Academia Provides
Rich Roots for Water
Technology Start-Ups

Start-Ups Transform Academic Ideas Into Marketable Products

The cutting edge R&D at Israel’s universities and other academic institutions provides rich roots, which enable start-ups to flourish, and nurtures the country’s world-renowned high-tech sector. From telecommunications and semiconductors to medical devices and biotechnology, Israel now exports billions of dollars of products, systems and solutions that started out as R&D ideas. Now a new crop of advanced water technology start-ups is transforming innovative ideas into marketable products.

Nurturing New Water Solutions
With a dearth of water in the region, Israel’s universities have traditionally dedicated major resources to R&D, in order to stretch the country’s limited supply. The Department of Soil and Water Sciences in the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Agriculture in Rehovot has provided invaluable ideas for Israel’s agricultural development. Similarly, the Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research at Ben Gurion University of the Negev’s Jacob Blaustein Institute of Desert in Sde Boker has led in water research in desert climes. The Stephen and Nancy Grand Water Research Institute at the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa has pioneered R&D in water science, technology, engineering, and management.
By working with the Ministry of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Organization – The Volcani Center, academic ideas have often been converted into practical water solutions. Historically, concepts became products via each university’s technology transfer companies. In recent years Israel’s a growing spirit of entrepreneurship has made technological incubators the favored vehicle for developing start-up ideas.

Incubators Hatch New Water Technologies
One such technological incubator is Kinrot Ventures in the Jordan Valley (see article about incubators). Kinrot is the only technological incubator dedicated exclusively to water technologies and the largest seed investors in water technologies in the world.
Other water technology start-ups include Bio Pure Technology (BPT), which has developed a line of chemically stable nanofiltration membranes, while SWDP has developed solutions for urban and industrial wastewater problems based physio-chemical treatment. TreaTec21 develops and markets advanced water purification solutions including the EFector system for the innovative treatment of municipal and industrial wastewater.
Increasingly VC and investment funds have also begun investing in water technologies. These include Israel Cleantech Ventures, Shari Arison’s MIYA water venture, Gaon Agro Industries AquAgroFund, Shaked Global Group and others.

During the course of developing a pilot project, many water technology start-ups find a beta-site with Mekorot Israel’s national water company.
WaTech offers early stage entrepreneurs beta site and commercial platforms, technology analysis and support, access to global markets, and assistance with strategic partnerships and capital. WaTech also offers more mature water technology vendors the opportunity to enter into commercial arrangements and joint projects with Mekorot.
For investors, the WaTech initiative provides their portfolio companies with a commercial platform, and ongoing business and technical expertise.
The relationship with Mekorot - a strong, reputable customer and partner with an annual balance sheet of $3 billion - helps lower the risk profile of water technology companies.
WaTech currently has 17 start-up projects including Lesico Cleantech, which specializes in acquiring and accelerating the commercialization of innovative, next-generation high recovery systems and zero liquid discharge technologies. The company has developed a novel electro-dialysis method that provides superior performance in a number of desalination applications. Aqwise is a pioneer in the development and implementation of advanced wastewater treatment solutions for the industrial and municipal markets. Aqwise’s proprietary family of solutions significantly increases the capacity and efficiency of existing wastewater treatment plants, while offering compact and scalable deployment of new plants.
AquaPure has developed a safe, cost-effective and environmentally-friendly water treatment method based on the use of ozone-hydrogen peroxide-UV for advance oxidation removal of water contaminants. Atlantium has developed patent-pending technology for the disinfection of water in real-time at high flow rates. Atlantium’s solution exposes a flow of water to UV-based HOD light. Whitewater Well specializes in the development and manufacturing of industrial control and monitoring instrumentation. In addition to Whitewater Well, Whitewater has invested in three other start-ups computerized irrigation systems manufacturer Galcon, drinking water pollution testing kits maker Checklight, and Whitewater Security Other start-ups include Blue I Water Technologies, which has developed comprehensive analytical systems for use by municipalities and industry for total water quality management. EMZA Visual Sense has developed a sophisticated surveillance system suitable for use to secure water installations.
In addition to Mekorot, the Office of the Chief Scientist (OCS) of the Israeli government’s Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor also offers grants and incentives including beta-site grants to promising start-up companies. Through its MAGNET program for generic pre-competitive technologies and R&D, the OCS allocated $15 million to a consortium seeking technological solutions for the fouling of water systems by micro-organisms and biological waste. The consortium is led by Yissum, the technology transfer company of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and includes Ben Gurion university of the Negev, Bar Ilan University, the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, Mekorot, the Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Institute, Amiad, Arkal, Atlantium and Bio-Pure Technology.