the DDR&D of the Israel Ministry of Defense, will serve as a supportive, professional and technological hub for every dual-use initiative or idea. The entrepreneurs who choose to be daring and break boundaries, will receive guidance from a team of professionals, and will be provided with a significant financial grant. Both the defense establishment and the entrepreneurs will benefit from this program. The DDR&D sees this unique venture as an important milestone in its mission to successfully ‘turn vision into security’”.
CTO at the DDR&D, Dr. Josh Yeshurun, said, “The DDR&D’s innovation center aims to encourage and promote groundbreaking initiatives and ideas that will fulfill the needs of the defense establishment of the State of Israel. The hub will provide startups with a supportive environment at every stage of the development process and will be open to innovative initiatives and ideas that may succeed in both the security and civilian spheres. This is an opportunity for ideas to break through – the sky is the limit.”
Founder and Partner at iHLS, Meital Ben-Dov added, “iHLS is among the leading media companies in the field of HLS. The company website has tens of thousands of international subscribers. As a result of the exposure, the company receives numerous requests from various companies and professional bodies that express their interest in the technology that Israel has to offer. In the last several years the company also manages an accelerator for companies that develop defense technology and offers guidance and support to promising entrepreneurs.”
Co-Director of SOSA HLSTech, David Rokach said, “Today’s civilian technology has broken boundaries that were untouched in the past, something which requires security organizations to adopt innovation policies, so as not to remain behind or become outdated. The program provides entrepreneurs with the opportunity to achieve international exposure and business development through the international activities of SOSA HLSTech and connection to international hubs and security organizations. [On the other hand] the opening of the innovation center by the Ministry of Defense, in cooperation with SOSA, is also a significant step for the DDR&D and the IDF in the development of future defense technology to fulfill operational needs.”
SOSA HLSTech promotes the integration of new technologies in the HLS and Defense industries by creating joint business activities between international companies, security organizations, investors and startups. The activity is conducted under SOSA, a global innovation network with centers in Tel Aviv and New York, with approximately 15,000 start-ups and 250 investors, venture capital funds, international bodies and corporations, in addition to the Global Cyber Center established by SOSA with the City of New York. SOSA HLSTech is led by Erik Kerten and Col. (Res.) David Rokach.
Rokach is an expert with over 20 years of global experience in the field of HLS and defense business and technologies. He was discharged with honors from the IDF, where he served as the Head of the Combat Weapons System Division, leading R&D and procurement projects. He served as Senior VP at Aeronautics and HLS Director at Peres & Associates. Erik Kerten held managerial and commanding positions in Israel and abroad as part of the Prime Minister’s Office and is the former CEO of an HLS consulting and operative firm. With domestic and global experience in designing, leading, and managing projects of large scale, he is an expert in the HLS domain with a track record of increasing business value in complex environments.
iHLS operates one of the world's leading security and technology websites. The site publishes content in English and Hebrew and has tens of thousands of subscribers from two hundred countries around the world. The company also holds a number of leading professional conferences. In recent years the company has also opened the first security accelerator of its kind in the world. As a result of the website and the conferences, entrepreneurs participating in the accelerator are exposed to hundreds of potential customers and investors in Israel and abroad. Over the past three years, 40 companies have been developed in the accelerator. The accelerator program is led by the company’s co-founder and partner, Meital Keren Ben-Dov, an entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the field of high-tech and security. Among her other initiatives, she founded iHLS 8 years ago.