State-to-State Cooperation: Wisconsin and Israel
Trade and Population Statistics
|Exports to Israel (2021)||
|Percentage Change (2020-2021)||
|Total Exports to Israel (1996-Present)||
|Israel’s Trade Partner Rank (2021)||
|Wisconsin’s Rank as Exporter to Israel (2021)||16|
|Military Contracts with Israel (2015)||
|Jewish Population (2022)||
|Jewish Percentage of Population||
Binational Foundation Grants
|Agricultural Research & Development (1979-Present)||
|Science & Technology (1999-Present)||
|Industrial Research & Development (1977-Present)||
|Total Binational Grants||
Grant Recipients in Wisconsin From U.S.-Israel Binational Foundations top
Germania Dairy Automation Inc.
Medical College of Wisconsin
Nicolet Biomedical Inc.
Nicolet Instrument Corp.
University of Wisconsin
University of Wisconsin Medical
University of Wisconsin Milwaukee
University of Wisconsin Steven's Point
USDA-ARS Agronomy/Horticulture Research Lab
Virent Energy Systems
Bilateral Institutions top
Wisconsin Department of Commerce Global Ventures, Israel - In December 2010, the DOC officially announced plans to build and strengthen bilateral ties with Israel which they hope to do through their Global Ventures office. Currently, Governor Doyle has put out a formal Request for Proposals (RFP) to solicit companies and researchers interested in the development of joint Wisconsin-Israel R&D Partnerships.
Committee for Economic Growth of Israel - Founded by entrepreneur and Jewish philanthropist, Elmer Winter, at the request of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1976. CE GI was established to help expand and grow trade between Israel and the state of Wisconsin, in particular, and the entire U.S. in general. It deals with business promotion in both Wisconsin and Israel, much the same as the various Chamber of Commerce.
Anti-Boycott Law top
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed Executive Order #261 into law on October 27, 2017, prohibiting state agencies from entering into contracts with entities that participate in Israel boycotts. The Executive Order also stipulates that any state agencies reserve the right to terminate existing contracts with entities that are found to be in violation of the order.
Walker signed Assembly Bill 553 into law on April 3, 2018, which prevents “state agencies and governmental units” from adopting rules, policies, or procedures, that engage in a boycott of Israel.
Cooperative Agreements top
In November 2009, Governor Jim Doyle and Israeli Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor Benjamin Ben-Eliezer signed a memorandum of understanding and a bilateral cooperative trade agreement with the hopes of promoting collaboration and a strong working relationship between Wisconsin and Israel in research and development. In fostering this development, the Department of Commerce has partnered closely with the Israeli Economic Mission to coordinate targeted investment attraction and matchmaking events in areas of innovative technology.
Wisconsin Government Missions to Israel top
November 2017 - Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker visited Israel on a trade mission and held meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the beginning of November 2017. Walker extended an invitation to Netanyahu to visit Wisconsin.
August 2011 - Congresswoman Gwen Moore accompanied the 81-member Congressional delegation to Israel to learn more about regional politics and the U.S.-Israel relationship.
November 2009 - Governor Jim Doyle and Department of Commerce Secretary Aaron Olver led a delegation from Wisconsin on a trade mission to Israel. The group arranged several targeted investment meetings with Israeli firms who could benefit by expanding into Wisconsin. During the trip, Gov. Doyle signed a cooperative agreement with the Israel Ministry of Trade that was facilitated by the DOC’s Global Ventures office.
2005 - Congressman Paul Ryan visited Israel as part of a large Republican Congressional delegation trip. He and the other congressmen met with then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and visited strategic sites in Jerusalem, as well as Israel’s northern borders with Syria and Lebanon.
Partners For Change top
The U.S.-Israel relationship is based on the twin pillars of shared values and mutual interests. Given this commonality of interests and beliefs, it should not be surprising that support for Israel is one of the most pronounced consistent and foreign policy values of the American people.
It is more difficult to devise programs that capitalize on the two nations’ shared values than their security interests; nevertheless, such programs do exist. In fact, these SHARED VALUE INITIATIVES cover a broad range of areas, including the environment, science and technology, education and health. States can benefit from Israeli innovations in these areas as well as through collaboration.
In addition, today’s interdependent global economy requires that trade policy be developed at the national and state level. Many states have recognized the opportunity to realize significant benefits by seeking to increase trade with Israel. Wisconsin is one of 33 states that have cooperative agreements with Israel.
In 2021, Wisconsin exported more than $189 million worth of manufacturing goods to Israel. Since 1996, Wisconsin’s exports to Israel have totaled more than $1.9 billion and Israel now ranks as Wisconsin’s 22nd leading trade partner. Wisconsin ranks 16th among all states in exports to Israel.
Additionally, in 2015, Wisconsin companies received more than $15 million in foreign military financing (FMF) to provide materiel for the Israeli Defense Forces. Since 1996, Wisconsin companies have received nearly $84 million in FMF. These include Kearfott Guidance & Navigation in Milwaukee, Twin Disc Inc. in Racine, and Therma-Stor LLC Boumatic in Madison.
Israel is certainly a place where potential business and trade partners can be found. It can also be a source, however, for innovative programs and ideas for addressing problems facing the citizens of Wisconsin.
Israel has developed several pioneering education programs. For example, AICE introduced an innovative Israeli peer tutoring program to North Carolina that educators adapted for use in the United States. Now known as Reading Together, the program is used in 28 states. The program is designed to help students achieve reading fluency and is mostly used for children in second grade. The hope is that with its implementation, increasing numbers of students will perform at grade level or above.
Wisconsin has also received more than $6.2 million worth of grants from binational U.S.-Israel foundations for joint research in science, agriculture, and the promotion of commercial ventures.
A variety of other exciting approaches to social problems like unemployment, environmental protection, and drug abuse have been successfully implemented in Israel and could be imported for the benefit of Americans.
The potential for greater cooperation with Israel for the benefit of Wisconsin is limited only by the imagination.
Wisconsin Firms Profit From Business With Israel top
As the only country with free trade agreements with both the United States and the European community, Israel can act as a bridge for international trade between the United States and Europe. Moreover, because of the deep pool of talent, particularly in high-technology areas, Israel provides excellent investment opportunities. Some of the nation’s largest companies, such as IBM, Microsoft, Motorola, Intel, and McDonald’s have found that it is indeed profitable to do business in Israel.
At least 180 Wisconsin companies have discovered the benefits of doing business in Israel, including Nicolet, GE Medical Systems, Manpower Inc. and Sunlite Plastics Inc.
Manpower Inc., a temporary help/staffing business based in Wisconsin, has 35 offices in Israel. James Fromstein, Senior Vice President of Manpower Inc., said what attracted Manpower to do business in Israel is the high level of education of Israelis and their aggressive nature in structuring their economy. The company’s experience in Israel has been “very positive.”
Milwaukee-based A.O. Smith Corporation entered into a strategic business cooperation agreement with Chromagen, a leading manufacturer of solar water heating solutions located in Sha’ar Ha’amakim in Israel, to develop advanced solar technology for water heating applications. Under the agreement, A.O. Smith will become Chromagen’s exclusive marketer and distributor in the USA and Canada of its solar collectors for both residential and commercial use. Chromagen, with estimated 2009 sales of $50 million, has two manufacturing operations in Israel and distributes products in more than 35 countries worldwide. A. O. Smith Corporation, with 2009 sales of $2.0 billion, is a global leader in applying innovative technology and energy-efficient solutions to products marketed worldwide. The cooperation between these two powerhouse companies will only mean greater opportunities for both Israel and the USA.
Wisconsin benefits by importing from Israel as well as exporting. GE Medical Systems has been exporting diagnostic medical equipment to Israel since the 1950s. Aside from exporting devices used for CTs, MRIs, X-Rays, and Ultrasounds, they also import medical nuclear scanners manufactured in Israel. According to Tony Hahn of the International Sales Department, “the business/medical clientele in Israel is very experienced and there is a good business community.”
Nicolet Instrument Corporation has been doing business in Israel for about fifteen years, says Bruce Jamison, area manager for Nicolet in the Middle East and South Asia. The company has been selling spectrometers used for analyzing chemical composition and materials to Israel. Jamison says it’s a reasonable market for the size of its population (roughly six million) and that, relative to other countries in the area, doing business with Israel is easy.
One good way to break into the Israeli market is through a joint venture with an Israeli company. Funding for such projects is available from the Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation (BIRD). BIRD funds projects in 36 states and the District of Columbia and hundreds of companies including AOL, GE, BP Solar, Texas Instruments, and Johnson & Johnson have benefitted from BIRD grants.
The United States and Israel established BIRD in 1977 to fund joint U.S.-Israeli teams in the development and subsequent commercialization of innovative, nondefense technological products from which both the Israeli and American companies can expect to derive benefits commensurate with the investments and risks. Most grant recipients are small businesses involved with software, instrumentation, communications, medical devices, and semiconductors.
Since 1977, the Foundation has approved investments in more than 1,000 projects, which have yielded direct and indirect revenues of more than $10 billion. More than $125 million worth of grants has been approved for projects in 37 states and the District of Columbia.
Dr. Eli Opper, the former Israeli chair of BIRD, has said that BIRD is a strong pillar of U.S.-Israel industrial cooperation and that the extreme success of BIRD has led Israel to adopt similar models of R&D with other countries.
At least four Wisconsin-based companies - Manpower, Nicolet Instrument Corp., Germania Dairy Automation Inc., and Virent Energy Systems - have taken advantage of the BIRD program, and shared grants with Israeli partners totaling more than $1.1 million.
In 2010, BIRD awarded more than $4.2 million in grants for joint development projects between companies based in the United States and Israel in the areas of biofuels, wind energy, solar energy and energy efficiency. Five different projects awarded this funding will help address critical shared bilateral energy-related goals and will leverage private sector cost-share for a total project value of $12.8 million. One of the projects awarded is based locally in Wisconsin. HCL CleanTech Ltd., from Tel Aviv, Israel, and Virent Energy Systems, based in Madison, will jointly develop and test a process to produce biogasoline from cellulosic non-food sources.
Milwaukee-based technology company Johnson Controls was awarded funding through the BIRD Foundation to partner with EnVerid Systems to develop a novel air handling technology for reducing the energy consumption of HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, or the collective technology of indoor and automotive comfort). This grant was part of over $8.1 million awarded by BIRD to nine new projects in December 2011 to companies throughout the U.S. and Israel.
Nicolet Instrument Corporation, a world leader in the design, manufacture and marketing of instrumentation for assessing nerve, muscle, hearing/vestibular, sleep, epilepsy, and brain blood flow disorders, teamed up with Isorad Ltd., an Israeli company that develops mid-infrared fiberoptic materials. Their BIRD grant supported the development of a fiber optic chemical sensor to identify harmful chemical materials in the environment and for the performance of safe quality control analysis on toxic chemical products. Once this “FiberCell” was developed, the two companies applied for another BIRD grant to develop a complete fiberoptic sampling system that could be integrated with commercial infrared spectrometers.
Nicolet also partnered with Medoc Ltd., an Israeli-based company that develops, manufactures and markets devices for the small fibers of the peripheral nerve system. Medoc’s creation of a Thermal Sensory Analyzer (TSA) is considered the best of its kind in the world. Through a BIRD mini project, Medoc’s TSA device has been modified into a compact accessory for Nicolet’s own diagnostic system, the Nicolet Sensation, launched in 1996. Since their original joint venture, the two companies have expanded their working relationship into additional marketing efforts.
Germania Dairy Automation, Inc. has been the sole distributor in North America of Afimilk, a milk meter, and computerized dairy management system, made by the kibbutz-based company Afikim. In 1996, the two companies received a BIRD grant to create a milk component analyzer. This product analyzes the different components of milk such as the amount of butterfat and the somatic cell count, which indicates the level of bacteria in milk. “Germania and Afikim already had a good working relationship so we decided to go together on this project,” said Germania’s general manager Robert Russell.
Scientific Innovations top
Wisconsin researchers are making scientific breakthroughs and developing cutting-edge technologies in joint projects with Israeli scientists thanks to support from the Binational Science Foundation (BSF). BSF was established in 1972 to promote scientific relations and cooperation between scientists from the United States and Israel. The fund supports collaborative research projects in a wide area of basic and applied scientific fields for peaceful and non-profit purposes.
Since its inception, and in today’s value, BSF has awarded over $700 million to more than 5,000 research projects involving thousands of scientists from more than 400 U.S. institutions located in 46 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. Many of these projects have led to important scientific, medical, and technological breakthroughs with wide-ranging practical applications.
BSF-sponsored studies are highly successful in achieving their two main goals: strengthening the US-Israel partnership through science and promoting world-class scientific research for the benefit of the two countries and all mankind. The BSF grants help extend research resources to achieve milestones that might not otherwise be attainable; introduce novel approaches and techniques to lead American researchers in new directions; confirm, clarify and intensify research projects; and provide unmatched access to Israeli equipment, facilities and research results that help speed American scientific advances. BSF has documented no less than 75 new discoveries made possible by its research grants and counts 37 Nobel Prize and 19 Lasker Medical Award laureates among its joint partners.
The University of Wisconsin and its medical school have received more than $1.6 million in BSF grants.
Professor John W. Valley is the chairman of the department of geology and physics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In 1995 he received a BSF grant to do joint research with Professor Matthews of Hebrew University in Jerusalem to study the geology of rocks in Greece. Through this study, they learned that the rocks of the Alpine belt were once at sea level and then due to tectonic forces, such as the formation of mountain belts, they were then buried 50 km. below. Today these rocks are once again at the mountain surface. This discovery has helped geologists to better understand the geological history of Southern Europe. Practical applications resulting from this research include the exploration of metallic ore deposits as well as oil and gas deposits. Valley has been to Israel twice and will likely go back when Professor Matthews takes his sabbatical at the University of Wisconsin next year. A postdoc who was also working with the two professors built her own geochemistry lab at Hebrew University based on her experience working with Valley and Matthews.
Professor Arthur B. Ellis of the University of Wisconsin received a BSF grant in 1996. Since then he has been working with the Weizmann Institute of Science to research chemical sensoring. This consists of putting certain molecules on the surface of semiconductors to create a sensor that can determine the presence of other compounds and their concentration in the gas and liquid phase. “This is basic scientific research,” said Ellis, “we are not engineers, so we don’t actually create the sensors, but we do background research.” Professor Ellis has “had a very positive experience” and said that “the professors at Weizmann were very good colleagues [to work with] and had great ideas.”
University of Wisconsin Professor of Chemistry Robert C. West has received several BSF grants and has been collaborating with Israel since about 1988. Professor West works with Professor Yitzchak Apeloig at the Technion in Haifa to research novel types of multiple bonds to silicon. The team in Haifa does all the theoretical work and calculations behind the creation of new compounds using the element silicon and then the scientists at Wisconsin do the experimental and laboratory work to create new compounds. When comparing the experience of collaborating with Israel to other countries, West said that he has “never been so successful as [he has] been in Israel.” Professor West has also been doing joint electrochemistry research with James Becker at the Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba for the past five years.
Agriculture Benefits top
In 1978, the United States and Israel jointly created the Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund (BARD) to help fund programs between U.S. and Israeli scientists for mutually beneficial, mission-oriented, strategic and applied research into agricultural problems. Since its inception, BARD has awarded more than $130 million to U.S. institutions for 1,352 joint projects. A 40-year review in 2019 involving 20 case studies estimated the foundation’s contribution to the U.S. economy at $2.7 billion. BARD research has resulted in the adoption of approximately 200 new agricultural practices, around 40 commercial engagements, and approximately 100 patents and breeding rights licenses.
Most BARD projects focus on either increasing agricultural productivity, plant and animal health, or food quality and safety and have been influential in creating new technologies in drip irrigation, pesticides, fish farming, livestock, poultry, disease control, and farm equipment. BARD funds projects in 45 states and the District of Columbia and at present is beginning to administer collaborative efforts between Australia, Canada, and Israel as well. It is difficult to break down the impact on a state-by-state basis, but overall, BARD-sponsored research has generated sales of more than $500 million, tax revenues of more than $100 million, and created more than 5,000 American jobs.
The University of Wisconsin has received grants worth more than $3.4 million.
Professor Gary Splitter of the University of Wisconsin is closer to his goals of finding a cure for T-cell leukemia and stopping the Brucella Melitensis endemic thanks to his joint research under the auspices of a BARD grant.
Professor Splitter has received BARD grants every few years since 1989 to study the bovine leukemia virus, which is very similar to T-cell leukemia in humans. These viruses are major problems in both countries—approximately 30,000 cattle in Wisconsin alone are affected. Splitter is working with a collaborator from the Israeli Veterinarian Institute, part of the federal laboratory, to monitor the disease in Israel. Together they are trying to learn why the virus persists in the host that eventually causes cancer.
Splitter and his Israeli colleagues are also studying Brucella Melitensis, a bacterium that is currently a serious problem in sheep, goats, and cattle in Israel. These bacteria can be found in the milk of these animals and transmitted to humans when they eat non-pasteurized dairy products, which is extremely common in Israel. Because this disease is not found in the U.S. anymore, going to Israel gives him a better perspective of how the disease occurs worldwide. He can see the disease up close and talk to Bedouins, Israelis, Palestinians, and kibbutzniks who have been affected. Through this collaboration, Wisconsin and Israel not only share data but also send reagents back and forth. Overall, this joint research has been “very, very helpful,” said Professor Splitter.
In a 2009 study supported by the BARD Fund, Professors Jess Reed and Mark Richards of the Department of Food Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison collaborated with a number of Israeli scientists to investigate the effects of red wine, which contains polyphenols - chemical substances found in many fruits, vegetables, and their derived beverages believed to protect the body against some common health problems - on the stomach’s production and body’s absorption of malondialdehyde – an “advanced lipoxidation end product” (ALE) that is involved in the thickening of arteries, a disease that has been known to cause heart attack, stroke or even death.
Overall, the scientists’ research results indicate that while a diet consisting solely of red meat leads to an increase in malondialdehyde levels, both in the stomach and in the blood’s plasma, the addition of wine to the meal helps maintain malondialdehyde at healthy levels. These findings have led the scientists to suggest that the main benefit of including polyphenol-rich fruits, vegetables and their derived beverages, such as wine, in the diet as an integral part of the meal arises from their ability to counteract the generation and absorption of ALEs.
The collaborative team from Wisconsin and Israel has already published two papers about this BARD-supported research, one of which is being used to help secure future funding for related projects. As Professor Richards attests, “Collaborating with Dr. Kanner [Volcani Center, Israel] was a rewarding experience that has provided knowledge that I utilize today in my own teaching and research.” Without the help of BARD, this research and the important findings it entailed may never have been possible.
On another BARD project, Professor Thomas German from the University of Wisconsin collaborates with researchers from the University of California-Davis, the University of Georgia, and Hebrew University to find a way to control the tomato tospovirus. This virus affects more than 1,000 species of plants including tomatoes and peppers, causing billions of dollars of damage worldwide. This virus is transmitted by a tiny insect that is hard to control because of its enormous reproduction rate. These collaborators are studying the mechanism by which the insects transmit the disease in hopes of finding new methods to prevent it.
Wisconsin produces more than $100 million worth of potatoes a year. Today, many U.S. seed potatoes are checked for debilitating diseases, which may cause substantial economic losses, using a new test developed by BARD grantees. Wisconsin, being a large dairy farming state, also benefits from research done regarding inert fats in the diet. Since BARD grantees proved that inert fats in the diet are healthy, nutritional, and affect fertility, they have become part of commercial rations in both the U.S. and Israel.
Madison’s Saxon Homestead Farm invested in the Israeli-based company SCR which makes a system involving electronic cow collars that help farmers use data to determine when to breed them. Karl Klessig, whose family owns a dairy farm and cheese-making business in eastern Wisconsin, was among the first Americans to invest, in 2009, in the SCR-sold system. This technology is just one example of how Israeli agricultural innovation is helping farmers around the United States, like previous inventions such as Netafim’s drip irrigation that revolutionized crop growing.
Other Cooperative Programs top
GE Medical Systems of Milwaukee received a grant from the U.S.-Israel Science & Technology Commission for a joint project with ISORAD to develop high-performance imaging cameras for medicine.
Sister Cities top
UJA Partnership 2000 Communities
State Contacts top
Hillel Campus Profiles
Committee for Economic Growth in Israel
5301 Ironwood Rd.
Milwaukee, WI 53201
Email. [email protected]
Kenosha Jewish Welfare Fund
600 68th Place
Kenosha, WI 53143
Madison Jewish Community Council
6434 Enterprise Lane
Madison, WI 53719-1117
Milwaukee Jewish Council for Community Relations
1360 North Prospect Ave., 2nd Fl.
Milwaukee, WI 53202-3091
Email. [email protected]
Milwaukee Jewish Federation
1360 North Prospect Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Sherwin Pomerantz, Israel Director
Wisconsin Department of Commerce
c/o Atid EDI Ltd
Bldg. 2, Har Hotzvim, P.O. Box 45005
Email. [email protected]
Wisconsin Dept. of Development
123 West Washington Ave., P.O. Box 7970
Madison, WI 53707
Sources: World Institute for Strategic Economic Research.
Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation (BIRD).
United States-Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund (BARD) .
United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF).