The city of Tel Aviv in Israel is set to enhance its influence in automotive technology, with Intel, Ford, Nissan and Renault all announcing plans to support startups and establish research and innovation centers.

Intel Corp. said its new Ignite program will focus on early-stage startup companies that target industry inflection points, including artificial intelligence (AI), autonomous systems and other data-centric technologies. Based in Tel Aviv, Intel will invest significant resources to host 10 to 15 top pre-seed to seed startups through a 20-week mentorship program to help them break ground faster. The Ignite program includes internal and external mentorship, direct access to market and new prospects as well as offerings from a variety of Intel partners around the world. The program does not involve direct equity investment in the startups.

Asked about the motivation for the program, Intel told EE Times it wants to co-create a technology future with a variety of startups and other ecosystem partners. Being close to the ground where many new innovative ideas are being seeded will help Intel in its journey exploring innovation around the world and position the company as a key partner for early stage startups to engage with.

Intel CEO Bob Swan said, “Israel has the deep skill base in AI, autonomous systems and the underlying technologies critical to these inflections that make it a natural choice to launch our Ignite program.”

The general manager of Intel Israel, Yaniv Garty, added, “As Israel’s largest high-tech company, we want to support the major technological changes emerging across our startup community. Ignite is an important step in this direction, focused on our efforts to transform the world through working on innovations in AI, autonomous, cyber and next-generation computing. I’m confident that Intel’s unique expertise in hardware, software and manufacturing will help the startups grow and succeed.” Intel has a very substantial Israeli presence, with 12,000 employees including subsidiary Mobileye.

Ford Vehicle Lab Supports Proof Of Concept

Ford Israel

Bill Ford, executive chairman, Ford Motor Company, opening the Ford Research Center in Tel Aviv, Israel

Meanwhile, Ford Motor Company opened its Ford Research Center in Tel Aviv to serve as a research hub augmenting Ford’s global research and advanced engineering team. It will also support Ford’s automotive and mobility businesses by identifying technologies and startup companies in connectivity, sensors, automated-systems research, in-vehicle monitoring, and cyber security.

The research center was opened by Bill Ford, executive chairman, Ford Motor Company, and will include a vehicle lab to support proof of concept efforts. Ford has been working with local companies and partners in Israel’s tech community for many years. “We recognize the importance of being in one of the world’s leading innovation communities and ecosystems,” said Ford. “This new center is not only an expansion of our existing research and innovation centers but provides an opportunity to join a growing innovation community in Israel.”

The Ford research center will operate closely with Ford’s subsidiary, SAIPS, led by Udy Danino, founder and CEO. SAIPS is a leading Israel-based computer vision and machine learning company, which Ford acquired nearly three years ago. Ford has had a presence in Israel for nearly a decade working with local tech scouts to identify innovative emerging technologies. In 2015, Ford was among the first major automakers to host a developer challenge in Israel, returning last year to Tel Aviv with its fourth annual MakeItDriveable startup event, which originated in Israel and spread to other tech hotspots like Berlin, Dublin and Paris over recent years. The center joins Ford’s global network of research centers, including Aachen, Germany, Nanjing, China and Dearborn, USA.

Renault and Nissan Innovation Lab

Renault and Nissan opened a new Alliance Innovation Lab in Tel Aviv, focused on developing sensors for autonomous driving, cyber security, and big data, complementing the other joint alliance innovation labs in Silicon Valley (USA) and Shanghai (China). The new lab features a unique model of collaboration with Israeli startups and an exclusive partnership with the Israel Innovation Authority (IIA).

The Alliance is currently testing and working on over ten joint prototyping projects with Israeli startups at different stages, among them are: Apollo Power, Argus, AutoTalks, BrightWay Vision, Electreon, Enigmatos, IRP systems, Karamba, Moodify, Saferide and Upstream.

The new lab in Atidim Park will carry out proof of concepts (POCs) in ideal conditions and co-develop prototypes in Tel Aviv's smart city experiment zone. With a surface area of 1600 square meters, the lab provides startups with the space to test technologies with real vehicles, as well as modern office space in a live ecosystem.

"With Israel as a global innovation hub, particularly with automotive technology, this new lab is a natural next step for us and will allow the Alliance to leverage the strengths of Israel’s startup ecosystem,” said Tsuyoshi Yamaguchi, Alliance EVP, engineering. “Through collaborations with promising local startups with cutting-edge technologies, we aim to develop a variety of key technologies, which will be essential for the future of mobility."

Antoine Basseville, director of the Alliance Innovation Lab Tel Aviv, added that its new facility and partnerships with the Israel Innovation Authority, with the municipality and university of Tel Aviv, will contribute to create a comprehensive mobility ecosystem in Atidim in a wide array of fields including smart cites.

The lab also works in close cooperation with Alliance Ventures, the Alliance corporate venture capital fund that plans to invest up to USD 1 billion over five years in startups, early-stage technology companies and entrepreneurial talents and has already invested in Maniv Mobility fund in Israel.