Reckitt Benckiser seeks investments in Israeli startups

Eli Cohen and Ami Appelbaum Photo: PR

Reckitt Benckiser (RB), which markets OTC drugs and consumer health products, is to sign a cooperation agreement with the Israel Innovation Authority today.

International corporation Reckitt Benckiser (RB), which markets OTC drugs and consumer health products, is to sign a cooperation agreement today with the Israel Innovation Authority, an agency of the Ministry of Economy and Industry. The company, which has long-standing marketing activity in Israel, is looking for technological developments in Israel. The agreement, which will be signed today by the Innovation Authority, is for the purpose of finding technological developments in Israel. Signatories will include Innovation Authority chief scientist Dr. Ami Applebaum, Reckitt Benckiser chief science officer Dr. Dirk Hondmann, and Reckitt Benckiser Near East Region general manager Kfir Avraham.

Reckitt Benckiser manufactures and markets the Nurofen, Strepsils, Dettol, Enfamil, and Durex brands; the Veet brand of shaving products, and others. The company, whose cap on the London Stock Exchange is £47 billion, had £11 billion in revenue in 2017.

The agreement to be signed by Reckitt Benckiser is part of the Innovation Authority's cooperation with multinationals that began in 2005. Although Reckitt Benckiser's business is in health and consumer products, cooperation will begin with joint initiatives in artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain with the aim of streamlining the company's production and marketing. Minister of Economy and Industry Eli Cohen said yesterday, "The pharma and medical industry is one of the fastest growing fields in the world. There is no doubt that the agreement between Reckitt Benckiser and the Innovation Authority is a vote of confidence in the Israeli startup and innovation sector."

Innovation Authority international collaborations division head Noam Bar-Gal said, "It was easier for us at the beginning. Large-scale cooperation like the present agreement was in fashion among large corporations. Over the years, anyone who got to know Israel preferred operating there by himself or herself, and many companies sought to operate more specifically for their needs - for example, through our incubators or private accelerators, without a plan having broader definitions."

The program is therefore now aiming at companies not in the conventional technology spheres, such as Reckitt Benckiser. The restriction to companies with over $2 billion in revenue has also been eliminated.

"We're also interested in corporations that are only starting to operate in Israel, so we an authority are more relevant in creating the connection between them and companies that can interest them and companies that are not technological by definition, so the competition for tailoring technological cooperation to them is open. Reckitt Benckiser is coming to Israel because they're interested in our capabilities in software and communications, but this is 'tasty' for me, meaning that later, the company may be able to find cooperative efforts in Israel in its core business. Not all companies are aware that Israel is diversified in innovation, and its startups operate in a broad range of spheres. Take blockchain, but they should know about all the rest."

A similar principle underlies the agreement recently signed with Italian company Adler, which deals in interior car design and accessories. "We believe that these companies have a lot to give to their Israeli partners in understanding of the markets in which they operate and understanding of the various industries," Bar-Gal says.

This process appears to be part of a trend in the Innovation Authority led by Applebaum and CEO Aharon Aharon to strongly emphasize innovation within conventional industry. "It wasn't an instruction by the Innovation Authority; it was natural development of our program," Bar-Gal asserts.

Corporations that have already signed cooperation agreements with the Innovation Authority include Intel, Audi, Abbott Laboratories, Unilever, HP, IBM, Panasonic, Philips, Nielsen, Fujitsu, Renault, and many others. The Innovation Authority helps these companies find companies suitable for cooperation with them, and then funds the projects in the framework of the regular Innovation Authority programs. The Innovation Authority has invested NIS 36 million to date in 108 projects under the program (the Innovation Authority funds 30-60% of the project). One of the successes is cooperation on Qlight screens between Merck and Nano-Tech, which has been funded by the Innovation Authority from the beginning and led to an exit whose size was not disclosed, but which is probably in the tens of millions of dollars, and the activity remained in Israel.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on November 29, 2018

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2018

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Eli Cohen and Ami Appelbaum Photo: PR
Eli Cohen and Ami Appelbaum Photo: PR
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