India and Israel set up 5-year I4F technology fund

IN A BID to bolster ties, India and Israel teamed up this week to launch a technology fund and sign seven accords aimed at creating a cooperative relationship in various industries, including space research, science and agricultural development.

The Israel India Innovation Fund (I4F) was announced on Wednesday during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first state visit to Israel. Modi is the first Indian head of state to visit Israel, signalling the divisive leader’s strategy to build alternative relationships globally and quickly transition India into the digital economy.

For Israel, Modi’s visit is a welcome beginning a relationship that could open up a market of 1.3 billion citizens eager for the Middle Eastern country’s advanced technology exports.

“It isn’t ‘copy-paste,’ but it can be done,” said Grossman, who previously worked in Israel’s defence sector, to Bloomberg.

“India is an almost infinite market for Israel.”

Israel and India have seen bilateral trade boom since 1992, with volumes rising from about US$200 million to about US$4.2 billion, according to Israel’s Economy Ministry. Diamonds and defence exports still make up the bulk of Israel’s exports to the South Asian nation. However, that is set to change as the two sides want to make agriculture and conservation technology the centerpiece of their trade relationship.

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Diplomatic officials from both countries emphasized the relationship would see particular efforts to push Israeli technology to match up with PM Modi’s program to spur local manufacturing under the banner “Make in India”.

“This is a great day,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during a working lunch in Jerusalem, according to comments relayed by his office to Bloomberg. “I have a feeling today India and Israel are changing our world.”

This diplomatic tie-up is the logical next step in a series of partnerships that have taken place in both countries’ private sectors. India’s largest angel investor coalition, the Indian Angel Network, began operations in Israel the previous week.

In other news, Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. is working on a joint venture with Wipro Infrastructure Engineering, while at the same time doubling down on its current work with Kalyani group.

The technology fund is aimed at slowly digitizing the trade between the two countries. It will receive US$8 million every year from both governments in an agreement that should last five years. The money will be used to encourage Indian investors to bet on Israel’s advanced technology ecosystem, as well as help conglomerates looking to set up development centers in the Middle Eastern country.

The I4F fund could help arrest that trend. Each government will put US$4 million a year for five years into the fund, which aims to encourage Indians to invest in Israel’s technology ecosystem and spur large Indian companies to open development centers there.

“The fund is important,” said Avi Luvton, Israel Innovation Authority’s senior director for Asia Pacific to Bloomberg. “It creates a tool through which connections are made.”