Development foundation bringing Canadian, Israeli firms together

CIIRDF headquarters is in Ottawa, Canada’s capital, to spur Canadian companies to “think globally.”The United States comes to mind immediately when Israelis think about business partnerships and exports, but Canada is also gaining its share of trade with Israel, thanks …

CIIRDF headquarters is in Ottawa, Canada’s capital, to spur Canadian companies to “think globally.”The United States comes to mind immediately when Israelis think about business partnerships and exports, but Canada is also gaining its share of trade with Israel, thanks in part to an intergovernmental agency that’s greasing the skids.

The Canada-Israel Industrial Research and Development Foundation was founded in 1994 to build marketing and technology-sharing alliances between companies in Israel and Canada. The agency was established according to the model set by BIRD, its larger Israeli-U.S. counterpart.

CIIRDF prides itself on its matchmaking services. Either a Canadian or an
Israeli business approaches CIIRDF seeking their ideal technological
partner and CIIRDF provides a list of suitable companies from the other country.
Besides introducing the companies, the agency provides 50 percent of the costs of joint research and development projects undertaken by the partnerships.

While it is difficult to gauge the success of the foundation directly, statistics indicate that it is helping: Israel’s high-tech exports to Canada have more than doubled during the past six years.

In a general sense, CIIRDF was created to take advantage in part of the natural attraction between the two countries’ strong technology sectors.

Canada’s biotech and venture capital industries in particular are among the most advanced in the world. Canada created the Biotech Research Institute, which has spun off a number of biotechnology companies, as well as companies in telecommunications, optics, nanotechnology, bioinfomatics and agricultural biotechnology.

On the other side, Israel is considered the technology hub of the Middle East. In addition, it is often easier for Canadians to sell to the European and Far East markets through partnerships with Israeli companies.

Research funding is limited to $800,000 Canadian dollars or 50 percent of the funding for the project. If the companies are successful, they pay back the foundation 100 percent one year after commercialization, either all at once or gradually as a percentage of sales. If the project fails to become profitable, then CIIRDF takes the hit.

When the foundation supports a collaboration, it reduces the risks and increases confidence levels of the two partners, said Adi Riza, manager of the agency’s field office in Israel.

CIIRDF has a strict policy of funding only joint projects, not companies. The funding provided by CIIRDF is to cement the relationship between companies and reduce the risks and increase the confidence levels of companies of different cultures that are working together.

“We do not take equity in the companies, nor interfere in intellectual property decisions or commercialization plans,” Riza said.

CIIRDF is also there to help resolve any conflicts that emerge between the companies as the relationships continue.

“Partnership is difficult enough with two Israelis, let alone with an overseas company, so if there are problems, whether it’s one side not keeping its end of the bargain, or not adhering to deadlines or milestones, then they can turn to us for assistance,” Riza said.

CIIRDF’s main office and its president are based in the Canadian capital of Ottawa. The president reports to a board of directors, comprised of three members from both Israel and Canada. The Israeli field office, run
by Riza, is in Tel Aviv.

“Basing the president in Canada was done in an effort to help Canadians
look globally, since they usually don’t think beyond the United States,” Riza said. “In addition, the office in Israel was opened because Israel is known throughout the world as a great technology hub and a local person can help deal directly with the Israeli companies here.”

The work of CIIRDF has continued and prospered despite the conflict, a fact that Riza attributes, in part, to the strength of Israeli technology and the nation’s entrepreneurial spirit.

“Our technology is strong enough to overcome fears,” Riza said. “And Israelis have the drive, the chutzpah, call it what you will, to take the initiative and carry on our entrepreneurial spirit.”