Professor Daniella Raveh became dean of the Technion’s Faculty of Aerospace Engineering on January 1, 2024. She is the first woman to have obtained this position at the University. An alumna of the Faculty, she graduated with honors and went on to earn both a master’s and Ph.D. degree at the Technion. She became a prominent researcher and a popular lecturer in the Faculty.
“I’m honored to become the dean of the Faculty where I once studied, and where I have spent many years conducting research and teaching,” said Prof. Raveh.
“Aerospace engineering is a field suitable for both men and women, and every skilled engineer who graduates from the Faculty is assured of engaging work in the field. As an aerospace engineer, I have been fortunate to work with captivating subjects daily,” she added.
Prof. Raveh’s field of expertise is aeroelasticity, which concerns the interaction of aerodynamic forces and flexible structures. Today, as lighter and more flexible aircraft are being designed globally, a thorough study of aeroelastic phenomena is essential to understanding their flight performance. Prof. Raveh’s team researches high-fidelity models for aeroelastic analysis and conducts wind tunnel and flight tests to explore all aspects of this field.
For decades, the Technion has made a concerted effort to recruit women into STEM fields. This year’s freshman class is nearly 50% female, and more women are pursuing graduate and postgraduate degrees. Additionally, Prof. Raveh’s appointment is a testament to the Technion’s commitment to nurturing and developing talent within its ranks. Her journey in the Faculty reflects the University’s continuous efforts to train outstanding alumni to contribute significantly to aerospace science.
“I’m very proud that this Faculty is now headed by a female dean who will inspire and serve as a role model for young women,” said Professor Uri Sivan, president of the Technion.
As dean, Prof. Raveh is responsible for implementing the Faculty’s academic program, fostering interdisciplinary collaborations and research, upholding high standards of research and teaching, and advancing the Faculty’s world-renown reputation and accomplishments. Her perspective as an alumna is advantageous for the Faculty’s continuous endeavor to offer students and researchers an optimal environment for their studies and research.
The immune system contains “checkpoints” to prevent it from attacking cancer cells too strongly, as this would also potentially damage nearby healthy cells.
Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI) suppress this action and allow the immune system to attack the cancer cells, but they are only effective in less than 40 percent of patients and tools currently being used to predict the drug’s efficacy are not completely accurate.
Now, according to Prof. Keren Yizhak and Ofir Shorer, how well a patient responds to ICI therapy can be predicted by the metabolic activity in their immune system cells, as they battle any cancer cells in their environment for nutrients and other resources.
The two are members of the Technion’s Bruce and Ruth Rappaport Faculty of Medicine and the Rappaport Family Institute for Research in the Medical Sciences.
To make sure of the accuracy of the tool, Yizhak and Shorer analyzed some 1,700 metabolic genes taken from over one million immune cells of cancer patients receiving ICI.
The study was recently published under the title “Metabolic predictors of response to immune checkpoint blockade therapy” by the US National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Technion President Prof. Uri Sivan says his university could play a critical role in helping Israel rebuild after the war because of the unique talent it offers. He spoke with Israel Hayom.
In December, the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology will celebrate 100 years. Looking at the list of achievements over the years makes you realize how significant its contribution to the state’s development has been – and still is.
“For many years we were essentially the only engineering school in the country, and to this day we are the only technological university,” the Technion president, Prof. Uri Sivan, tells Israel Hayom in a special interview. “To a large extent, we shouldered the burden of founding the state on our shoulders, and over the years we have all reaped the rewards for this. Most of the civilian infrastructure in Israel today – roads, railways, water, desalination, agriculture – is the work of Technion faculty and alumni over the generations.”
The Israeli aerospace industry, still highly relevant today, has also developed over the years on the Technion’s shoulders, as have the various security systems. The four Nobel Prize laureates in chemistry and the 41 Israel Prize winners among Technion graduates attest to the quality of its education. “Engineers who graduated from the Technion were responsible for the development and production of the armored vehicles used by the IDF today, as well as all missile defense systems. To this day, 80% of the engineers working on the Iron Dome are our graduates. The microelectronics industry also started here, and this is just a partial list,” he says.
But beyond the technological feats, the Technion president makes sure to emphasize other no less important aspects promoted by the university under his leadership.
“After I was appointed president in 2019 I went on visits to different countries, and everywhere I went I was asked, ‘Tell me, what’s special about you?’ There are many very good technological universities – MIT, Stanford – but people feel that we have something different here and it took me some time to fully understand what they were talking about. Of course, we try to do the best science and give our students the best training – and a Technion degree is considered top tier in the world.
“But over time I realized another thing that makes this place unique, and that’s the fact that the security of the State of Israel, the economy of the State of Israel, and Israeli society are part of our mission, just like our mission is to do the best science and provide the best education. When I sit down in my office in the morning, those three things – security, economy, and society – comprise a major part of my considerations.”
President Sivan is keen to shed light on the Technion’s role in supporting Israeli society, which has been part and parcel of the place since its early days, as has been evident during the war.
“The Technion has a long tradition as an inclusive university, and this started with the founding fathers. In that sense, this is a place that welcomes everyone, and believes in equal rights, and ‘diversity’, it’s part of the principles, it appears in our constitution, which goes back many years. Another aspect of Technion pluralism is the increase in the percentage of female students over the years. That has been hard to do – in the first Technion classroom there were 16 men and one woman – but today the situation is one of parity.”
The fact that the Technion was established in Haifa, a city that is a symbol of tolerance and coexistence, is no coincidence and reflects the spirit of the academic institution since its founding. “Back when they were talking about establishing the Technion, in 1906, representatives of ‘Ezra’, a German organization that set up many schools in the country, came to Israel to look for a place for a technological university. There were two possible locations – Jerusalem, which was the largest Jewish settlement in the country, and Haifa, which had 20,000 residents, 2,000 of them Jewish. The organization’s people explained something that still holds true today – Jerusalem has too much ‘baggage’ because of its history, too much internal infighting among Jewish power brokers; so they chose Haifa, which has always been a very communal place, as it still is today. During the British Mandate, Jewish and Arab mayors of Haifa would alternate, and it was also very close to various industries, it is a very innovative city.”
Academia and industry – together
When Prof. Sivan talks about security and the economy as central components in the Technion’s mission (alongside the social issue), he also means the national challenge of rebuilding after the war.
“We need to think about how to move on from here, how to boost the economy and industry again,” he says. “It’s important to remember that the Technion is the main source of engineers, scientists, doctors, and architects, and we’re already looking ahead, thinking about how to really get this whole big system going after everything we’ve been through.
“The Technion has a very large role to play in emerging out of the crisis, beyond the security aspects. The engineers graduating from here are the ones pushing the industry forward, so we have a role in workforce training. Second – each year about 15 new companies are created at the Technion; one out of every 30 new companies founded in Israel is by Technion people, and it’s all ‘deep-tech’. The companies are founded by faculty members or students based on knowledge developed in labs here, and they raise funding from outside investors. We also have a tech transfer office – which is an entire system that allows the establishment of companies, including a licensing agreement whereby the technology is granted to the company for certain applications, and from there it continues on its own.
“The extensive system we have built here to enable all this starts with the entrepreneurship training we provide to our students with their studies. We have a center here called T-HUB (The TEchnion Hub for Entrepreneurship and Innovation), which is responsible for all entrepreneurship education and mentoring, including a lot of mentoring by our graduates.
“Afterwards, anyone who has an idea they want to develop can get help through several channels where they also receive guidance from successful mentors who have gone down this path. For example, we have a branch called T3 – Technion Technological Transfer – which assists researchers from the idea stage, with patents, support, investor search, and even strategy writing, and from there, it goes out into the world.
“In addition to the Technion’s role in driving the system forward in terms of human resources, ideas, training, and entrepreneurship, there is a very extensive system here of infrastructure worth hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s not just the machines that we have and industries can use; for example, we have a very advanced microelectronics center. Companies send people here and we give them the resources, and together we work and enable them to develop. This is very important for start-up companies that sometimes lack the relevant infrastructure needed to move forward.
“In light of everything I have mentioned, I have a very important message: The government must support this matter. I know the country has many needs, but looking forward, we have to figure out how we get out of here, how we go back to who we were, how we revive the start-up scene, and so on. The answer: Only through investing in universities. We still don’t know how the new budget will impact things, but the message is that it’s vital – ideas are born here, human capital comes from here, start-ups rely on us, as do the companies that spawned from us and other companies, it’s an insane powerhouse. Look at what’s happening around the Technion – very few universities have created an ecosystem around them like there is here, with MATAM high-tech park in Haifa, industrial zones in Yokneam and Migdal HaEmek, and collaborations with schools in the region. All this must continue in order to help us all rebuild.”
As an institution that is one of the important pillars of the Israeli industries in all its diversity, the Technion also ensures cooperation with various sectors through knowledge transfer and research agreements. Prof. Sivan noted that when he took office as president, he built a 10-year strategic plan whose central component is strengthening ties with manufacturers.
“If you look at where academia is going today, you can identify two main focal points – one in everything related to digital communication that is completely changing the way students receive knowledge and learn, and the second is the connection with industries. Once there was a separation – basic research in academia and applied research in the industries. That belongs to the past, and we are formulating new models for interaction between the two.
“So, for example, we created an entirely new academic position here of an industry research fellow. These are people who have been very successful and come here a few days a week, meet with students, engage in research, and teach; this is really a fusion of industry and academia. In fact, we expose students to the field, to what is happening outside, already during their studies.” Just as the Technion has set Israeli society throughout the years as an integral part of its activities, so it has been since its very first moments of the war. “On October 7, at around 10 am, we opened a situation room,” says Prof. Sivan about the contribution to civilians who found themselves refugees in their own country.
“We established the ‘Mutual Guarantee’ center for the Technion community and their families as well as to assist residents of the south and north and IDF soldiers. As part of this, dozens of initiatives are still active today, in addition to the extensive activity of hundreds of student volunteers. Since the beginning of the campaign, dozens of families and individuals who have evacuated from their homes in the north and south have been staying on campus – the dormitories, which were empty at the beginning of the war, were converted into housing for the evacuees who received everything they needed – from clothes to laptops.”
Among other things, the Mo’ed B – second-hand equipment store at the Technion – stepped up to the plate to help the students and evacuees and equipped them with everything they needed, free of charge. Students in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering cleared and arranged shelters in nearby Nesher, as part of the “Shelter City” project, and graduate students in the Faculty of Chemical Engineering also went out with the faculty dean to clear shelters in Haifa. This is just a partial list of the assistance provided by Technion people due to the security situation.
But the aid did not stop at the country’s borders, and in light of the rise in antisemitic manifestations and anti-Israeli rhetoric on campuses worldwide, students, alumni, and academic faculty studying abroad were invited to come and conduct research, teach, and study at Technion campuses in Haifa.
“We saw in many countries a wave of anti-Israeli and antisemitic protests, and unfortunately faculty members at many leading universities in the West, student organizations, and trade unions joined this wave,” says Prof. Sivan. “In light of the weak responses from a considerable number of presidents of leading universities in North America, Europe, and Australia, we realized that many Jewish and Israeli students and researchers were subjected to physical and verbal threats that interfered with their academic activities at those institutions. Against this background, and recognizing the Technion’s historic role in the history of the Jewish people, we announced a program for the rapid onboarding of students and faculty from around the world looking for academic refuge.”
A warm embrace for fighters
A significant contribution from the Technion is in IDF reserves, with about 2,500 of the 15,000 students enlisted as early as October 7, along with about 500 faculty and teaching staff. “I assume we still have over 1,000 who are still called up, and it’s important to understand how we cope with this fact and how we assist them when they return. There are a lot of officers here, a lot of combat unit veterans, it has always been like that. Many female students were also drafted, and a very high percentage of the women staffing the Iron Dome crews are reserve soldiers from the Technion, including those serving in key positions.
“It is important for us that each of our reservists know that the entire Technion has joined the cause and committed to supporting them. Thus, for example, together with friends of the Technion in Israel and around the world, we set up a special relief fund that allowed us to transfer an immediate grant of 6,000 shekels to each of them. Along with a series of support measures we have already taken, they receive an economic support package and some peace of mind. We have also prepared academically to make their return to on-campus studies as easy as possible. The Technion also published an updated payment schedule for dormitory fees, which will ease the burden on students, especially those serving in the reserves.”
About 80 faculty members and students at the Technion lost family members who were murdered on October 7 or killed during the war, some still have family members among the captives. Two Technion students fell in the Gaza battles – Staff Sergeant (Res.) Master Sgt. (res.) Dov Moshe Kogan and Captain (res.) Denis Krokhmalov Veksler. Kogan, a Shaldag fighter, was 32 when he fell. He completed his degree at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and was a graduate student at the faculty, as well as a third generation at the Technion – his late father, Meir, was a graduate of the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering and was involved in developing the Iron Dome, and his late grandfather, Avraham, was one of the founders of the faculty. Kogan left behind his wife Shaked and three children. Krokhmalov Veksler, who was 32 when he fell, was about to start his first year of studies at the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering. He was killed while serving as an officer in the Yahalom combat engineering unit.
“Many reservists from the Technion were injured, and we make sure to accompany and support them,” says Prof. Sivan. “For example, there is a student who is recuperating, and we send a taxi every day to bring him to campus and take him back so he doesn’t miss classes. Since the beginning of the war until now we have been in touch with many military units, assisting however we can. One of the interesting units is the Carmeli Brigade. This is a brigade established in 1948 during the War of Independence whose core was Technion students and faculty. We have remained in contact with them over the years, we mark Memorial Day together every year and adopted them in the early days of the war.
“Many units needed food at the first stages of the war, and the Technion became a logistics hub for that. The student union also rallied wonderfully, as did the academic and administrative staff. Copious amounts of food, military equipment, and medical supplies were shipped from here. The volunteering spirit of everyone has been amazing and inspiring, people simply came to help. As soon as others saw our extensive activity, more and more requests for assistance began to arrive and we addressed their needs, each and every one of them.”
Brigadier General (Ret.) Pinhas Buchris ’91 is a longtime pioneer of Israel’s security, dedicated to serving the State both on the frontlines and in various leadership positions. He’s also a man who lives by his words.
Once, when asked what advice he would give to up-and-coming Technion students, he said: “If I have a message for (them), it is: ‘The daring is victorious.’ Don’t give up on your dreams even in difficult times. Studies and perseverance can lead to improvement and success, even when the environment seems hostile or difficult.”
His long and storied career and bold contributions to securing Israel make Mr. Buchris a true example of success born from daring actions, and the very embodiment of Israel’s core values, furthering freedom, justice, and peace for the nation.
Born in Yavnal to a family of immigrants from Tunis, Mr. Buchris served in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) for 10 years before beginning his studies at the Technion in 1988. Dedicated to protecting the welfare of his fellow Israelis, he was called up from the reserves and served for an additional 15 years, achieving the rank of brigadier general and serving as the commander of Unit 8200, the largest unit in the IDF focused on collecting intelligence for crucial operations, and Unit 81, a secret technology unit part of the Special Operations Division. Using his computer science background, Mr. Buchris helped develop and implement remote recording devices that could be planted in dangerous areas to gather intelligence instead of sending in soldiers.
During his service, Mr. Buchris participated in the daring Entebbe raid, a 1976 counter-terrorist mission to rescue civilians from a passenger flight hijacked on its Tel Aviv – Paris journey during a layover in Athens and taken hostage to Uganda. Mr. Buchris and his fellow soldiers rescued 102 of the 106 hostages held, making the operation a resounding achievement for the IDF.
Upon his release from the IDF, Mr. Buchris served as the director general of the Israel Ministry of Defense from 2007 to 2010. He is credited with spearheading various crucial defense projects during his tenure, including the development of the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system, the transfer of IDF bases to the Negev, and the billion-dollar cost-saving plan in army operations authored by McKinsey Consulting Co., which was approved just before his departure from the role.
For his longtime dedication and contributions to the State of Israel, Mr. Buchris was honored with numerous prestigious awards, including the Israel Defense Prize, the Israel Security Award, and a medal from the president of the State of Israel for his contribution to Israel’s security and economic strength.
A current venture capitalist and founder of State of Mind Ventures, Mr. Buchris’ previously held positions include CEO of BAZAN Group Oil Refineries, partner at Apax Partners, and special advisor of the Office of the Prime Minister of Israel.
When Ovadia Harari (z”l) ’64, M.Sc. ’67 immigrated from Egypt with his family as a youth, who could have imagined the trajectory his life would take, and the impact he would have on the State of Israel? From those humble beginnings, Mr. Harari went on to become one of the best aeronautical engineers Israel has ever produced, a longstanding luminary of its defense industry, and a dazzling example of leadership. His distinguished work allowed Israel to flourish on the ground and in the skies, and made possible a trail of firsts that advanced Israel’s aerospace capabilities to the loftiest levels.
His journey through the ranks of Israel’s aerospace industry is the stuff of legends. Mr. Harari first served in the Israeli air force, and his deep passion for aeronautical technologies drew him to Israel’s only Faculty of Aerospace Engineering at the Technion, where he earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
He was at the forefront of Israel’s defense industry, influential in the development of Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) – of which he served as the executive vice president and chief operating officer for more than 35 years. With Mr. Harari leading the charge, IAI achieved numerous monumental advances, including entering the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) market in the 1970s with the development of the IAI Scout, earning $1.28 billion in sales by 1989, joining the space race in the 1990s, and more, laying the foundation for Israel’s dominance in the aerospace arena.
Under his visionary leadership, IAI also tested the Arrow 1, the first family of anti-ballistic missiles for a new defense mechanism to protect Israeli citizens, which became the world’s first operational defense system against aerial missiles in 2000. Since then, the Arrow system has been upgraded multiple times and continues to provide protection to the State, serving as a testament to Israel’s unwavering commitment to security.
The events of the Six Day War highlighted the need for Israel to develop its own combat aircrafts. In the crucible of conflict, Mr. Harari played a pivotal role in the first project to fill this gap, which made history for its creation of Israel’s first ever home-grown defense aircraft. Led by IAI, the team successfully produced the Kfir, an all-weather multirole fighter jet developed based on the French model Mirage 5. More than 220 of these aircrafts were built. Soon after, Mr. Harari was also instrumental in creating its successor.
In an effort to replace the Kfir models, Mr. Harari spearheaded the IAI Lavi project as its chief engineer. Launched in February 1980, the program aimed to create an aircraft to be used for the close air support (CAS) and battlefield air interdiction (BAI) mission with a secondary air-defense mission. The resulting aircraft was a single-engine fourth-generation multirole fighter jet, taking flight for its maiden voyage in 1986 – a technological marvel that showcased Israel’s prowess on the global stage.
Though the Lavi project was discontinued soon after, it illustrated IAI’s advanced capabilities, and much of the technological knowledge gathered during its development helped make Israel’s first satellite launch into space in 1988 possible. Mr. Harari’s imprint on Israel’s aerospace landscape was indelible, his contributions immortalized in history.
Upon retiring from the aeronautical industry after an illustrious tenure with IAI, Mr. Harari was appointed as a guest professor at the Technion, a member of the board of Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, and chairman of the committee of the Aeronautical and Space Sciences in Israel, where his wisdom continued to shape the future of Israel’s defense.
Mr. Harari received numerous awards honoring his unparalleled dedication and groundbreaking achievements, including the Israel Defense Prize in both 1969 and 1975, and the most prestigious distinction awarded by the State of Israel, the Israel Prize in 1987, for his contributions to the IAI Lavi project.
With Rosh Hashana honey in mind, ISRAEL21c visits an apiary to see how BeeHero produces insights for beekeepers and growers trying to feed a growing world.
When I dip an apple slice in honey on the first night of Rosh Hashana this Friday, I’ll remember suiting up for a bee encounter at the largest private beekeeping operation in Israel on Sunday.
Members of the press were invited to Boaz Kanot Apiary in southern Israel to see how ag-tech company BeeHero monitors the wellbeing of hardworkinghoneybees in 200,000 hives on five continents.
Honey is, of course, a valuable commodity produced from nectar by honeybees.
However, bees’ main role is pollination. Bees, especially easily transportable honeybees, unintentionally pollinate about 75 percent of the crops we eat as they fly around collecting pollen from flowers to feed their eggs and larvae.
But honeybee colonies are declining due to disease, pesticides, adverse weather and other life-threatening conditions. There aren’t enough bees to sustain pollination for a rapidly increasing world population.
“Our mission is to future-proof the global food supply by saving bees,” says Eytan Schwartz, VP Global Strategy for BeeHero.
Translating bee language
In 2017, Boaz Kanot’s son, Itai, founded BeeHero with Omer Davidi and Yuval Regev.
BeeHero’s IoT sensors inside beehives collect essential data on temperature, humidity, acoustics and other parameters.
The hive data is then correlated with outside data, such as weather conditions, and analyzed in the cloud by advanced algorithms and AI.
Beekeepers get real-time insights about colony health and productivity. Farmers get real-time insights to help them plan pollination strategies.
“BeeHero is the first company to continuously log data from hives 24/7, providing more transparency into the hives than ever before possible, and producing more insights for beekeepers and growers around the world,” said CEO Davidi.
Regev, the company’s CTO, said the bees’ constant communication gives each hive a unique acoustical signature.
When bees communicate stress — for example, the queen is gone or the hive is overcrowded or lacking water or food — BeeHero “translates” the conversation for the beekeeper, who can then take action to avoid colony collapse.
“By connecting the hive to the Internet, beekeepers don’t need to go into each hive to check what is going on. They can just go into the app where we provide information for beekeepers to do their job better,” said Regev.
“Last year, the mortality rate of hives was 48% for regular beekeepers [in the United States]. For those using BeeHero, the number dropped to 27%.”
BeeHero Chief Biologist Doreet Avni, and we reporters, put on protective suits before examining the system at work in one of many bee boxes at Kanot Apiary.
In 90-degree Fahrenheit heat, the overalls, head coverings and disposable gloves were mighty uncomfortable, helping to illustrate the advantages of the BeeHero system.
“Ordinarily, beekeepers have to suit up, go outside in any kind of weather and inspect hives frame by frame. In an operation with thousands of colonies it’s almost impossible to do this,” said Avni, who has been researching honeybees for over 30 years.
Furthermore, the bees don’t like their hives opened. It disturbs them and lets in ambient heat or cold. They have to work for hours to restore homeostasis inside the hive.
“For almond groves in California, the rule of thumb is not to open hives if the outside temperature is below 16 degrees Celsius [60.8F]. With our sensors, beekeepers open only those hives there are concerns about,” said Avni.
On that hot day, the bees were venturing out of the hive only to bring back water.
Avni said BeeHero isn’t the first company to attempt replacing manual inspections with sensors but the others used sensors that were too large, too disruptive or too expensive.
This is why BeeHero has become the world’s largest pollination services company. The New York Times gave BeeHero a 2022 Good Tech Award, and this year CNBC named the company to its Disruptor 50 list.
BeeHero has raised a total of $64 million, employs 65, and is now facilitating 10 million hive samples daily.
The company’s clients are mainly in the United States and Australia. A clientele is building up in Europe and Africa. In Israel, BeeHero is used in apiaries such as Kanot. Sales and operations are in California; R&D in Tel Aviv.
Schwartz explains that beekeepers get the sensor technology for free.
“Our money comes from growers, for whom we broker the hives. If you need 10,000 hives and you’ve been ordering them from an apiary on the other side of the United States or Australia, by the time you receive them you might be receiving empty or half-empty boxes that cannot provide the pollination you need,” he said.
“You also don’t know where to place the hives, taking into account field conditions and crop density and variety. When you order from us, we give you the exact number of bees you need, and we tell you precisely where to place the hives, maximizing the bees’ ability to pollinate the crops.”
BeeHero’s “Precision Pollination as a Service” technology also lets growers check if the bees are actually pollinating the flowers.
Schwartz adds that “by creating better hives with more bees, you reduce the number of hives that have to transported from place to place. You get better pollination with fewer boxes. We reduce carbon emissions in this way.”
Our tour of Kanot Apiary ended in the honey extraction shed, where workers uncap each frame and place it in a spinner so the honey flows into a collection pan and is piped to a different room to be jarred.
While pollen provides protein for the bees, nectar provides energy. They preserve nectar by turning it into honey – similar to humans canning vegetables for future use.
Avni told ISRAEL21c that in a commercial apiary, bees don’t need as much honey as they produce from the nectar they collect. Some apiaries leave half the honey in the frames and others extract it all. Either way, the bees are compensated by the addition of sugar syrup to make sure they have energy to continue the colony.
Reps from 10 startups spend four days meeting with British executives, investors and policymakers in collaborative events and discussions.
A delegation of climate-tech innovators from Israel enjoyed a morning welcome reception at the British House of Lords, opening a groundbreaking event hosted by Lord Ian Austin from June 26-29.
The UK-Israel Climate First Delegation was organized by Israeli climate-tech accelerator Climate First with the UK-Israel Business Bilateral Chamber of Commerce, which has fostered growth and investment between the UK and Israel since 1950.
Representatives were from Helios (large-scale carbon capture), Hydro X (hydrogen storage and transport), Criaterra (sustainable building materials), Daika (natural materials from wood waste), Gigaton Carbon (ocean-based CO2 removal and storage), Momentick (monitoring greenhouse gas emissions), QD-SOL (green hydrogen), Zohar CleanTech (decentralized waste disposal systems), Luminescent (isothermal heat engine) and NakAI (maritime cleaning and inspection robots).
“Our mission at Climate First is to empower companies that can help us meet our net-zero goals,” said Nadav Steinmetz, cofounder and managing partner of Climate First.
“Through this UK-Israel delegation, we are furthering that mission by bridging the gap between innovative Israeli companies and the UK’s vast network of investors, policymakers and business leaders. Together, we can unlock potential and accelerate the global transition towards a climate-resilient future.”
During their visit, the delegates interacted with British executives, investors and policymakers in collaborative events and discussions. Meetings were scheduled with Lord Browne, founder and chairman of BeyondNetZero; Generation Investment Management Just Climate Fund; Barclays Sustainable Impact Capital; J.P. Morgan ClimateTech; BlackRock Decarbonisation Partners; the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD); and representatives from Prince William’s Earthshot Prize.
Prof. Gideon Grader awarded the Institut de France prize for developing the E-TAC process that enables splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen.
Prof. Gideon Grader from Israel’s Technion-Israel Institute of Technology was recently awarded the Grand Prix Scientifique research grant by the Institut de France for developing innovative green hydrogen technology.
The Institut de France, a nonprofit organization founded in 1795 that unites five French academies, encourages research, supports creativity, and funds many humanitarian projects.
Grader has developed a process — dubbed E-TAC — along with his Technion colleagues, which splits water into hydrogen and oxygen by decoupling the production of the two gasses. This is achieved by circulating electrolyte solutions at different temperatures through the electrodes.
The professor later developed unique electrodes that move continuously between the separated sites where the hydrogen and oxygen are produced simultaneously, allowing for the E-TAC process to be continuous and not an isolated action.
The scientists say the method will enable long-term operation at a low cost and easier scaleup to industrial level.
In 2019, green hydrogen company H2Pro was founded using the E-TAC technology. The 100-strong company has since raised over $100 million from venture capital funds, including Bill Gates’ BEV fund, TEMASEK, and Horizon Ventures. H2Pro was recently selected by BloombergNEF as one of the most promising companies for solving the climate change crisis.
News arrives from Israel’s Technion Institute that they have developed a stable catalyst that can split water at extravagantly low energy-levels – and haven’t ruled out being able to split water with energy levels obtainable from the sun.
In fact, the hope of rapid transformation in the field is one of the reasons that AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals and Gasunie New Energy have partnered in a project aiming at “large scale conversion of sustainable electricity into green hydrogen via the electrolysis of water.”
Intended for Delfzijl in the Netherlands, the installation would use a 20MW water electrolysis unit, the largest in Europe, to convert sustainably produced electricity into 3,000 tons of green hydrogen a year – enough to fuel 300 hydrogen buses. A final decision on the project is expected in 2019.
Why — and why now — is green hydrogen such a big, big deal? Two reasons, really.
One, you’d solve the energy-storage problem of solar power, in a snap — you’d just split water to make hydrogen. (Don’t worry, when you use the hydrogen to, for example, power a car, the water re-forms out of the tailpipe. This isn’t a Water vs Fuel situation.)
Two, you’d have an affordable, biobased (hydrogen fuel) fuel you could make anywhere, in quantities exceeding the petroleum industry.
Scientists have not been able to crack the problem, in part because the catalyst that Nature evolved is complex, and has been described as the “the strongest biological oxidizing agent yet discovered”.
It comes down to controlling manganese, which is abundant and cheap, but the manganese catalysts yet developed never last and consume way too much energy.
Consequently, though Toyota has been working very hard on hydrogen vehicles, hydrogen as currently obtained via natural gas reforming is not green, nor competitively affordable. So, there might be a hundred hydrogen refueling stations in the US, about half of them in California.
In an article published in Nature Catalysis, Assistant Professor Galia Maayan of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology presents a molecular complex (also called an artificial molecular cluster) that dramatically improves the efficiency of water oxidation. It does so by biomimicry – a field of engineering inspired by nature (bio=life, mimetics=imitation). In this specific case, the inspiration comes from the process of photosynthesis in nature.
The molecular complex developed by Maayan is expected to change this situation. This cluster, which is actually a complex molecule called Mn12DH, has unique characteristics that are advantageous when splitting water.
Experiments conducted with this complex demonstrate that it produces a large quantity of electrons (electric current) and a significant amount of oxygen and hydrogen, despite a relatively low energetic investment. No less important, it is stable – meaning that it is not easily demolished, like other Mn-based catalysts.
An improved plasma thruster using Israeli technology can steer satellites out of harm’s way while using less power than chemical forms of propulsion.
Space is getting crowded.
In addition to the thousands of satellites already orbiting Earth, about 14,000 new satellites are expected to be launched by the end of the decade.
That translates into about 9,000 tons of space debris, says Igal Kronhaus, Technion professor-turned-space-tech startup entrepreneur.
It’s gotten so bad that the United States issued new regulations in 2022 that “won’t allow the launch of a satellite unless it has a convincing capability to move out of the way after five years from the end of the mission,” Kronhaus says.
Kronhaus started his company, Space Plasmatics, in 2021 to address the space junk problem while also improving satellite propulsion in general.
Space Plasmatics is developing plasma thrusters designed to navigate satellites to a different orbit or even back to Earth, using ionized gas in an electric field rather than the traditional propulsion method of chemical reactions.
The thrusters get their power from solar cells that are already mounted on the satellites. Solar-powered electric propulsion is now used in almost every satellite. High-powered versions could even propel manned spacecraft for missions to the Moon and Mars.
Electric propulsion was originally conceived in the 1950s as a way to get people to Mars – long before Elon Musk popularized the concept for the 21st century.
“Back then, there were no envisioned applications, other than human space travel,” Kronhaus tells ISRAEL21c.
Now, with satellites handling everything from GPS navigation to cell phone communication to spying on enemy nations, the use case has arrived.
Kronhaus was an assistant professor of aerospace engineering at the Technion for seven years. The technology for Space Plasmatics, he says, has been “incubating in my lab for the past decade.”
“It’s very unusual for a professor to start a company,” Kronhaus says. “I’m paving a unique path here.”
Space Plasmatics cofounder Andrew Pearlman is a serial entrepreneur who has raised more than $150 million for 10 Israeli companies since his arrival here from the United States in 1981. He describes his role in Space Plasmatics as Kronhaus’s “coach, copilot and righthand man.”
“We’re exclusively space hardware,” Kronhaus says. “We can’t re-use our engines in cars or planes. We’re making a real, physical product, not just writing code. That makes it more difficult to convince investors to come in.”
But some have.
Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) took an interest in Space Plasmatics and invited the company to participate in the Astra incubator, co-run by the accelerator Starburst and IAI. The Israel Innovation Authority has also helped fund Kronhaus’s vision.
The Knesset last year pledged to invest the shekel equivalent of $180 million in the civilian space industry over the next five years. Start-Up Nation Central estimates the worldwide space economy is worth $400 billion.
In June, Kronhaus signed a deal to develop its plasma thrusters for IAI’s satellites. This deal points to a shift in the industry.
For much of the past decade, tiny nanosatellites (CubeSats), just a few tens of kilograms in weight, were assumed to be the future of the industry.
Israel excelled at these small satellites.
“It’s no secret that we can’t launch over neighboring Arab states. And we don’t build huge rockets. So, we build smaller rockets with a smaller payload that are launched in the wrong direction!” Kronhaus says.
That “wrong direction” requires more fuel, “so we have to reduce the payload we’re carrying even further.”
But now, the main market seems to be in bigger satellites that weigh several hundred kilograms, Kronhaus says. It makes economic sense – bigger satellites carry bigger payloads, which results in faster ROI.
Larger satellites are also what IAI specializes in.
The IAI arrangement is positioned as a trial to see if Space Plasmatics can scale up to IAI’s needs. Kronhaus is convinced they can and that IAI will become a paying customer.
How it works
For any rocket scientists reading this, here are a few technical details.
Kronhaus’s plasma thrusters are essentially a better version of a Hall thruster, a model developed in the former Soviet Union in the 1960s.
The thruster does need some fuel but uses nonflammable, noncombustible gases such as xenon and krypton.
“The inert gas is in the propellant tank on the satellite,” Kronhaus says. “The Hall thruster feeds a certain amount of it to the engine at a constant rate. The electric field gives the gas the energy to ionize. There’s a nice blue plasma flame as the ions are accelerated. This acceleration is what produces thrust.”
Kronhaus says that Space Plasmatics’ tech also reduces the weight of the satellite, because normally it’s the fuel tank that contributes the most weight to the device.
Hall thrusters, however, are not for every space application. Landing on the Moon or shooting missiles require the higher power of chemical propulsion.
Space Plasmatics is still developing its thrusters. Assuming the company continues with IAI and/or raises more money, Kronhaus and Pearlman say a full working version of the company’s product should be ready by Q2 2025.
Space Plasmatics has plenty of competitors: Austria-based Enpulsion; Thrustme and Exotrail from France; Astra and Rafael from Israel.
However, Kronhaus is banking on Space Plasmatics’ high thrust and high fuel economy. “We improve the performance of a Hall engine at low power,” he says.
It doesn’t hurt that Kronhaus has a PhD in electric propulsion and is considered an expert in the field – in Israel and beyond.
Will Kronhaus’s technology and Pearlman’s business savvy be enough for this four-person company in Haifa to make a dent in the space-tech space? We’ll be watching.