(Communicated by the IIA Spokesperson)
Ahead of the new year, the Israel Innovation Authority has outlined areas of focus for 2023 and announced the award of about 150m NIS budget for the launch three innovation consortiums focusing on integrated photonics, metamaterials and metasurfaces, and black soldier fly farming.
Explaining the emphasis, Aviv Zeevi, VP Technological Infrastructure at the Israel Innovation Authority said, “The funding provided for these three consortiums forms part of the authority’s strategy to encourage high-risk endeavours within Israeli tech industry, while developing new core capabilities that will enable penetration into groundbreaking new markets with disruptive technologies, both for startup companies as well as large corporations.
The integrated photonics’ consortium is based on groundbreaking technology with potential for development into different product lines in different markets. Chips are a highly strategic sector, and the consortium will drive the development of home-grown capabilities in this area, without conceding technological excellence and groundbreaking innovation.
At the same time, the technologies that will emerge from the meta consortium will boost the domestic industry’s competitive advantage in a large and still growing market and will enable the continued rollout of a range of advanced technologies in medical diagnostics (MRI and endoscopy), comms (satellite communication and low-cost adjustable antennas), advanced sensors and LiDAR, and avionics support systems.
Last but not least, the creative use of bugs as a solution to the problem of organic waste hazards, while reducing environmental pollution has proven itself to be highly effective – bugs have high nutritional potential, produce fewer greenhouses gasses and emit less ammonia than farm animals, industrial-scale farming of bugs requires less space, water and land than a cattle farm, and they are more effective at converting food to biomass.”
These are the three consortiums:
1. Integrated photonics consortium: looking at light as a tool for data processing, chips, and communications and interception systems – the research committee of the Technological Infrastructure Division at the Israel Innovation Authority has approved a budget of about 40 million NIS for three years. The key areas this consortium will be looking to advance are: a source of integrated photonic light, which is a stepping stone to the development of a quantum computer, but also has market value as a standalone component in its own right; a small-volume, lightweight gyro with mid-range accuracy (short navigation) and significantly lower cost than at present; comb-laser for multi-channel optical communications; and a platform to substantially reduce volume for high-powered airborne laser systems. The benefits of the platform to be developed at the consortium is their high transparency in the visible and near-IR ranges, as well as in their ability to combine electronic circuits on one photonic chip, thereby reducing volume and weight.
Four Israeli companies are participating in this consortium: Elop, Cielo, Quantum Source and New Photonics. Furthermore, the consortium is backed up by academic expertise, courtesy of six researchers with knowledge in silicon based planning and manufacturing: nitride, resonators and active components. The list of researchers includes: Dr. Ilya Goykhman from the Technion, professor Avi Zadok and Dr. Boris Desiatov from Bar-Ilan University, alongside professor Uriel Levy, professor Dan Marom and Dr. Liron Stern from the Hebrew University. Work to manufacture SiN4 components will be subcontracted and carried out by Tower Semiconductors.
In 2021, the silicon photonics’ market was estimated to be worth $1.1 billion by MarketAndMarket, with a growth rate of 26.8 percent, stemming from high demand for the silicon photonics component. This market value is projected to increase to $4.6 billion by 2027.
2. Metamaterials consortium – manipulation, not emotional but material, and Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak becomes a reality – the research committee of the Technological Infrastructure Division has approved the work plans and participating partners within the metamaterials and metasurfaces consortium, which is expected to run for three years, beginning in January 2023. The budget for this period is estimated at 55 million NIS.
Metamaterial and metasurfaces technology is based on an intelligent combination of nano- or micro-structures with a typical sub-wavelength size (a few to one tenths of sub-wavelength), to create artificial electromagnetic materials with specified engineered properties, allowing manipulation of the electromagnetic wave that passes through the material. The passage of the electromagnetic wave through a metamaterial medium changes the wave's front in a calculated manner and allows highly efficient redesign of the fields and flow of energy, to fabricate unconventional mirrors, thin lenses, adjustable antennas, wide-angle absorbers and more.
Despite the dramatic developments in this field of research over the past 20 years, and a range of laboratory demonstrations, this technology has yet to be successfully integrated in significant practical applications in Israel or worldwide. The metamaterials and metasurfaces consortium seeks to further these technologies within Israeli academia and industry, to make it possible to design and integrate such components in various systems (such as communications and optics).
Members of the consortium include eight companies (Elbit Systems, Ceragon, SatixFy Communications, Galel, Spectralics, SDC, PCB, OPSYS, FVMAT and IKOM) and 10 research groups (the Technion, Hebrew University, Weizmann Institute, Tel Aviv University, Ariel University, Bar-Ilan University and Ben-Gurion University).
3. The Black Soldier Fly consortium – how do you promote alternative proteins, artificial intelligence and the circular economy in one research project? – the research committee of the Technological Infrastructure Division has approved the work plans at a budget of about 28 million NIS for the black soldier fly (BSF) consortium for its development as a new farm animal.
The eight Israeli companies participating in the consortium are: FreezeM, Ambar, Shachar Group Ltd., NRGene, Neomena, Entoprotech, Bagira and Rafael Feed Mills Ltd. These companies will collaborate with nine leading academic research groups from the Volcani Institute, MIGAL, Haifa University, Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University.
The need for this consortium stems from a lack of a shared, broad knowledge base, as exists for other farm animals, relating to aspects such as breeding, health, nutrition, scalability and more, and from a need to develop industrial processes based on trial and error in all aspects of handling the organism – growing, feeding, creating products and treating frass. Improving processes through integration of innovative technologies is critical to the economic feasibility of the use of black soldier flies and development of products.
The technology companies in the consortium which include a combination of waste recycling companies, genetics companies, and companies that develop food for livestock, have connected with academic groups with development or unique technological infrastructures to expand the knowledge base and use of the black soldier fly.
The main issues that the consortium has chosen to focus on are: improving black soldier fly feed based on an analysis of important components of their nutrition; improving growth, health and breeding indices; and laying the foundations for commercial viability. In the future, the consortium also intends to develop computational infrastructures based on results of the consortium's experiments, to serve the industry as a computerized "recipe book" for optimizing the flow of organic waste, the fly's gender, and requirements for end use (required protein/fat values).
*The black soldier fly (BSF) is an insect which feeds off organic waste with a total lifecycle of 45 days, from egg, larva, pupa to adult stage, during which time they do not eat. The larvae which grow in refuse can convert various forms of organic waste into quality products (protein, oils, manure and more), both processed by the larvae and as a byproduct of the process. The fly does not carry disease or viruses that are harmful to humans or animals. These traits have made the black soldier fly a significant part of the effort to apply circular economy worldwide. Today, BSF products have been approved for use only for feeding livestock, but it is near certain that in the future, their use will be expanded to humans for the production of food, cosmetics and medicine.