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October 3, 2021 6:49 pm
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Israel to Launch Global Startup Competition For Desert Technology Solutions

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

View of the Ashalim solar-power station in the Negev Desert on June 19, 2018. The station is the largest of its kind in Israel and fifth-largest in the world. Photo: Miriam Alster/Flash90.

Israel is spearheading an international competition for startup companies to develop and promote desert technology as the world becomes dryer and warmer, seeking solutions to battle desertification and climate change.

Desertification is a growing phenomenon that already affects over 3 billion people. Last year, Israel identified the opportunity to create a hub for startups in the field and launched DeserTech, a desert technology networking community, which operates as part of an innovation center for climate change located in the city of Beersheva, in the country’s Negev desert.

“We promote Israeli innovation as an engine of change in the global field of climate, and the startups competition is a force multiplier for new ideas and groundbreaking development,” said Israel’s Minister of Environmental Protection Tamar Zandberg. “The State of Israel has an advantage deriving from many years of experience in developing innovative solutions to dealing with the challenges of living in a desert climate and we implement them in the DeserTech innovation center.”

“At this center, we shall harness Israeli innovation for the benefit of all countries in the world in their fight against the climate crisis and its repercussions, and it shall serve as a meeting point for technology, research, and policy,” Zandberg added.

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The global competition will be announced on Monday by the DeserTech community at the Israeli pavilion at Expo Dubai. The community is a joint initiative of the Merage Foundation Israel, the Israel Innovation Institute, the Ministry of Environmental Protection, and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Partners of the competition are the Embassy of the Netherlands in Israel, the Wohl Foundation, the British Council Israel, and the British Embassy in Israel.

“The aim of the competition is to promote a global task force with the mission of improving the lives of billions of people and making the desert flourish. In addition, we shall promote the city of Beersheva as a national and global center of this field,” said Jonathan Menuhin, CEO of the Israel Innovation Institute. “We invite companies from Britain and the Netherlands to join Israeli companies and propose their technological solutions in the struggle against desertification, and adjustment to life in the desert.”

The initiative seeks to boost technological innovation to deal with global desert challenges, including extreme climate, land degradation, water scarcity and limited access to water, as well as geographical remoteness of people and marginal living.

It is estimated that by 2025, 1.8 billion people will suffer from absolute water scarcity. Desert environments cover about 40 percent of the world’s land area, and are home to over 20 percent of the world’s population.

The competition has two tracks, Israeli and international, and winning startups will be granted a $31,000 prize.

“Israel in general and particularly the Negev possess a wealth of academic, technological, and applied knowledge associated with the challenges of life in the desert,” said Nicole Hod Stroh, CEO of the Merage Foundation. “In order to promote successful adaption of their technologies and create joint business ventures among Dutch, British, and Israeli companies, the prize for the Dutch and British track shall be the bringing of 20 companies for a seminar in the Negev.

“At the companies’ seminar, participants will become familiar with the Negev’s ecosystem including its research and industrial institutions, connect to local entrepreneurship in agriculture, renewable energy, water, and infrastructures, and get to learn of the opportunities and challenges of the desert,” she explained.

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