What is BIRD?
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.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman signed an agreement on October 27, 2020, extending the United States and Israel’s scientific cooperation to apply to Israeli institutions in the West Bank and the Golan Heights. The deal removed geographic restrictions on funding from BIRD, the Binational Science Foundation (BSF), and the Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund (BARD) which previously were not allowed to sponsor projects in “areas which came under the administration of the Government of Israel after June 5, 1967” and related “to subjects primarily pertinent to such areas.”
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.
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:
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:
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
Sources: Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation;