Part II: Eilat, Israel
In my previous post, I discussed my observations regarding a current and future Cleantech giant – China. As I noted in that post, I also spoke recently at an Israeli Global Cleantech conference, held in Eilat in late November.
Israel has long been an innovation leader in the Cleantech space, a phenomenon driven by the country’s security needs and dearth of natural resources, coupled with a highly educated workforce and established culture of technology innovation.
Interestingly, one of the leading drivers of Cleantech innovation is the Israeli military, which is investing heavily in developing renewable energy sources for its purposes. Of course, many of the military-developed technologies can be easily adapted for civilian use. One example is a portable water purification kit, originally developed for military applications, but also useful for civilian hikers and campers.
A major takeaway from the conference is that the Israeli focus on Cleantech innovation is not wavering in the least. Conference attendees spanned the entire spectrum of Cleantech technology areas, from solar to biofuels to wind.
Because of the start-up nature of many of the Israeli companies in attendance, there was an unsurprising focus on the financing of Cleantech innovation, whether via venture capital or through strategic partnerships with larger corporations.
The importance of a robust patent portfolio as an attractant for that investment was well-understood by the companies exhibiting at the conference, irrespective of whether they were competing in a mature market like solar, or looking to advance a disruptive technology in a less-crowded Cleantech field. Target markets for Israeli Cleantech products and services include the USA, EU, China, Korea, and India amongst others.
In addition to the awareness of intellectual property as a competitive mechanism, there was also a serious focus at the conference on the importance of quality standards for implementation of Cleantech products in the marketplace. One example discussed was a new Israeli electrical standard applicable to electrical switchboards.
In many ways the conference reflected a mature Cleantech focus within the Israeli business, government, and academic communities. While there was a definite expressed interest in uncovering the next big thing in Cleantech, there was also a decided interest in allocating money and brainpower towards tackling present and solvable issues with existing technology.
Interestingly, there was a sizable Chinese presence at the conference, and a spirit of potential future cooperation was in the air, with China supplying the manufacturing capability and Israel the innovation.
And while Israel rightly has earned its place as a net contributor of many promising new Cleantech innovations, it was interesting to see how focused the domestic participants were with also making sure that Israel keeps pace with the world in deploying existing renewable energy technologies – to serve its own energy needs.
Whether that juggling act is successful remains to be seen, but it was heartening to see and experience the vast potential that a country classified as part of the developing world has to help ensure a sustainable future for us all.
Gaston Kroub is a partner in the New York office of Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell LLP. Gaston serves as the co-chair of the Greentech Committee of the NYSBA’s IP Section and has been accredited as a LEED Green Associate. Gaston is a registered patent attorney whose practice focuses on intellectual property litigation and counseling.