The National Matchmaker

Matimop aims to promote the development of advanced, innovative technologies in Israel. It does this by creating partnerships through joint ventures with local and international investors.

Israel has signed an impressive array of international agreements for industrial R&D cooperation. But these agreements, despite all good intentions, would amount to little without the efforts of Matimop, the Israeli Industry Center for R&D, which is one of the most important means of implementation.

"If you lead a horse to water it will probably drink eventually because it will get thirsty," explains Yair Amitay, managing director of Matimop. "But you've got to help the horse find the water in the first place. That's where Matimop comes in. We distribute information about Israeli advanced technologies R&D worldwide, helping industrial projects to find partners overseas."

Matimop is the principal technological clearinghouse in Israel, serving local businesses that seek international cooperation. In recent times, the distribution of such information has been made easier and more rapid by the advent of the Internet. Matimop's site on the World Wide Web is updated daily. In 1996 alone, the organization's Advanced Technologies page received more than 6,000 enquiries about hundreds of projects. There are currently about 500 projects on Matimop's database, whose developers are seeking avenues for international cooperation.

Matimop is a public, non-profit making organization, founded by the Manufacturers Association of Israel, the Kibbutz Industries Association and the Histadrut's General Federation of Labor Enterprises. The organization aims to promote the development of advanced, innovative technologies in Israel by creating fruitful partnerships through joint ventures. Housed in Tel Aviv's Industry House, Matimop's offices look over the heart of Israel's commercial district, while sending out information in cyberspace to potential R&D partners on every continent.

Aside from the systematic logging of E-Mail enquiries, possibly transforming potential contacts into eventual partners, Matimop also uses more traditional forms of disseminating information: through bi-monthly newsletters and an annual catalog with the latest information on Israeli R&D projects in the sectors in which Israel is traditionally strong, such as telecommunications and data communications, medical equipment, biotechnology, computer technology, software and multimedia, electronics, electro-optics and other high-tech sectors.

Amitay enthuses about the ingenuity of these projects. A flick through Matimop's annual catalog reveals the diversity of Israeli innovation. The inventor of an automatic robot capable of identifying ripeness, picking, sorting and transporting fruit and vegetables in both greenhouses and fields is looking to set up a joint venture, as is a scientist who has devised a smart card contained in a wrist watch.

University researchers are seeking collaboration on novel marine natural products that can potentially inhibit AIDS, while a strategic partner is required for a speech therapy system comprising a stop-watch, a tape recorder, an oscilloscope and an integrated breathing and speech pattern monitor placed in a computer interface.

Amitay attributes the sharp surge in interest in Israeli R&D by international companies to recent geopolitical changes. "There is no hesitation on the part of overseas companies interested in Israeli technology," he observes. "The Far East has been emerging as a tremendous market force. Even countries without diplomatic relations with Israel, like Malaysia and Indonesia, have contacted us, showing that the interest in Israeli technology and innovation is there."

Elsewhere in Asia, the Japanese have shown special interest in Israeli biotechnology, while companies in Singapore are pursuing multimedia and microelectronic projects in Israel. India focuses on agrotechnology and finished technology.

Meanwhile, relations with Israel's traditional partners have tightened. An agreement signed in 1993 with the European Eureka secretariat allows Israeli companies to join the prestigious program for industrial cooperation on R&D topics which encompasses another 23 Eureka-member countries. Eureka operates more than 600 projects and has a working annual budget of $10 billion.

With a growing collection of important international R&D agreements with the US, Canada, the European Union and seven other individual EU countries, as well as Singapore and India, Matimop has earned itself a reputation as the implementing arm of the Office of the Chief Scientist and the catalyst which makes these agreements effective.

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