Israel Innovation Authority, National Digital Ministry renew 'GovTech' incentive program 

Nonprofit organizations and companies are encouraged to find solutions for a wide range of public sector challenges

Photo: Israel Innovation Authority

The Israel Innovation Authority, the Israel National Digital Ministry, and the national “Digital Israel” program are renewing, for the fifth consecutive year, the GovTech incentive program designed to promote innovative technologies for the public sector. This program encourages companies and non-profit organizations to offer solutions to the challenges of the public sector by utilizing innovative technologies in the fields of education, health, welfare, economics, law, local governance and more.

The GovTech program, launched in 2016, aims to promote technological innovation as well as to connect the high-tech industry with the public sector. The new 2020 call for proposals, with a total budget of 10 million NIS, invites companies to identify and provide technological solutions in response to public challenges – especially in light of the current coronavirus crisis, which highlights the need for the public sector and government entities to utilize innovative technological solutions in order to mitigate the crisis and foster social resilience in the long term.

Aharon Aharon, CEO of the Israel Innovation Authority, said "In the midst of the coronavirus crisis, it is crucial now more than ever to bolster the capacity of the public sector to manage this crisis while responding to the needs of citizens by connecting government entities with private companies developing advanced technologies. The GovTech incentive program supports the integration of such innovative technologies, whose goal is to improve the quality of day-to-day public services (in fields such as education, healthcare, employment, welfare, local government and more), while encouraging high-tech companies to remain in Israel."

The Director-General of the Israel National Digital Ministry, Asher Bitton, commented, "We are pleased to renew the GovTech incentive program as one more means for the National Digital Ministry to promote innovation in the public sector. This close cooperation between the private and public sectors has so far yielded positive results: to date, 100 million NIS have been invested in some 200 initiatives through the GovTech incentive program, and 72% of these initiatives were successful, thanks to the support they  received, enabling them to develop solutions that will help the public sector provide better services to Israeli citizens. I see great importance in this program at a time when there is a need to simultaneously stimulate investment in the private sector and further digitize the public sector."

Accelerated digital transformation processes are seen as compelling the public sector to keep up with innovation trends and become more agile and accessible. According to the Government ICT Authority’s 2019-2021 strategic plan, within six years Israel's population is expected to reach 10 million within six years, and grow to about 20 million by 2065. If government offices continue operating in their current configuration and do not implement innovative technologies, governmental bodies will not be able to meet the needs of the population and the private sector. Therefore, there is an urgent need to integrate digital services in a manner that will enable authorities to provide public services for Israel’s ever-growing population, as well as minimizing the social gaps between the country’s geographical periphery and its center.

The 2020 GovTech incentive program offers two levels of support: requests with a budget of up to 500,000 NIS will be eligible for a grant of up to 75%, whereas requests with a budget between 500,000 to 1,500,000 NIS will be eligible for grants of 40%, 50% or 60%. Additional funding will be available for spheres of national priority and, for the first time, for startups owned by under-represented entrepreneurs (minorities, ultra-orthodox, women).

The companies that received grants via this program include:

Serenus.AI: Serenus.AI is the first AI-based platform that empowers medical decisions ahead of medical procedures. Recently published research indicates that a high rate of treatments and medical procedures are unnecessary, leading to an overload of health systems and wasting valuable resources that could have been directed to more needy cases while exposing patients to gratuitous risks. Serenus' solution, with two registered patents, is a computerized system based on AI technology fostering decision-making. The system is used to help medical personnel improve their decision-making process prior to carrying out medical treatments and procedures.

The purpose of the system is to help medical professionals obtain the most updated research, assess relevant factors and make educated and personalized decisions for each and every patient. In this way, medical records are improved as well as information flow in real-time amongst relevant medical bodies. This data is also used for prospective research to uncover insights regarding the efficiency of medical treatments beyond what is known in the world of medicine today. The company works with leading healthcare concerns in Israel, England and the USA. The company's solution was awarded prestigious grants by the Israel Innovation Authority, the Israeli Ministry of Health, the Israeli Ministry of Economy and the BIRD Foundation.

MoodKnight developed by 4Girls Ltd.: A tech enterprise analyzing digital content in order to uncover mental distress, victims of violence and those with suicidal tendencies by using Artificial Intelligence, machine learning and natural language processing (NLP). The system provides a Digital Distress Risk Score based on a pre-defined model validated by mental health experts, psychologists and social workers. The system is already operational and detects and classifies mental duress at high accuracy based on data of two social networks, and soon via parental supervision applications. 4Girls received private and public funding from the GovTech incentive program and from the Israeli Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services. The company is also a part of the digital healthcare track of Microsoft's acceleration program "AI for Good.”

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