2013 just ended, and we sat down with Israel Cleantech Ventures partner Jack Levy to look back on the developments in the cleantech arena in the past year, and where he predicts the industry will go in 2014.
“It’s poignant that we’re talking today, the same day as we’re burying Ariel Sharon,” says Levy. “Sharon was one of the first to understand the potential for Israel in the global water industry, and define it as a strategic area for Israel, and we’ve reached over US$2 Billion in exports in the water sector.”
One of the drivers behind this success, according to Levy, is the work of Israel NewTech, the government program for the promotion of Israel’s cleantech industry in the Ministry of Economy. “Since the program’s founding in 2006, the team at Israel NewTech has done a phenomenal job of getting the message on Israeli companies out there. I’m constantly being visited by international delegations, and the Israeli presence is strongly felt, for example in the water arena, at international events. Just getting the right people together in the room is probably the best thing that can be done to advance the industry, and Oded Distel and his team are doing it.”
The last couple of years have seen a gradual, healthy maturation in Israel’s water industry, according to Levy. Some key milestones were the Kinrot Ventures acquisition by Hutchison Water, the maturation of water infrastructure monitoring company Takadu, and the growing success of Aqwise (an Israel Cleantech Ventures portfolio company) including the establishment of Aqana, a joint venture between Aqwise and Dutch Water Technologies.
2013 brought a significant acceleration in multinational companies’ strategic interest in sustainability, coupled with growing corporate venture capital investment. According to Levy, in 2013 the Chinese government initiated a massive “top-down” focus on environmental sustainability. “It seemed Chinese investment companies connected to the government began to scour Israel for sustainability technologies in 2013,” says Levy, and he sees no signs of this trend abating.
So what can we expect in 2014? Sustainable agriculture, resource efficiency, and the 3D printing revolution.
Levy foresees a number of significant developments on the horizon. One is the growing focus on sustainable agriculture. “Bayer, Syngenta, and Monsanto are all focusing aggressively on the biological growth business,” he says. Monsanto acquired Israeli engineered seeds company Rosetta Green for $35 Million in 2013. In Israel new investors are interested as well including the agritech focused GreenSoil Investments which stepped up its activities and Trendlines which focused its incubator entirely on agriculture related technologies. Levy believes 2014 will bring Israel Cleantech Ventures’ first investment in the sustainable agriculture arena.
Resource efficiency driven by software and big data will be another growing arena in 2014, Levy predicts. Two of Israel Cleantech Ventures’ investments in 2013 were in this sphere, and Levy expects the VC will continue to invest in this arena in 2014. “Using software to digest data into actionable items that enhance efficiency across infrastructure, agriculture and other markets is a significant growth area, and Israel with its hi-tech skilled work force is especially strong here. Two companies excelling in this area are Takadu in the water arena, and Panoramic Power in the energy arena. We are beginning to see implementations of ‘The Power of Data.’”
Finally Levy is excited about the 3D Printing Revolution. “Can you imagine the benefits of actually doing away with the supply chain?” Levy muses. “We’re not even talking anymore about local manufacturing, we’re talking about a company or consumer being able to print a product on site and put it immediately to use.” And this is not a futuristic concept, according to Levy Israel Cleantech Ventures is already on the lookout for promising companies active in this arena. 2014 is looking to be a very interesting year indeed.