What is BIRD?
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The Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation (BIRD) was established by the U.S. and Israeli governments in 1977 to generate mutually beneficial cooperation between the private sectors of the U.S. and Israeli high tech industries, including start-ups and established organizations. BIRD provides both matchmaking services between U.S. and Israeli companies, as well as funding that covers up to 50 percent of project development and product commercialization costs. BIRD's scope extends to Communications, Life Sciences, Electronics, Electro-optics, Software, Homeland Security, Renewable and Alternative Energy and other sectors of the hi-tech industry.
Since its inception, BIRD has funded more than 800 projects.
BIRD has teamed with many leading companies in the U.S., for example: American Red Cross, AOL, Bayer Pharmaceutical, Eastman Kodak, General Dynamics, General Electric, IBM and Johnson&Johnson, among many others. In addition, nearly 40 Israeli companies that have had projects sponsored by BIRD are now traded on Wall Street, adding to Israel's surge in the high-tech and industrial fields.
BIRD supports approximately 20 projects annually. The cumulative sales of products developed through BIRD projects have exceed $8 billion and BIRD has received nearly $100 million in royalty repayments from projects. The top five states in which BIRD has funded: 266 projects in California, 90 in Massachusetts, 88 in New York, 64 in New Jersey and 26 in both Virginia and Florida.
BIRD Energy was formed in 2009, and has so far invested $30 million in 37 joint projects.
The BIRD Foundation model that has reached this broad, collaborative economic success in Israel and the United States is now being imitated elsewhere with the hope of spurring growth in other countries. For example, in 2012 the Turkish Economic Policy Research Foundation organized a meeting of the Global Entrepreneurialship Program-Turkey in order to discuss ways of using the BIRD model to foster better economic relations between Ankara and Washington.
Current Areas of Interest
Agrotechnology, Cleantech and Environment, Communications, Electronics, FinTech, Gas, Homeland Security and Cyber Security, Life Sciences, Software, etc.
How Does BIRD Operate?
Any pair of companies, one Israeli and one U.S.-based, may apply jointly so long as they can demonstrate the combined capabilities and infrastructure to define, develop, manufacture, sell and support an innovative product based on industrial R&D. The companies may be simply cooperating on an ad hoc basis, linked through a corporate joint venture, or commonly owned (in whole or in part). The key criterion is that each corporate entity shall have the ability to carry out its part of the joint development and commercialization. Their willingness to share in the financial risk of product development as well as in the financial gain of commercialization, are also key factors in BIRD's evaluation.
Typically the role of the larger company is product definition and specification, sales, and service, while the role of the smaller company is in product development and some manufacturing. Up to 35 full-scale projects and 20 mini-projects may be approved each year.
The BIRD Foundation offers conditional grants for joint development projects on a risk-sharing basis. The Foundation funds up to 50% of each company's R&D expenses associated with the joint project. Repayments are due only if commercial revenues are generated as a direct result of the project. If a project fails, BIRD claims no repayments.
A Full-Scale Project is defined as one in which the total development cost to the two companies (up to the point of commercial readiness) is at least $400,000. BIRD's cost-share is up to 50% of the total cost of such projects.
Decisions whether to approve or reject proposals for funding full-scale projects are made by BIRD's Board of Governors. The Board of Governors convenes semiannually to act on proposals for full-scale projects.
It is often appropriate for two companies contemplating a partnership to define an initial project of modest size rather than to plunge into a higher-cost, full-scale project of greater risk and duration. BIRD has, therefore, designed and introduced the Mini-Project, which has proven to be a powerful and successful tool for rapid and relatively low-risk involvement of U.S. and Israeli companies in relatively small but meaningful product developments of a cutting edge technology.
The Executive Director is empowered by the Board of Governors to allocate up to 20% of annual conditional grant funds for the support of mini-projects. The budget of a BIRD mini-project is limited to $400,000. Therefore, the grant is a maximum of $200,000, or 50% of actual project costs, whichever is less..
For Fiscal Year 2016, the BIRD Foundation Board of Governors approved $7.5 million in funding for nine new projects between Israeli and American companies. In addition to the grants from BIRD, the projects will access private sector funding, boosting the total value of all projects to approximately $21.5 million.
The 2016 project approvals were:
- Cellect Biotechnology (Kfar Sava, Israel) and Entegris (Billerica, MA): Improved stem cells selection system.
- Evogene (Rehovot, Israel) and Arcadia Biosciences (Davis, CA): Novel drought tolerant wheat varieties.
- File X (Ness Ziona, Israel) and Brimrose (Sparks, MD): Real-Time AOTF-based hyperspectral imaging system for pollution detection.
- Hinoman (Or Yehuda, Israel) and Benchmark Biolabs (Lincoln, NE): Vaccine for Newcastle virus disease from aquatic plants source.
- Israel Aerospace Industries (Ben Gurion International Airport, Israel) and Honeywell (Morris Plains, NJ): Sense and Avoid for UAVs.
- Kamada (Ness Ziona, Israel) and Baxalta (Bannockburn, IL): Treatment for prevention of lung transplant rejection.
- Keystone Heart (Caesarea Business Park, Israel) and SurModics (Eden Prairie, MN): Novel medical device for cerebral protection during cardiovascular procedures.
- MedAware (Raanana, Israel) and Becton Dickinson (Franklin Lakes, NJ): Prescription error surveillance.
- Mellanox (Yokneam, Israel) and Chromis Fiberoptics (Warren, NJ): Polymer optical fibers for data centers.
The BIRD foundation announced in June 2017 the investment of $7 million in eight new collaborative American-Israeli projects. With added access to funding from the private sector, these projects are projected to be worth a total of $18.5 million.
These eight projects approved by the Board of Governors were in addition to the 940 projects which the BIRD Foundation has approved for funding during its 40 year history. To date, BIRD’s total investment in joint projects has been over $340 million, helping to generate direct and indirect sales of more than $10 billion.
The 2017 project approvals include:
- Atvio (Nesher, Israel) and Secant Group (Telford, PA): Using biomaterials to manufacture therapeutic cells.
- Check-Cap (Usfiya, Israel) and GE Healthcare (Marlborough, MA): Advanced colon-cancer screening system.
- Nutrino Health (Tel Aviv, Israel) and Welltok (Denver, CO): Personalized nutrition recommendations and health plans.
- Pill Tracker (Tel Aviv, Israel) and Target Health (New York City, NY): Tracking medication and drug compliance.
- OpSys Technologies (Holon, Israel) and sdPhotonics (Orlando, FL): Light detection sensors.
- Isorad (Yavne, Israel) and Synrad (Mukilteo, WA): Industrial laser technoligies.
- C4 Systems (Tel Aviv, Israel) and Churchill Navigation (Denver, CO): Augmented reality technology for first responders.
- Melodea (Rehovot) and ICL Performance Products (St. Louis, MO): Environmentally friendly coatings for buildings.
In November 2017 BIRD Energy, part of the BIRD Foundation, announced $4.8 million in funding for five new clean energy projects, supporting initiatives in hydrogen storage, advanced biofuels, sustainable transportation and energy efficiency.
Israel Headquarters Office
Eitan Yudilevich, Ph.D., Executive Director
Kiryat Atidim, Building 4, 15th Floor
Tel Aviv 61581, Israel
E-Mail: [email protected]
Israel Mailing Address
P.O. Box 58054
Tel Aviv 61580, Israel
West Coast Representative (California)
E-Mail: [email protected]
East Coast Representative (New Jersey)
E-Mail: [email protected]
Sources: Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation