The global pandemic has shed a light on the strength of relationships and cooperation: many relationships have become strained, but some are strengthened by this challenge. The most vital business relationship is that between the Israeli tech ecosystem and the United States. US-Israel cooperation has only strengthened during this period, particularly with places like New York State that have felt the brunt of the pandemic. New York City is a resilient city and is looking at the ‘day after’ as we enter the ‘new normal’; the world’s economic center will rebound from this pandemic, which has impacted it in a way even 9/11 did not.

While New York City will recover, there are ecosystems and opportunities beyond the 5 boroughs. Many tech workers and those who could work remotely have left the city in the meantime, and new opportunities are being created in other areas of the state. In the coming years, we will see soft landing pads for Israeli tech companies outside the major tech centers, and there is a strong government incentive to make this happen.

New York and the Startup Nation have a long and fruitful history of collaboration, and with Smart City innovation being so key to cities' recovery post-pandemic, the Israel Innovation Authority and the State of New York have launched the NY Smart City Pilot Program to find Israeli tech solutions to execute against these challenges. This program looks to introduce Israeli technology to the US market, and advance technology that would prove beneficial to both regions.

As the State of New York recently declared in a statement: “The Israel Innovation Authority (IIA) and the State of New York, through selected New York State Cities jointly open the NY Smart City Pilot Program. Interested Israeli companies are invited to submit applications to pilot, test, adapt and optimize impactful Smart City technologies, services, and devices in Municipal Testbeds at selected New York Municipalities”

Who should apply?

As is the case with any proposed project, the applicants will be judged on the innovation of their project, the impact their startup is making, and the challenge they are trying to solve. Communicating the value proposition their startup offers, the companies applying should be able to articulate how they are going to solve said problem by cooperating with one of the local Municipalities (cities and towns). Israeli companies who apply need to show evidence supporting that their proposed pilot works, examples of such include a prototype or POC.

Smart Cities tech encompasses a broad area of challenges startups in this space need to solve. Some of the challenges and areas of focus that need to be addressed include: Advanced Water Meter Monitoring, Smart Courts, Emergency Medicine Triage, Connected Street Lights, and Vertical Urban Farming. For a full list of the proposed challenges each Municipality is looking to solve, check out the Israel Innovation Authority website.

Working with local Municipalities

New York City can be cost-prohibitive if one is building an early-stage startup and worried about their monthly burn rate. With remote work now the norm many of the Municipalities interested in collaborating with Israeli startups offer a serene setting and the opportunity to work with local experts. Municipalities such as Syracuse, Southampton, and Saratoga Springs offer a work-life balance with remote work. While a POC is important, partnering with the Municipalities also offers the opportunity to further test a startup’s solution. Also, access to real-field-conditions for the tested innovation offers additional data points.

A snapshot of the type of challenges Municipalities are looking to solve include a pilot developing an online data dashboard to access collected flood data. As part of the pilot, sensors will be affixed to street infrastructure to collect this data. Another example includes parlaying Israel’s strength in agritech by helping develop and refine a self-contained and scalable vertical farming system. As New York State has seasonal temperatures this pilot is designed to grow vegetables and other plants at varying locations all year-round.

For companies who are accepted into one of the pilot programs, the Israel Innovation Authority will support up to 50% of the approved R&D budget of the Israeli companies. In addition, there is the added benefit that partnering with a Municipality can provide in-kind resources. While funding is important to a startup, this is an opportunity for companies who partner with local Municipalities to gain access to unique data, datasets, and expertise.

Michael David, President of the New York-Israel Chamber of Commerce believes it’s important to press ahead with this important initiative during this difficult time: “as New Yorkers, we have seen the economic benefits that strong ties with the “Startup Nation” have brought the Empire State over the years. Today, for example, over 500 Israeli-founded businesses have a presence in New York. As we plot our way forward, there is no question that technology innovation will be critical to our collective success.”

COVID-19 may have put much of the world on pause, but that does not mean a startup needs to end its ambition to solve a major challenge. The trends of additional government funding for startups alongside new ecosystems being developed give startups the opportunity to partner with New York State Municipalities and not just benefit from the program but also strengthen US-Israel relations.

For further information click here.

Written by Jonathan 'Yoni' Frenkel CEO of YKC Media, sits on the Executive Committee of the New York-Israel Chamber of Commerce