The Israeli Start-Up Ecosystem: Advanced Technology, Chutzpah, and the Military
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
After an accident in 1997 left him a quadriplegic, scientist Amit Goffer refused to accept the fact that, at the end of the 20th century, there were no alternative solutions to a wheelchair available. Driven by that personal and potential patient demand, the Israeli engineer began working on a robotic exoskeleton with powered leg attachments designed to help paralysed patients to stand upright and walk again. He founded the start-up Re-Walk to bring his device to market, and in June 2014, the company obtained FDA clearance for the device; in September, the company went public on NASDAQ, raising $36 million.
The origin of Re-Walk is one of many success stories illustrating how Israeli start-up companies have applied cutting-edge technologies to medical problems. But there are many more: The Technion Institute of Technology developed the nanotechnology device NaNose to detect different types of cancer from a patient’s breath with up to 95% accuracy, for example. The start-up IceCure, on the other hand, devised a method for freezing small tumors that eliminates the need for surgery. And Real View’s technology projects 3-D ultrasound holograms above patients in the surgical theater to guide physicians during operations. The list goes on.
Over the last few decades, Israel has earned the title of ‘start-up nation,’ thanks to its staggering statistic of spawning one new company for every 1800 people—by far the highest rate in the world. According to the consultancy Deloitte, almost 1000 start-ups are launched every year in the country.
At first glance, it is not easy to understand how a country with a tiny market is able to establish such a vivacious start-up ecosystem. The business intelligence company Business Monitor International (BMI) estimates the Israeli medical device market at $1,077.4 million in 2013, for instance. “The market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 9.5%, which should see it reach a value of US$1,692.8 million in 2018,” Glen Peters, medical devices market analyst at BMI told EMDT. “Broken down by product area, performance is expected to range from 7.2% for diagnostic imaging to 16.8% for orthopaedics and prosthetics.” Because the country is politically isolated from neighboring Arab countries, the EU, China and the United States serve as vital trade partners for Israel.