Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. (IAI) (TASE: ARSP.B1)'s Bedek Aviation Group has begun construction of an innovative laboratory that will engage in developments related to aviation. The laboratory will be the first aviation innovation laboratory in Israel.
The processes of setting up the laboratory began several months ago as part of the tender led by the Israel Innovation Authority (formerly the Office of the Chief Scientist) for granting five franchises to industrial corporations for operating innovation laboratories around Israel.
Bedek Aviation Group head of innovation Assaf Tamir is heading the innovation laboratory. The laboratory's task will be to locate startups that have passed the seed stage and work in fields related to the content on which IAI's divisions work. "Our potential portfolio includes 15 startups, and we'll select 2-4 companies to enter the laboratory each year. We will offer these companies an ecosystem in which they will operate, and draw up an individualized contract for each company that will formalize its agreement with us," Tamir told "Globes."
IAI's new laboratory is being set up as an entry in the tender for distributing Innovation Authority franchises, but the company intends to continue operating it even if it does not win a franchise, in which case it will fund it from its annual R&D budget.
As part of its activity, the laboratory will make some of its infrastructure and resources available to the selected companies. Tamir believes that the facility will constitute a technological platform for the companies, and later also a business platform in preparation for worldwide marketing of their developments. Startups will thus benefit from IAI's space for experiments and expensive infrastructure, professional guidance from leading aviation specialists, and so forth.
The Bedek Aviation Group, IAI's biggest division with 2,200 employees, does heavy aircraft maintenance and upgrades, and converts aircraft to various configurations, such as aerial refueling and cargo. "In order to stay competitive, we have to constantly develop and improve our products and capabilities," Tamir says in explaining the idea behind the creation of the innovation laboratory. "Today, there is no aviation technological incubator or accelerator, and we're the first to address this matter, because we realize that startups in this sector can find themselves facing major barriers, such as licensing and regulatory certification of aircraft. IAI has vast experience in these matters, so we will be able to do the right adaptation to turn ideas into commercial products when the time comes."
The companies that IAI will select to participate in the innovation laboratory operate in segments related to aviation, both civilian and military, including composite materials; airplane coatings; and sensors and sensory systems on aircraft that facilitate regular control over their activity and provide an indication of excess loads, turbulence, temperature changes, and changes in the airplane's center of gravity; and maintenance - in an attempt to lower these costs.
According to Tamir, some of the startups that have received in recent months an offer to join the innovation laboratory now being set up were not aware that they were suitable for the aviation field. "Those companies responded to our offer with surprise, because their managers thought that there was no connection between what they do and the aerospace industry.
"In contrast to the Chief Scientist Office's incubators, it is not our aim to get a product from every project. It is very possible for the activity of a startup in the laboratory to end with the formation of a business plan or an agreement with a specific customer somewhere in the world. We will tailor a specific model suitable for each company."
The tender for five new innovation laboratories published early this year will provide each laboratory selected with a NIS 4 million annual budget, including setting up the laboratory itself , and up to NIS 1 million in support for a startup operating in the laboratory's framework.
At this stage, IAI is not disclosing the names of the companies whose possible entry into its innovation laboratory is being negotiated. It noted, however, that decisions in the matter will be made soon, and that the first group of startups will begin operating in the laboratory towards the end of the year.
The Innovation Authority is scheduled to announce two months from now which laboratories will receive franchises.
Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - www.globes-online.com - on June 28, 2017
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