Fortnightly, 12 June 2019

Fortnightly, 12 June 2019

June 12, 2019


12 June 2019
9 Sivan 5779
9 Shawwal 1440




1.1  Israel Will Go to Polls Again on 17 September
1.2  Israel Railways Signs Bombardier Deal for 74 Carriages


2.1  Bank Leumi, CIBC & National Australia Bank Drive Collaboration with Fintechs
2.2  Secret Double Octopus Expands in Europe to Eliminate Passwords from the Enterprise
2.3  OwnBackup Closes $23.25 Million Investment for Its Cloud-to-Cloud Backup Platform
2.4  ChargeAfter Raises $8 Million in Series A to Expand Its POS Financing Platform
2.5  Equalum Raises $18 Million to Fuel Global Expansion
2.6  El Al to Launch Tel Aviv – Tokyo Flights
2.7  Israel’s Delek Hopes Gas Exports to Egypt to Begin in June
2.8  Advanced Energy Announces Grand Opening of New Facility in Israel
2.9  Cylus Raises $12 Million to Accelerate Global Expansion
2.10  Voicesense Wins Excellence in Customer Service’s Technology of the Year Award
2.11  Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance Inaugurates Tel Aviv Innovation Lab
2.12  Innoviz Technologies’ Series C Funding Round Closes at $170 Million
2.13  Delta Galil to Acquire Intimate Apparel Leader The Bogart Group
2.14  Fourth Annual Israel Education Summit in Tel Aviv Makes Global Impact
2.15  gA Opens Israel Office to Capitalize on Start-Up Nation Innovation & New Technologies
2.16  Newsight Imaging Signs Strategic Collaboration Agreement with ZKW
2.17  SafeRide Technologies Collaborates With the Renault Nissan Mitsubishi Alliance


3.1  Jordan’s New Hospital to Bring Highest Standard of Patient Experience
3.2  IBM Says 31% of UAE and Saudi Firms Unprepared for Cyber Attack
3.3  Spinneys Plans Eight New UAE Supermarkets by End of 2019
3.4  Petland Continues International Expansion – Opening in Saudi Arabia
3.5  PPIH Announces Expansion into Egypt and Egyptian Contract Awards
3.6  Keller Williams Expands to Morocco


4.1  Chakratec & Wien Energie Launch World’s First High Power EV Charger at Vienna Airport
4.2  Saudi Entrepreneur Develops World’s Largest Ocean Energy Project


5.1  Lebanon’s Trade Rises at End of First Quarter by 2.46% to $4.09 Billion
5.2  Lebanon Seeks to Halve Power Subsidy in 2020
5.3  Amman Says Some 1 in 5 Jordanians Are Unemployed
5.4  UAE-Jordan Strategic Partnership Launches One Million Jordanian Coders Initiative

♦♦Arabian Gulf

5.5  Kuwait’s Sovereign Wealth Fund Grows Despite Oil Shocks
5.6  Moody’s Says UAE Credit Profile Stable
5.7  S&P Sees Abu Dhabi GDP Growth Averaging 2.5% to 2022
5.8  Dubai Plans to Bring 100 mph Rail System to the Emirate
5.9  Dubai Sees 7% Rise in Non-Oil Trade to Dh339 Billion
5.10  Saudi Arabia Advances to 26th Place in IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook 2019
5.11  Saudi Arabia’s Economic Growth Set to Improve Further in 2019
5.12  Saudi Arabia’s First Quarter $7.4 Billion Budget Surplus ‘Unlikely to Last’

♦♦North Africa

5.13  Egypt’s Annual inflation Rate Rises by 1% in May
5.14  Egypt to Link 1.2 Million Households to Natural Gas Grid Annually
5.15  Morocco Welcomed 3.6 Million Tourists in First Four Months of 2019


6.1  The Share of E-Commerce in Turkish Retail Increases to 5.3% in 2018
6.2  Turkish Steel Output Increases in April
6.3  Cyprus’ Annual Price Inflation Rises Slightly by 0.2% in May
6.4  Cyprus’ Trade Gap Widens as Exports Declined in First Quarter
6.5  Greece is EU’s Contraband Tobacco Leader



7.1  Jerusalem Population Outflow Slows While the High-Tech Sector Flourishes
7.2  Weizmann Institute of Science Ranked in Top 25
7.3  TAU & Technion Among Leading 100 Universities With Most US Patents in 2018


7.4  Likely Eid Al Adha 2019 Date Announced


8.1  iCAN: Israel-Cannabis Announces Medical Cannabis Investments in Israel and US
8.2  Teva Reaches Agreement with State of Oklahoma to Resolve State’s Claims
8.3  CartiHeal’s Agili-C Implant Enhances In-vitro Osteogenic Differentiation of Mesenchymal Stem Cells
8.4  Medial EarlySign First Suite of Machine Learning-based Predictive Diabetes Risk Solutions
8.5  Techsomed Secures $2.6 Million for Predictive Imaging System for Thermal Ablation
8.6  ReWalk Robotics Receives CE Mark for ReStore Exo-Suit Stroke Rehabilitation Device
8.7  Pi Therapeutics Announces $19.7 Million Series B Financing
8.8  Sensible Medical Innovations Licenses ReDS Technology to Bayer
8.9  New NRGene Product Provides Whole Genome Assembly at Lower Cost
8.10  Seed-X and TomaTech Use AI to Accelerate Breeding of Superior Quality Hybrid Tomatoes
8.11  UPnRIDE Raises NIS 2.2 Million
8.12  EarlySense Wins 2019 MedTech Breakthrough Award
8.13  Roche Selects GlucoMe as New Partner in Digital Health Startup Creasphere Accelerator Program
8.14  Sorrel Medical’s Wearable Drug Delivery Platform Wins 2019 MedTech Breakthrough Award
8.15  ReStore Exo-Suit Receives FDA Clearance
8.16  Essence Launches Breakthrough Radar Technology to Detect Senior Falls
8.17  Pitango Launches $150 Million Health Tech Fund
8.18  Tel Aviv University Study Shows New System for Early Detection of Parkinson’s Disease
8.19  Itamar Medical’s WatchPATOne Receives FDA 510(k) Clearance
8.20  AI for C-Spine Fractures: Aidoc Sets the Pace with 3rd FDA Clearance in 9 Month


9.1  Ethernity Networks Releases a Modular Programmable Universal Edge Platform
9.2  Cyberbit Enhances Cyberbit Range to Personalize & Scale Cybersecurity Training
9.3  VAYAVISION Demos Autonomous Vehicle Perception Software at EcoMotion 2019
9.4  Cymulate Boosts BAS Platform With New APT Simulation to ID Gaps in Network Defenses
9.5  Sixgill New Automated Multi-Tenancy Solution Provides Actionable Cyber Threat Intelligence
9.6  Pcysys PenTera 3.0 Provides Breakthrough in Cyber Security Penetration Testing
9.7  MTI Wireless Edge Announced New Dual Band/Dual Slant 3.5/5.8 GHz Base Station Antenna
9.8  Credorax Launches Smart 3D Secure Solution in Partnership With Netcetera
9.9  Nano Dimension Receives Grant to Develop Hardware to Fly on the International Space Station
9.10  IAI Places $1.8 Million Order for Orbit’s Airborne Audio Solution for Its “Heron TP” UAV
9.11  Vayyar First Single-Chip Imaging Radar Enables High-Resolution for Automotive Applications
9.12  Check Point Propels Mellanox Past One Million Ethernet Switch Ports
9.13  GuardKnox Funding Reaches $24 Million Upon Completion of $21 Million Series A Round
9.14  Forget Charging Pads: Real Wireless Power Is Finally Here
9.15  ECI Chosen to Bring Future-Ready Networking to the Channel Islands
9.16  MIPI Alliance’s Ultra-High-Speed Automotive Standard to be Based on Valens’ Technology
9.17  RADWIN Chosen to Power CCTV & Wi-Fi Onboard Merseyrail Trains in UK
9.18  SecBI Amplifies Its Threat Detection Solution With Automated Response
9.19  Autotalks & NoTraffic Deliver a Traffic Management Platform with Global V2X
9.20  Howden & Cytegic Partner for Automated Cyber Risk Assessment


10.1  Composite State of the Economy Index for April 2019 Increased by 0.3%
10.2  Israeli Startups Raised Over $500 Million in May
10.3  Israel Has the Highest Fertility Rate in the OECD


11.1  ISRAEL: Over 40 Big European Corporations ‎Operate Innovation Outposts in Israel
11.2  IRAQ: Iraqi Kurdistan Chooses a New President, But Internal Rifts Deepen
11.3  QATAR: IMF Executive Board Concludes 2019 Article IV Consultation with Qatar
11.4  OMAN: In a Region Beset by Zero-Sum Conflicts, Oman Remains Open to A


1.1  Israel Will Go to Polls Again on 17 September

On 29 May, the Knesset voted to dissolve itself following Benjamin Netanyahu’s inability to form a new government within the allotted time after the last election.  As a result, a general election will take place in Israel on 17 September, just over five months after the last election.  Confounding all expectations, Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a government within the allotted time after that election, on 9 April, despite the success of his Likud party, which won 35 out of the Knesset’s 120 seats, and despite a seemingly solid right-wing majority in the Knesset.  The Likud was joined in the vote to dissolve the Knesset by all the right-wing parties and by the Arab parties. Blue and White, Labor, and Meretz opposed the motion.

The vote came after the failure Netanyahu’s attempts to forge a compromise over the army conscription bill between Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Liberman and the United Torah Judaism party.  The bill was intended to regularize conscription for Haredi (ultra-Orthodox Jewish) men, who currently are able to avoid conscription by declaring that they are in full-time Torah study, and many do so.  Liberman insisted as a condition of him joining Netanyahu’s coalition that the bill should be passed in the original format in which it passed first reading in the previous Knesset, which included targets for conscription of Haredim, whereas United Torah Judaism insisted on changes.  (Globes 30.05)

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1.2  Israel Railways Signs Bombardier Deal for 74 Carriages

Bombardier Transportation announced that it has signed a contract to provide 74 additional Twindexx Vario double-deck coaches to Israel Railways.  This order is part of a framework agreement signed in October 2010 and is worth about $166 million.  The delivery of the new carriages is scheduled to be completed by December 2021.  The new order consists of eleven control cars for operation with TRAXX electric locomotives, also compatible with diesel locomotives, eleven intermediate coaches with dedicated space for people with reduced mobility and 52 trailer cars.  Additionally, the driver’s desk in the control car will be re-designed to be identical to one in the TRAXX electric locomotives.

This single-car concept enables Israel Railways to configure the loco-hauled trainsets according to the required capacity.  Each of the eight-car trains currently in-service feature seating capacity for 1,000 passengers.  The popular trainsets, based on a proven platform concept in operation across Europe, are in daily service in Israel and compliant with all current safety, comfort and efficiency standards.  They represent great strides in helping alleviate congestion in Israel.  As a full solution provider, Bombardier Transportation operates a service depot in Haifa where 293 double-deck coaches out of Israel Railways existing fleet are being upgraded for a speed of 160 km/h and for electric traction.  (Globes 06.06)

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2.1  Bank Leumi, CIBC & National Australia Bank Drive Collaboration with Fintechs

As part of an international banking alliance, Bank Leumi of Israel, CIBC and National Australia Bank introduced Global Alliance Fintech Link, a global online portal developed to help drive client-focused innovation by facilitating collaboration between the banks and financial technology firms (fintechs).  Global Alliance Fintech Link offers startups around the world easy access to the global banking marketplace by enabling direct collaboration with three financial institutions on three continents.  The portal opens the door for companies to provide technology solutions to key areas where banks want to enhance customer experiences.

Stemming from Bank Leumi, CIBC and National Australia Bank’s strategic alliance formed in September 2016, the initiative is not only designed to simplify global cooperation but to offer fintechs access to potential partners that could help scale their business.  It also offers the opportunity to bring these world class companies into a global technology and banking ecosystem.  The platform has been initially launched as a pilot and will evolve as additional challenges are added to the site.

Bank Leumi, established in 1902, is one of the leading and largest financial corporations in Israel, providing comprehensive banking services and commanding an approximate 30% domestic market share.  Leumi is leading the way for innovation in Israeli Banking, with a wide range of innovative digital banking services based on cutting-edge technology.  (CIBC 30.05)

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2.2  Secret Double Octopus Expands in Europe to Eliminate Passwords from the Enterprise

Secret Double Octopus announced its expansion into the European market with a presence in the UK, France, and Italy. Customers and service providers across Europe will have direct access to local sales and technical support.  The company’s expansion comes as enterprises struggle to curb increasingly sophisticated attacks that have the ability to exploit vulnerabilities caused by credentials.  Secret Double Octopus delivers a new generation of user authentication that replaces passwords across the enterprise with the simplicity and security of enhanced multi-factor authentication.

Beer Sheva’s Secret Double Octopus delights end users and security teams by replacing passwords across the enterprise with the simplicity and security of strong passwordless authentication.  From being named a Gartner “Cool Vendor” in 2016, our 3rd generation platform is now serving mid-sized to Fortune 50 customers around the globe.  (Secret Double Octopus 30.05)

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2.3  OwnBackup Closes $23.25 Million Investment for Its Cloud-to-Cloud Backup Platform

OwnBackup announced the close of a $23.25 million Series C round of financing co-led by Insight Venture Partners and Vertex Ventures.  Existing investors Innovation Endeavors, Oryzn Capital and Salesforce Ventures also participated in the round.  The company also announced the aggressive expansion of its international leadership team and general availability of OwnBackup Archiver, which empowers businesses to efficiently meet internal and external compliance policies for SaaS data.

OwnBackup helps more than 1,000 businesses worldwide protect critical cloud data—securing trillions of SaaS and PaaS records to prevent data corruption/data loss, ensure business continuity, minimize operational disruptions and meet compliance mandates.  Achieving 100% year-over-year revenue growth for its award-winning cloud data protection platform, OwnBackup will use the investment to build on its tremendous momentum in the Salesforce ecosystem.  With plans to deepen its partner network and double both its engineering and European teams, OwnBackup will increase its presence around the globe and expand its product offerings to support a wide range of cloud data needs.

In addition to the funding, OwnBackup announced the general availability of OwnBackup Archiver, its highly anticipated product that addresses regulatory compliance needs while optimizing the performance of users’ SaaS platforms.  The robust archiving tool automatically archives data and attachments that are no longer needed in production – while maintaining their integrity, data access and security to comply with a wide range of regulations and policies.

Tel Aviv’s OwnBackup, a leading cloud-to-cloud backup and restore vendor, provides secure, automated, daily backups of SaaS and PaaS data, as well as sophisticated data compare and restore tools for disaster recovery.  OwnBackup covers data loss and corruption caused by human errors, malicious intent, integration errors and rogue applications.  Built for security and privacy, OwnBackup exceeds the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requirements for backed-up data.  (OwnBackup 30.05)

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2.4  ChargeAfter Raises $8 Million in Series A to Expand Its POS Financing Platform

ChargeAfter raised $8 million in its Series A funding round.  ChargeAfter provides customers with access to an integrated network of multiple lenders through a single interface.  The platform allows consumers across the credit-rating spectrum to instantly “apply and buy” with point-of-sale financing at a participating merchant.  Propel Venture Partners led the round, joined by PICO Venture Partners, the Plug and Play accelerator and Synchrony.

Consumers using ChargeAfter experience a white-labeled, seamless process that takes minimal input and generates approved credit lines within seconds.  On the backend, retailers use one platform to process and manage transactions from all lenders, with a dashboard that filters charges according to channel, lender, and country.  Merchants in ChargeAfter’s network have seen a 30% increase in sales and a 50% increase in average order size.  They’ve also had 85% approval rates for shopper financing – compared to the industry average of 30-50%.  ChargeAfter won the 2018 BBVA Open Talent “Fintech for People” award.

Ramat Gan’s ChargeAfter‘s platform was founded with the goal to help every shopper access fair, and obtainable financing options tailored to their unique needs.  ChargeAfter is a market leading financing platform that empowers retailers to offer consumers personalized financing options at checkout from multiple lenders.  Through its growing network of global lenders, retailers can approve more applications in real-time and increase sales by up to 45%.  ChargeAfter’s network offers seamless integration for lenders to increase their customer base and compete for business while expanding into new retail markets by streamlining the distribution of credit into online and in-store point of sale financing.

Jerusalem’s PICO Venture Partners is an early-stage venture capital firm positioned in the heart of Startup Nation with offices in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and New York.  PICO invests in visionary Israeli entrepreneurs building future-defining technologies.  These entrepreneurs are relentless in their quest to transform existing markets, industries, business processes, and consumer experiences.  (ChargeAfter 29.05)

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2.5  Equalum Raises $18 Million to Fuel Global Expansion

Equalum announced an $18 million in Series B funding.  The round was led by Planven and joined by United Ventures and other European investors, with the participation of existing investors, Innovation Endeavors and GE Ventures.  The Series B investment brings the company’s total funding raised to date to $25 million.  Equalum enables data-rich enterprises to easily consolidate data from disparate systems into central stores like warehouses and data lakes to power real-time analytics.  The technology harnesses the power of open source big data frameworks like Spark and Kafka in a fully-managed solution that requires no manual configuration, coding, or maintenance.

Equalum’s portfolio includes a global footprint across four continents and multiple Fortune 100 companies.  The company previously reported 7x year-over-year growth.  The Series B funding will enable Equalum to power the next phase of its growth strategy, which consists of both geographic expansion within Europe as well as the establishment of a robust channel and technology partner network.

Tel Aviv’s Equalum is the first Data Beaming platform, capable of instantly teleporting operational data from any source to real-time analytics environments.  Built for scalability and ease of use, Equalum harnesses the power of Spark in an enterprise-grade environment – helping organizations accelerate past traditional ETL or open-source implementations.  (Equalum 29.05)

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2.6  El Al to Launch Tel Aviv – Tokyo Flights

On 29 May, El Al Israel Airlines announced that it will begin operating Tel Aviv – Tokyo flights three times a week starting in March 2020.  Flight time between Tel Aviv and Tokyo’s Narita airport will be 11 hours and 15 minutes, with the return journey taking 12 hours 30 minutes.  These flights will be the first direct scheduled flights between Israel and Japan, albeit El Al chartered services unit Sun D’Or will begin operating charter services for the Fly East travel company starting in September.  Currently, Israelis flying to Japan must take connection flights.

Demand among Israelis for Japan as both a vacation and business destination has grown in recent years.  Some 40,000 Israelis visited Japan in 2018, while 20,000 Japanese came to Israel.  The numbers of Israelis visiting Japan is likely to increase significantly next year with Tokyo hosting the Olympic games.  El Al will earn a €750,000 grant from Israel’s Ministry of Tourism when it inaugurates its Tel Aviv – Tokyo flights, under the plan to reward airlines for starting direct routes between Israel and cities not previously served by any airline.  (ElAl 29.05)

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2.7  Israel’s Delek Hopes Gas Exports to Egypt to Begin in June

Israel’s Delek Drilling hopes to begin commercial sales of natural gas to Egypt by the end of the month, the company said.  Delek Drilling and its partner Noble Energy signed a landmark deal early last year to export $15 billion in natural gas from Israeli offshore fields Tamar and Leviathan to a customer in Egypt.  Israeli officials called it the most significant deal to emerge since the neighbors made peace in 1979.  The partners then bought into the subsea EMG pipeline between Ashkelon in Israel and El-Arish in Egypt to transport the gas supplies.  The Tamar field began producing gas in 2013 and Leviathan is expected to come online by the end of 2019.  The Tamar partners had begun final preparations on the 90 km. (56 mile) pipeline, sending through initial amounts of gas with a probe.  (Reuters 02.06)

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2.8  Advanced Energy Announces Grand Opening of New Facility in Israel

Fort Collins, Colorado’s Advanced Energy Industries, a global leader in highly engineered, precision power conversion, measurement and control solutions, announced the grand opening of its newest facility, located in Caesarea, Israel.  The new 6,500 square-foot facility includes business offices, a service and repair center and R&D lab.  This state-of-the-art facility supports AE’s growth strategy and global expansion, while providing enhanced support for the company’s regional customers in the semiconductor, medical, defense and industrial markets.  The presence of a local, on-site repair facility will help to support AE’s regional customers whose demand is growing for access to high quality local service for their power systems and controls.

AE has devoted more than three decades to perfecting precision power, enabling design breakthroughs and driving growth for the world’s leading semiconductor and industrial customers.  The multinational company, with worldwide operations, provides power technology that enables the manufacturing of everyday products in a variety of industries, including medical, automotive, consumer electronics, glass, steel and others.  (AEIS 05.06)

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2.9  Cylus Raises $12 Million to Accelerate Global Expansion

Cylus announced that it has raised $12 million in a Series A funding round.  The round was joined by several new investors, including Cyient, a global provider of engineering and technology solutions for rolling stock and signaling OEMs and rail operators, Cerca Partners, GlenRock, Leon Recanati’s private investment company, and FollowTheSeed.

With $17 million in total funding to date, Cylus is already cooperating with leading rail integrators and other key players in the rail ecosystem.  Cylus will use the funding to accelerate its activities in the EU, US and APAC, meeting the growing demand for its solutions.  The funds will also be used to increase R&D efforts and expand the Cylus team of cybersecurity and rail experts.

Tel Aviv’s Cylus, the global leader in rail cybersecurity, helps rail and metro companies avoid safety incidents and service disruptions caused by cyber-attacks.  Cylus developed CylusOne, the first-to-market solution designed to meet the unique cybersecurity needs of the rail industry.  CylusOne detects cyber threats in the signaling and control networks, trackside and onboard, facilitating a timely and effective response before any harm is done.  (Cylus 06.06)

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2.10  Voicesense Wins Excellence in Customer Service’s Technology of the Year Award

Voicesense has won the Excellence in Customer Service Award in the category for the Technology of the Year.  Voicesense has won this award for its voice-based predictive analytics technology that enables call centers to accurately forecast consumer behavioral tendencies and provide customers with personalized service.  The Excellence in Customer Service is an annual awards program recognizing technology vendors that are helping companies better communicate with their customers to provide a differentiated level of customer service.

The Voicesense technology provides customer service operations with an automated framework for predicting the behaviors of customers during live operations.  For each voice-based interaction in a customer service call center, the Voicesense technology builds an AI-driven personal profile for each customer and a predictive score for the customer’s potential behaviors in different use cases and scenarios.  The technology creates this personal profile and predictive score by analyzing over 200 prosodic parameters of a person’s speech, which are the non-content features of speech, such as intonation, pace and emphasis.

The Voicesense application also provides marketing and sales agents with immediate go/no-go indications regarding each customer’s purchasing probability, allowing agents to focus on those customer interactions with high revenue-generating potential.  For each customer, the Voicesense application also provides the agent with guidance on sales approaches based on the customer’s individual buying preferences, such as focusing on pricing, product strengths or brand quality.

Herzliya’s Voicesense specializes in speech-based predictive analytics with a groundbreaking approach to forecast individuals’ behavioral tendencies.  Voicesense applies signal processing techniques to extract and analyze over 200 prosodic vocal parameters.  These are the non-content features of a person’s speech, such as intonation, energy, pace and emphasis.  Using AI algorithms, Voicesense generates a personalized prediction of a person’s behavior for numerous use cases.  (Voicesense 05.06)

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2.11  Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance Inaugurates Tel Aviv Innovation Lab

On 10 June, the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, a world-leading Franco-Japanese strategic partnership of auto giants, inaugurated its innovation lab in Tel Aviv, announcing close collaborations with over 10 Israeli companies and startups.  The new facility was set up at the Atidim High-Tech Park in partnership with the Israel Innovation Authority and CityZone, the Tel Aviv Municipality’s “living lab” where advanced technological solutions for smart city ventures are vetted and tested.  Called the Alliance Innovation Lab Tel Aviv, the center will focus on sensors for autonomous driving, cybersecurity and Big Data, and will work with the participating Israeli companies to develop Proof of Concepts as well as prototypes.  The lab will allow the testing of technologies with real vehicles.

The participating startups in the Alliance Innovation Lab Tel Aviv are automotive cybersecurity firms Upstream, Argus Cyber Security, Karamba Security, Enigmatos, and Saferide Technologies, automotive chip developer Autotalks, night-vision tech firm Brightway Vision, wireless EV charging tech startup firm Electreon, propulsion system developer IRP Systems, solar energy tech company Apollo Power, and Moodify, a Caesarea based startup that developed an Empathic Car System that “feels” and responds to drivers’ needs.

The innovation lab will also work in close cooperation with Alliance Ventures, the Alliance corporate venture capital fund, to invest up to $1 billion over five years in startups, early-stage technology companies and entrepreneurial talents across the world, including in Israel.  Alliance Ventures has committed to investing in Maniv Mobility, a Tel Aviv-based venture capital fund focused exclusively on automotive and mobility technologies.  (NoCamels 10.06)

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2.12  Innoviz Technologies’ Series C Funding Round Closes at $170 Million

Innoviz Technologies has closed its Series C funding round with $170 million secured.  The close of the Series C round brings Innoviz’s total funding to $252 million.  This funding will support several key initiatives, including the enhancement of Innoviz’s perception software.  Innoviz’s perception software remains a significant differentiator for the company by providing vehicles with a deep understanding of the 3D driving scene, including superior object detection (with up to 50 times greater efficiency than industry and academic standards), classification, segmentation and tracking technology to complement Innoviz’s LiDAR hardware offerings.

Furthermore, Innoviz will leverage the latest funding to benefit broader business activities, including accelerating its path to mass production and commercialization of its leading LiDAR solutions and perception software to address growing demand for sensing solutions that enable autonomy.  This will benefit Innoviz’s existing offerings, including its InnovizOne automotive-grade LiDAR solution, which is entering series production in 2021 for global automakers.  The company’s high-performance, solid-state LiDAR solution InnovizPro is available now, offering outstanding value and performance for automotive, mapping and other applications.

Rosh HaAyin’s Innoviz is a leading manufacturer of high-performance, solid-state LiDAR sensors and perception software that enable the mass-production of autonomous vehicles.  InnovizPro is a solid-state LiDAR that offers outstanding performance and value for automotive and other applications.  InnovizOne is a cutting-edge, automotive-grade LiDAR sensor that provides superior 3D sensing for Level 3-Level 5 autonomous driving.  (Innoviz Technologies 10.06)

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2.13  Delta Galil to Acquire Intimate Apparel Leader The Bogart Group

Delta Galil Industries has signed an agreement to acquire intimate apparel leader, The Bogart Group (Bogart).  Headquartered in Hong Kong, Bogart is a vertically integrated global leader in the design, development and manufacturing of fashion bras, and one of the top leading names in intimate apparel, sports and swimwear.  The Company is a preferred strategic partner for some worldwide leading brands such as Victoria’s Secret, PVH, Jockey, Adore Me, Vanity Fair, Hanes, among others.  In addition to The Bogart Group, Delta Galil will acquire the Company’s subsidiaries Brunet, a leading lace manufacturer; and B&B, a leading padding manufacturer.

Caesarea’s Delta Galil Industries is a global manufacturer and marketer of branded and private label apparel products for men, women and children.  Since its inception in 1975, the Company has continually strived to create products that follow a body-before-fabric philosophy, placing equal emphasis on comfort, aesthetics and quality.  Delta Galil develops innovative seamless apparel including bras, shapewear and socks; intimate apparel for women; extensive lines of underwear for men; babywear, activewear, sleepwear and leisurewear.  Delta Galil also designs, develops, markets and sells branded denim apparel under the brand 7 For All Mankind, and ladies apparel under the brand Splendid.  (Delta Galil Industries 10.06)

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2.14  Fourth Annual Israel Education Summit in Tel Aviv Makes Global Impact

The fourth annual Israel Education Summit brought 1,000 industry leaders from all around the globe to the Rabin Center in Tel Aviv.  Fifty international speakers represented 12 countries at the summit, and 120 international delegates traveled from 16 countries across Africa, Asia, Europe and North America to participate and engage with Israeli industry leaders.  The summit’s themes included the future of work, bridging the skills gap, disruptive technologies and business models, upskilling, women in leadership, mindfulness in school and workforce, sustainability models for nonprofits, the state of edtech and investment sentiment and trends.

2019 also saw a wave of new partnerships for EdTech Israel, including with GSVlabs, the leading innovation services platform headquartered in Silicon Valley.  GSVlabs creates powerful network effects by catalyzing the global innovation economy.  A partnership was also announced with India’s Sri Aurobindo Society, with the vision of meeting India’s education needs by connecting them with Israel’s talent, content, methodologies and technologies.

Founded in 2016 by EdTech Israel, the Israel Education Summit is held annually the first week of June in Tel Aviv.  In just three years, it has grown to attract more than 120 international delegates from 16 countries.  Founded in 2014, EdTech Israel is devoted to developing the Israeli education innovation ecosystem, creating relationships between Israeli entrepreneurs and international investors and customers, building business bridges in education innovation all around the world, and promoting better education worldwide.  (EdTech Israel 10.06)

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2.15  gA Opens Israel Office to Capitalize on Start-Up Nation Innovation & New Technologies

Argentina’s gA, a global technology company that builds digital platforms and delivers transformation services, announced the opening of a new commercial office in Tel Aviv, Israel.  The goal is to accelerate the development of new business ventures with Israeli technology firms into the gA partner ecosystem, and the deployment to its global customer base.  The new office is well positioned to source cutting-edge AI technologies, including social behavior predictive engines, ideation platforms using publicly available data and social media, text analytics platforms and computer vision applications optimizing IOT devices in a wide array of industrial settings.

gA is focused on building a new subscription-based consulting platform: it recently launched Navigate, an AI-Decision Intelligence platform designed for data-centric companies.  (gA 11.06)

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2.16  Newsight Imaging Signs Strategic Collaboration Agreement with ZKW

Newsight Imaging announced the signing of a collaboration agreement with ZKW Group, a leading premium lighting systems and electronics specialist, headquartered in Wieselburg Austria.  ZKW’s affiliation with LG gives the company access to resources and key technologies to develop intelligent lighting for the future and autonomous driving.

Initially, ZKW invited Newsight Imaging to enter its Drive Light & Sight innovation competition.  Out of numerous applications and eight companies that reached the finals, Newsight won first prize.  The companies then proceeded to formalize their collaboration, culminating in an agreement to jointly develop innovative safety and driver monitoring systems that ZKW will offer its customers, leading OEMs in the automotive market.

Ness Ziona’s Newsight Imaging develops advanced CMOS image sensor chips, providing 3D solutions for high volume markets.  The chip’s sensor is manufactured using CMOS technology with ultra-high sensitivity pixels, replacing more expensive CCD sensors and other camera modules in LiDAR applications for robotics, automotive (ADAS and Car safety) applications as well as in other markets, such as mobile depth cameras, AR/VR, Industry 4.0 and barcode scanners.  (Newsight Imaging 11.06)

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2.17  SafeRide Technologies Collaborates With the Renault Nissan Mitsubishi Alliance

SafeRide Technologies announced its collaboration with the Renault Nissan Mitsubishi Alliance on a proof of concept project, to test its cybersecurity solutions on vehicles at the Alliance’s new Innovation Lab Tel Aviv.  SafeRide’s vSentry AI solution won the TU-Automotive award for ‘Best Data/AI Product for 2019’ recently in Detroit.  vSentry AI uses advanced machine learning paradigms to establish the normal behavior of the vehicle, without dependencies or previous knowledge of ECU properties and protocols.  Once the normal behavior is established, the machine learning models can accurately detect, categorize and flag any abnormal behavior and report it to the Connected Vehicles Security Operations Center for further analysis.

SafeRide’s CAN Optimizer is a machine learning based solution that dramatically decreases the bandwidth needed to upload CAN data to the cloud providing over 95% reduction in data size, with a typical lossless compression ratio more than 5 times better than other compression algorithms that are currently on the market

Tel Aviv’s SafeRide Technologies is the provider of vSentry, the industry-leading multi-layer cybersecurity solution for connected and autonomous vehicles that combines state-of-the-art deterministic security solution with a groundbreaking AI profiling and anomaly detection technology to provide future-proof security.  SafeRide provides OEMs, fleet operators and automotive suppliers early detection and prevention of cyberattacks, and helps to avoid financial damage, prevent reputation loss, and save lives.  (SafeRide 11.06)

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3.1  Jordan’s New Hospital to Bring Highest Standard of Patient Experience

Amman’s Abdali Medical Center, a new multi-specialty hospital, will be ready to open its doors to patients in July, 2019.  Abdali Medical Center is the first private medical institution in Jordan to deliver patient-centered care through a collaborative, multidisciplinary approach, allowing better diagnosis, evidence-based treatments and research, as well as a strong emphasis on customer service.  The hospital has formed 16 specialty centers and multiple sub-specialties led by professionals working together to achieve the best health outcomes for their patients.

Abdali Medical Center provides all services across the entire continuum of care from diagnosis, to treatment and rehabilitation, under one roof.  It has Emergency services, 100 on-site clinics, 200-beds, 14 state of the art operating rooms, a comprehensive radiology department, laboratory and pathology service, 3 Cath labs and other specialty centers.  It is equipped with the latest technologies in a comfortable environment. It is a solar powered facility and has on-site parking and valet service for our patients’ comfort.

Abdali Medical Center will make a significant contribution to the Jordanian healthcare sector, creating over 1,200 jobs, 50% of which will be female employees, as well as serve Jordan’s medical tourism industry.  (RNS 02.06)

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3.2  IBM Says 31% of UAE and Saudi Firms Unprepared for Cyber Attack

About a third of organizations in the UAE and Saudi Arabia are still unprepared to respond to cybersecurity incidents despite the growing threat, according to new research.  IBM Security announced the results of a study which showed 31% of respondents indicating they do not have a cybersecurity incident response plan in place.  While studies show that companies who can respond quickly and efficiently to contain a cyberattack within 30 days save over $1 million on the total cost of a data breach on average, shortfalls in cybersecurity incident response planning have remained consistent over the past four years of the study.

Of the organizations that do have a plan in place, almost half (49%) do not test their plans regularly, leaving them less prepared to effectively manage the complex processes and coordination that must take place in the wake of an attack.  The survey also revealed that the cybersecurity skills gap is further undermining cyber resilience, as organizations are understaffed and unable to properly manage resources and needs.  In the survey, 74% of respondents reported that staffing for cybersecurity is very important but 72% rate their difficulty in hiring and retaining skilled cybersecurity personnel as moderately high to high.  (AB 29.05)

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3.3  Spinneys Plans Eight New UAE Supermarkets by End of 2019

Retailer Spinneys has announced plans to open a further eight supermarkets in the UAE this year, as it prepares to launch operations at its second outlet in Ajman.  Measuring more than 14,000 square foot, the new Ajman store will create more than 35 new jobs for the local community, and will be open seven days a week from 08:00 until midnight.  Spinneys said it also plans to open eight supermarkets in Jumeirah Golf Estate, Dubai, Damac Hills, Dubai, Dubai Creek Residences, Meydan, Dubai, and Al Maryah Central, Abu Dhabi).  The new Ajman supermarket will be Spinneys 58th store in the UAE and will feature a range of on-site facilities including an in-store bakery with an Arabic bread baking facility, fresh cold & hot deli and a meat department.  (AB 01.06)

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3.4  Petland Continues International Expansion – Opening in Saudi Arabia

Chillicothe-based Petland, Inc. announced the first Petland has opened in Saudi Arabia.  In 2016, Petland announced the expansion into the Middle East North Africa region with the signing of a Master Franchise Agreement.  The master franchise agreement for Saudi Arabia includes rights to develop stores in United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Turkey, Qatar, Lebanon, Kuwait and Bahrain.

The store, located in Jeddah, opened on 26 May and features a complete line of great pets and pet supplies.  Petland offers many unique items for the welfare of animals that have never before been available in the Middle East.  Various members of the Petland team have made several visits to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia where they assisted with the planning, merchandising, sourcing and training for the Petland pilot store.  (Petland 06.06)

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3.5  PPIH Announces Expansion into Egypt and Egyptian Contract Awards

Niles, Illinois’ Perma-Pipe International Holdings announced that its subsidiary company Perma-Pipe Middle East FZC has established a subsidiary company in the Arab Republic of Egypt, “Perma-Pipe Egypt” and is in the process of establishing a new production facility in Beni Suef, south of Cairo.  The establishment of this new capability is in response to a growing demand for Perma-Pipe’s products in Egypt, particularly strong demands for the Company’s chilled water and containment piping and leak detection systems.  The facility is planned to be operational by July, 2019.  Perma-Pipe further confirms multiple awards by Egyptian companies related to projects in Egypt’s New Capital City and elsewhere which will be carried out in Perma-Pipe’s existing facilities in the UAE and Saudi Arabia and in the new facility in Beni Suef after it is operational.

Perma-Pipe International Holdings is a global leader in pre-insulated piping and leak detection systems for oil and gas gathering, district heating and cooling, and other applications.  It uses its extensive engineering and fabrication expertise to develop piping solutions that solve complex challenges regarding the safe and efficient transportation of many types of liquids.  In total, Perma-Pipe has operations at seven locations in five countries.  (PPIH 03.06)

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3.6  Keller Williams Expands to Morocco

Austin, Texas’ Keller Williams (KW), the world’s largest real estate franchise by agent count, is expanding across Africa.  As momentum continues, KW has awarded a new master franchise in Morocco.  The KW franchise in Morocco is currently initializing a regional office and training the core leadership team.  In the early fall, the first Keller Williams real estate office in Morocco will open in Casablanca.  KW Morocco is also targeting the cities of Tangier, Marrakesh and Rabat for future office locations.  Currently, KWW has 23 market centers and 1,116 agents across Africa.  As of 31 March, KWW has 207 market centers (outside of U.S. and Canada) across 37 regions.  Recently, the Africa Investment Index 2018 report also ranked Morocco as the No. 1 most attractive investment opportunity in Africa, followed by Egypt and Algeria.  (KW 30.05)

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4.1  Chakratec & Wien Energie Launch World’s First High Power EV Charger at Vienna Airport

Chakratec launched the world’s first kinetic powered EV charging station at the Vienna international airport.  The project, first of its kind in the world, comes after a successful pilot that was held at Wien Energie’s premises in the past year.  The system is located at the “arrival’s” parking lot and will serve EV drivers as of this month.  Chakratec provides an optimal solution for the EV charging eco-system, circumventing the problem of insufficient power in the grid at locations where fast charging is required.  This is done by applying Chakratec’s Kinetic Power Booster (KPB) based on their unique and patented Kinetic Energy Storage system, which enables the deployment of fast and ultra-fast EV charging station anywhere, including locations with a weak grid.

The collaboration between the two companies began at an innovation challenge held by Wien Energie in 2016, in which Chakratec has won.  Followed by discussions with Wien Energie executives, great advice from the Global Incubator Network (GIN) as Austria’s one stop shop for startups, investors and incubators, plus further awards from Wiener Stadtwerke and NREL Industrial Growth Forum in the USA.  Now, just two years later, the two companies launched the first kinetic powered EV fast charging station in the world.

Lod’s Chakratec, established in 2013, brings to the energy storage market an innovative patented kinetic energy storage solution based on a flywheel concept.  The company raised $10M with the main shareholders iArgento and Capital Nature.  Chakratec is accelerating its sales activities and is looking for partners and projects worldwide.  (Chakratec 03.06)

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4.2  Saudi Entrepreneur Develops World’s Largest Ocean Energy Project

OceanBased Perpetual Energy, led by Saudi entrepreneur Nasser MN Alshemaimry, has signed a memorandum of understanding to assist in developing the world’s largest commercial ocean current energy project.  The deal has been signed with Florida Atlantic University’s Southeast National Marine Renewable Energy Centre (SNMREC) to focus on an area off the southeast coast of Florida, with the aim of installing hundreds of megawatts of ocean current generating equipment.  The equipment is planned to be installed below the sea surface, below the deepest drafts of any seagoing vessels, and connected to the US transmission system.  The initial phase of OceanBased’s project will focus on verifying compatibility between generation and subsea transmission equipment.  Installation of up to 1MW of shore-connected capacity is expected to follow, reaching up to 20MW within as few as five years.

SNMREC is one of three centers designated by the US Department of Energy to assist companies with the responsible development of marine renewables.  (AB 29.05)

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5.1  Lebanon’s Trade Rises at End of First Quarter by 2.46% to $4.09 Billion

Lebanon’s trade deficit for the first three months of 2019 stood at $4.09 billion, widening from $3.99 billion in Q1/18, on the back of total imports increasing by an annual 2.9% to $4.95 billion, while total exports grew by a yearly 5.06% to $855.8 million.

In term of value, mineral products were the leading imports to Lebanon in Q1/19, grasping a 32.34% stake of total imported goods.  Products of the chemical or allied industries followed, constituting 10.48% of the total, while machinery and electrical instruments grasped 9.31% of the total.  Lebanon imported $1.6 billion worth of Mineral Products, up by 87% y-o-y on the back of a 61.27% yearly rise in their imported volume by March 2019.  The increase in volume could be attributed to the Lebanese Cabinet decision to impose a 2% tax on imported goods which excludes medicine, environment-friendly cars and primary equipment for agriculture and industry.

Meanwhile, the value of chemical or allied industries recorded a decrease of 7.78% y-o-y to settle at $518.74 million and that of machinery and electrical instruments also declined by 15.70% over the same period to $460.87 million.

In terms of top trade partners, Lebanon primarily imported from Russia, Kuwait and China with shares of 20.58%, 13.82% and 5.49%, respectively, in the month of March 2019.

As for exports, the top category of products exported from Lebanon were pearls, precious stones and metals, which grasped a share of 32.18% of total exports, followed by a share of 12.07% for prepared foodstuffs, beverage, and tobacco and 12.07% for Machinery; electrical instruments over the same period.  The value of pearls, precious stones, & metals surged by 15.99% in Q1 2019 to reach $275.44M.  As for the value of Prepared foodstuffs; beverages, tobacco, it declined by 3.45% y-o-y to $103.28M.  Meanwhile, the value of Machinery; electrical instruments recorded an important increase of a yearly 36.62% to $99.15 million.  In March 2018, the UAE, followed by Switzerland and Syria were Lebanon’s top three export destinations, respectively constituting 11.99%, 10.67%, and 6.71% of total exports.  (CAS 30.05)

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5.2  Lebanon Seeks to Halve Power Subsidy in 2020

Lebanon hopes to halve its ruinous electricity subsidy in 2020 as it targets more spending cuts after proposing a deficit-slashing budget plan for this year, the prime minister’s financial adviser said.  On 10 June, the coalition government agreed to the 2019 budget with a projected deficit of 7.6% of GDP, down from 11.5% last year, albeit it must still be approved by parliament.

Lebanon has one of the world’s highest debt burdens, equivalent to about 150% of GDP, and electricity subsidies cost 3.5%-4% of GDP a year.  Lebanon’s two other main expenses are the cost of debt servicing and the large public payroll.  Credit ratings agencies have expressed doubt that Lebanon can meet its deficit goals. S&P Global said it expected a deficit of 10% of GDP and Fitch said it forecast a deficit of 9% of GDP.

Half of the budgeted reduction in the 2019 deficit comes from spending cuts and half by increasing revenue.  Some 40% of the revenue increase is projected to come from a temporary rise in the tax on interest to 10% from 7%.

Lebanon this year approved a plan to reduce electricity subsidies by switching to more efficient generators, raising tariffs and improving bill collection.  Implementing the deficit cuts is vital to restore Lebanon’s credibility in markets and the confidence of investors and depositors.  International donors at a Paris conference last year pledged $11 billion in project finance for Lebanese infrastructure contingent on reforms.  (MEO 31.05)

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5.3  Amman Says Some 1 in 5 Jordanians Are Unemployed

Jordan’s unemployment reached near-record highs according to figures released on 2 June.  According to a Department of Statistics report, unemployment in the kingdom rose to 19% in the first quarter of 2019, up from 18.7% in the fourth quarter of 2018.  Unemployment among women rose to 28.9%, while the jobless rate among men dipped slightly from 16.9% to 16.4% over the same period.  This marks the second-highest unemployment rate ever recorded in the resource-strapped kingdom, second only to the 19.7% jobless rate in 1993.

The Jordanian government has repeatedly stated that boosting women’s employment is key to its economic plan, in recognition that a single average salary of JOD400 per month is no longer sufficient for a household.  Women’s economic participation rate currently hovers at 15%, one of the lowest rates in the world.

Meanwhile, the government is committing JD500 million to its revamped social safety net from this year until 2021, as Amman attempts to lift over 150,000 families out of poverty and remove obstacles for Jordanians entering the work force.  The government is committing funds to its national social protection strategy, launched last week, to provide direct and in-kind assistance for 187,000 families in the areas of rent support, energy, transportation and health.  (Various 02.06)

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5.4  UAE-Jordan Strategic Partnership Launches One Million Jordanian Coders Initiative

Amman hosted the launch of the One Million Jordanian Coders initiative under the patronage and in the presence of Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah II as part of a strategic partnership in government modernization between the UAE and Jordan.  A high-level UAE delegation led by Minister of Cabinet Affairs and the Future Al Gergawi attended the launch.

One Million Jordanian Coders seeks to train young Jordanians in coding to enable them to keep pace with the rapid developments in computer science and increase their competitiveness in the job market.  The initiative aims to equip them with the necessary tools to serve the future needs of the country, spearhead the development of its digital economy and bridge the existing digital gap in the Arab world to make Jordan one of the most advanced countries in coding.

The initiative is inspired by the One Million Arab Coders initiative, launched by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, which aspires to elevate the status of the region and enhance its competitiveness on the global stage.  It also seeks to stimulate innovation in young people, invest in their capabilities and empower them to take on an active role in building a knowledge-based economy.

Managed by the Crown Prince Foundation, the One Million Jordanian Coders initiative, hosted in partnership with Microsoft, Udacity, Facebook and, includes the launch of an online platform that offers free training courses for young people in Jordan interested in developing their digital skills across different domains.  Creating a virtual home for a community of coding students, educators and experts, the platform features online coding courses that provide successful participants with accredited certificates, as well as e-forums for those interested in coding, and listings of available coding jobs for certified graduates. Students who excel in the courses can also receive scholarships for internationally recognized training programs.  At a later stage, the initiative will provide an opportunity for exceptional graduates to become world-class software developers through free advanced six-month training courses.  Graduates will receive a globally accredited coding certificate.  (AETOSWire 31.05)

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►►Arabian Gulf

5.5  Kuwait’s Sovereign Wealth Fund Grows Despite Oil Shocks

Kuwait’s sovereign wealth fund assets have grown despite the impact of oil prices, according to a report from Moody’s Investors Service.  In the report, Moody’s noted that oil price shock has led to the Kuwaiti government recording sustained fiscal deficits since 2015, forcing it to draw on the reserves of one of the country’s two sovereign wealth funds.  The financial positions of the underlying funds have diverged sharply, Moody’s said.  The larger Future Generations Fund (FGF) has continued to grow with solid profitability to about 309% of Kuwait’s gross domestic product.  Moody’s expects the FGF to continue to grow as long as the fund remains profitable.  The Kuwaiti government’s second investment vehicle, the General Reserve Fund (GRF) has been significantly drawn down since 2015 and 2016 to help finance deficits caused by oil prices.

The report noted that Kuwait’s fiscal deficit peaked at 17.5% of GDP in 2016-2016, down from a 20% surplus in 2013 and 2014.  In response to the government efforts to relieve pressure on the GRF by issuing domestic and international debts, the Kuwaiti parliament blocked government’s attempts to increase the debt ceiling and lengthen tenors.  As a result, Kuwait’s debt law expired and the government was forced to finance deficits and maturing domestic borrowings from the GRF, which led to a drawdown of assets.  The depletion of the GRF will be dependent on whether Kuwait passes another debt law.  The government will need to finance deficits of approximately 9% of GDP over the next several years.  (AB 06.06)

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5.6  Moody’s Says UAE Credit Profile Stable

The UAE’s ‘Aa2 stable’ credit profile is supported by an assumption of financial support from the Abu Dhabi government, good infrastructure, a high per capita income and vast reserves of hydrocarbon resources, according to an annual report from Moody’s Investors Service.

The stable outlook indicates that the risks to the UAE’s sovereign ratings are broadly balanced.  This credit profile is supported by the stable outlook on the Abu Dhabi sovereign rating and upside potential from diversification efforts, but is constrained by lingering government-related entity contingent liabilities and geopolitical tensions.  The UAE’s reliance on hydrocarbons at an estimated 43% of government revenue in 2018 and geopolitical tensions in the region were identified as sources of negative credit pressure.

While real GDP growth is expected to remain modest in 2019 due to OPEC production cuts and subdued non-oil sector activity, Moody’s expects it to accelerate to 3% by 2020 supported by the removal of the cuts and looser fiscal policy from Abu Dhabi.  A decline in contingent liability risks or reduced geopolitical tensions would be positive for the UAE’s credit profile, particularly if combined with improvements in policy transparency and data availability.  A downgrade of Abu Dhabi’s rating would, in turn, most likely result in a downgrading of the UAE’s rating.  According to Moody’s, the crystallization of large contingent liabilities on government balance sheets and an escalation of political risk and subsequent disruptions to trade would also put pressure on the UAE’s rating.  (AB 02.06)

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5.7  S&P Sees Abu Dhabi GDP Growth Averaging 2.5% to 2022

Abu Dhabi’s economic growth will average 2.5% in the four years through 2022 as it benefits from higher oil production and prices, S&P Global Ratings estimated.  Abu Dhabi’s economy still depends heavily on oil, deriving 50% of its real gross domestic product and more than 90% of central government revenue from the hydrocarbon sector, the ratings company said in a report on 31 May.  Oil will continue to dominate the economy despite diversification efforts, it said.

S&P Global projects economic growth in the largest and richest of the seven emirates that make up the UAE to accelerate to 2% this year from 1.8% in 2018.  It expects growth to accelerate to 2.5% in 2020 and 2021 before climbing to 3% in 2022. S&P expects Brent will average $60 per barrel this year and next, before dropping to an average $55 a barrel in 2021.  Brent has climbed 20% this year to $64.49 a barrel.

The UAE’s central bank on 29 May provided a grim forecast for OPEC’s third-biggest producer, projecting economic growth will fall far short of previous estimates and undershoot the International Monetary Fund’s projections.  The oil economy is set to grow 2.7%, a downward revision from 3.7%, according to the central bank.  The non-oil economy will expand an estimated 1.8%, versus an earlier forecast for 3.4%, it said.  The ratings company also affirmed its AA credit rating for Abu Dhabi, with a stable outlook underpinned by the emirate’s large fiscal buffers projects the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority’s assets will average above 250% of GDP over 2019-2022.  (AB 04.06)

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5.8  Dubai Plans to Bring 100 mph Rail System to the Emirate

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) has been signed between Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) and Skytran, which specializes in the development of suspended transport systems.  Skytran’s passenger vehicles are lightweight and compact and have a cruising speed of 100mph.  Proprietary Magnetic Wings allow vehicles, which are electric, producing zero emissions and allowing for high energy efficiency, to move along the track on a cushion of air.  Supported 20/30 feet above the ground, the system can transport more people than a six-lane highway, while the small vehicles mean the infrastructure required has minimal ground footprint – using small concrete foundations and support poles just every 50 meters.  The track is fabricated and assembled off-site in advance.

The MoU will help towards the Dubai Self-Driving Transport Strategy, which is aimed at converting 25% of total mobility journeys in the emirate into driverless journeys by 2030.  Abu Dhaib’s Miral announced signed an agreement in 2016 with Skytran to explore introducing the transportation system on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island.  The memorandum of understanding launched the study and implementation of Skytran.  The initial phase of the system at Yas Island, which will connect Ferrari World Abu Dhabi with Warner Brothers, will be launched next year.  (AB 09.06)

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5.9  Dubai Sees 7% Rise in Non-Oil Trade to Dh339 Billion

Non-oil trade in Dubai rose by 7% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2019 to reach Dh339 billion, according to figures from Dubai Customs.  Exports registered the most growth, rising 30% to reach Dh42 billion while the value of re-exports increased by 7% to Dh106 billion.  The value of imports went up by 4% to reach Dh190 billion.

During the quarter, Asia was Dubai’s largest trading region, with trade between the two increasing by 7% to Dh208 billion.  Trade with Europe, the second largest partner, touched Dh58 billion.  Africa witnessed the biggest growth, rising 36% to reach Dh42 billion.

Country-wise, China was Dubai’s biggest trading partner in the first quarter of 2019, followed by India and the United States.  They accounted for Dh36 billion (up 8% year-on-year), Dh33 billion (up 40%), and Dh20 billion (up 10%) respectively to the total trade value in the quarter.  Saudi Arabia was the largest trade partner in the Arab world, with Dh13.2 billion worth of non-oil trade.  (Gulf News 11.06)

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5.10  Saudi Arabia Advances to 26th Place in IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook 2019

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia jumped 13 positions, the highest leap among the 63 participating countries, in the IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook 2019 issued by the IMD International Institute for Management Development (IMD), in Lausanne, Switzerland.  The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is now ranked 26th, making it the 7th most competitive country among its G20 peers, ahead of advanced economies such as Republic of Korea, Japan, France, Indonesia, India, Russia, Mexico, Turkey, Republic of South Africa, Brazil and Argentina.

The report measures national competitiveness based on four main factors: economic performance, government efficiency, business efficiency, and infrastructure.  These factors encompass 20 sub-factors and 235 indicators.  Saudi Arabia made significant progress on the government efficiency factor (from the 30th globally in 2018 to the 18th in the 2019); on the business efficiency factor (from 45th up to 25th for the same period); and on the infrastructure factor (from 44th up to 38th).  (National Competitiveness Center, SA 28.05)

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5.11  Saudi Arabia’s Economic Growth Set to Improve Further in 2019

Saudi Arabia’s economic outlook is expected to improve further in 2019, although downside risks remain as a result of the global economic slowdown and the impact it could have on oil markets, the kingdom’s central bank said.  The country’s economic growth recovered to 2.2% in 2018 after contracting the previous year, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) said in a 1 June report.  The rebound was mainly powered by the oil sector, which grew 2.9% while the non-oil sector expanded 1.7% in 2018, compared to 1% the previous year.

The gains are welcome news for the OPEC powerhouse, which had been hit earlier by a slide in global oil prices just as the government was pushing to decrease reliance on crude and boost foreign direct investment.  The kingdom is also working to bring more Saudis into the workforce instead of relying on expatriate labor.

The SAMA also noted that inflation accelerated to 2.5% in 2018, mainly due to new measures such as value-added tax and energy price reform.  The budget deficit decreased to 4.6% of gross domestic product compared to 9.3% in 2017, while government revenue increased by 30%; spending rose by 11% to around 1 trillion Saudi riyals ($266.7 billion.  Current-account data suggest a surplus of 271 billion riyals, or 2.7% of GDP, versus 39 billion riyals in 2017; improvement mainly due to higher oil prices and increased production.  (AB 02.06)

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5.12  Saudi Arabia’s First Quarter $7.4 Billion Budget Surplus ‘Unlikely to Last’

Saudi Arabia’s surprise budget surplus of SR27.8 billion ($7.41 billion) in the first quarter is unlikely to be repeated, according to new research by Bank of America Merrill Lynch.  The results, which marked the first time since 2014 that the Gulf kingdom posted a surplus, reflected an increase in Saudi Aramco special dividends and tight spending control.  The research note also said that authorities’ ongoing fiscal reforms and possible one-off revenues are keeping non-oil revenues on track.  Non-oil revenues stood at SR76 billion in Q1, down 8.4% on a quarterly basis but up 46% year-on-year.  It added that the base effects reflect the one-off inclusion in 2018 non-oil revenues of SR50 billion in cash collected in settlements from the government’s anti-corruption probe.

Total spending in Q1/19, which stood at SR218 billion, was unsustainably low and was 40% lower than the previous quarter.  Compensation of employees and social benefits remained at elevated levels.  Spending control, particularly on the capex side, kept the annualized overall spending pace at just 80% of the annual budget target.

The research showed that Saudi Aramco’s increase in dividend payments in Q1 brought annualized oil revenues on track to exceed the budget target.  Oil revenues stood at SR169 billion, up 48% compared to Q1/18, despite lower oil production and prices.  (AB 31.05)

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►►North Africa

5.13  Egypt’s Annual inflation Rate Rises by 1% in May

The annual inflation rate in Egypt went up by 1% in May, according to the monthly statement issued by the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) on 10 June.  On a monthly basis, the rate surged 1% in May compared to April, hitting 311.1 points.  The annual inflation rate reached 13.2% in May, compared to 11.5% during the same month last year.  The report blamed the rising inflation rate on a continuing increase in consumer prices, saying that fruit prices spiked 18.1%, red meat and poultry prices were up 3.6%, cereals and bread 0.7%, fish and seafood 1.2% and ready-to-wear clothes 1.3%.  (CAPMAS 10.06)

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5.14  Egypt to Link 1.2 Million Households to Natural Gas Grid Annually

Egypt plans to link natural gas to 1.2 million households during 2019 across areas that have not received natural gas before.  The Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources confirmed the continuous follow-up on the gas grid that will deliver natural gas in FY 2019/20 for the first time to a large number of areas, villages and cities.

The delivery of natural gas will be implemented according to a system with a monthly installment of EGP 30 over a period of six years.  The country has linked a total of 9.6 million households to the national gas grid so far and aims to link 10.5 million households by the end of 2019.  This comes in light of the national project to deliver natural gas to households and replace butane to improve citizens’ standards of living and provide them with enhanced services.  (EOG 09.06)

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5.15  Morocco Welcomed 3.6 Million Tourists in First Four Months of 2019

The number of tourists arrivals to Morocco in the first fourth months of the year 2019 rose by 6%, compared to the same period last year, during which Morocco attracted 3.4 million visitors.  Assessing data provided by the General Directorate of National Security, the Moroccan Tourist Observatory noted that the number of visitors between January and April this year, stood at 3.6 million tourists.  Data shows that the main source markets have been the United States.  American arrivals increased by 14%, followed by a 13% of Italian tourists.  Arrivals from France and Spain increased by 9%, while there were 8% more German visitors and 7% more Dutch tourists entering Morocco.  Visits from Belgian tourists increased by 5% and 4% more British tourists visited Morocco in 2019.

Figures from accommodation professionals show a considerable growth in terms of overnight stays in classified establishments, with a 6-percent increase relative to last year’s numbers.  The number of overnight stays rose by 5% for non-resident tourists and 6% for residents.  The statistics show that Marrakech and Agadir took the lead in terms of overnight stays, registering 58% of the overall overnight stays. Tangier, Fez and Rabat also did well, notching up a respective 10, 4, and 2% increase, unlike Casablanca, which recorded a -1% decrease.

During the first two months of 2019, the number of entries to Morocco rose by 7.6%, totaling a growth of 9% for tourists and 5% for nationals living abroad, with France as the main source.  During the two-month period, a total of 1,594,468 tourists visited Morocco.  (MWN 10.06)

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6.1  The Share of E-Commerce in Turkish Retail Increases to 5.3% in 2018

The Turkish e-commerce sector has put on a promising performance in the last couple of years with consistent growth.  While the sector, operating in Turkey since 1997, reached nearly TL 60 billion last year, its share in the whole retail industry climbed to 5.3% from 4.1% in 2017, according to a joint report by the Turkish Industry and Business Association (TÜSİAD) and Deloitte Digital.  It noted that the size of retail transactions has reached TL 31.5 billion.  The report also elaborated on the outcomes by the Turkey Informatics Industry Association (TÜBİSAD) and Deloitte.  (DS 30.05)

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6.2  Turkish Steel Output Increases in April

Turkey’s crude steel production rose 2.6% on a yearly basis in April to reach 3 million tons, a trade association said on 10 June.  The country’s steel products exports also surged 22.7% year-on-year to reach 1.9 million tons in the month, said the Turkish Steel Producers’ Association (TÇÜD).  The value of steel exports totaled $1.4 billion in April, up 9.8% from the same month last year.  During the same period, the volume of steel imports fell 20.4% to 1.2 million tons.  In terms of value, crude steel imports dropped 26.4% year-on-year to $965 million.  In the first four months of this year, the country’s crude steel output declined 10.5% to 11.2 million tons.

In May, the United States announced that it slashed tariffs on Turkish steel imports to 25% from 50%.  Washington had doubled tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum imports last August amid a diplomatic row.  (DS 11.06)

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6.3  Cyprus’ Annual Price Inflation Rises Slightly by 0.2% in May

Cyprus’ inflation was slightly up in May compared to April and to May last year, data released by the Statistical Service showed.  In May, the Consumer Price Index increased by 0.14 units and reached 101.18 units compared to 101.04 units in April 2019.  Compared to May 2018, the CPI increased by 0.2%.

In the 12-month period from June 2018 to May 2019, compared to the period from June 2017 to May 2018, the annual average rate of change of the CPI was 2%.  The corresponding annual average rate of change of the CPI in the previous 12-month period was -0.1%.

Compared to the index of May 2018 the greatest change in economic origin was recorded in Electricity (12.8%), while compared to the index of the previous month, Agricultural goods had the greatest change (-5.3%).  Compared to May 2018, the category Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas and Other Fuels recorded the largest positive change with 5.3%, while the category Communication (-2.9%) had the largest negative change.  In comparison to the CPI of the previous month, the largest positive change was noted in Communication (3.2%), whereas Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages (-1.8%) had the largest negative change.  For the five-month period January–May 2019, the largest change was recorded in Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas and Other Fuels (7%).  (CyStat 06.06)

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6.4  Cyprus’ Trade Gap Widens as Exports Declined in First Quarter

Cyprus’ annual trade deficit widened appreciably in the first three months of the year rising by €360.7 million on the back of declining exports.  Official data shows that the trade deficit was €1.04 billion in January-March 2019 compared to €685.1 million in the same three-month period of 2018.  Total imports in January-March were valued at €1.97 billion from €1.96 billion in the same quarter last year, while total exports declined to €930.5 million from €1.27 billion in 2018.  Last year’s trade surplus of €153 million in March turned into a deficit of €386.1 million one year on.

In March 2019, total imports were valued at €598.8 million from €729.9 million in March 2018, while total exports, including stores and provisions, crashed to €212.7 million from €882.9 million.  Exports of domestically produced goods, including stores and provisions in March fell to €90.9 million from €109.0 million in March 2018 whilst exports of foreign goods declined sharply to €121.8 million from €773.9 million.  (CyStat 10.06)

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6.5  Greece is EU’s Contraband Tobacco Leader

Greece has the highest rate of contraband cigarettes in the European Union, which cost the state coffers €690 million in revenues last year, as KPMG’s “Stella Report,” commissioned by Philip Morris International, reveals.

In the crisis years, over-taxation turned citizens to the consumption of illegal products, obtained both directly from farmers as well as on the black market, with clear risks for public health.  The increase in taxation on tobacco led thousands of smokers to switch to contraband cigarettes.  The report showed that the illegal cigarette market in Greece soared to 23.6% last year, up 5.6% from 2017, while it was in this country that the biggest quantity of contraband cigarettes in the EU was recorded, amounting to €1.5 billion.  In the EU the average rate of illegal tobacco came to 8.6% of all tobacco consumed.

Today taxation makes up 85% of the retail price of cigarettes in Greece, which is an obvious incentive for smuggling.  When a Greek smoker pays €4.50 for a pack of cigarettes, €3.85 euros goes to the state and just €0.85 euros to the retailer, the distributor and the tobacco industry.  (eKathimerini 10.06)

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7.1  Jerusalem Population Outflow Slows While the High-Tech Sector Flourishes

On 29 May, JIPR researchers presented Jerusalem Mayor Lion with a statistical review of the city for 2019, which showed that for the first time in a decade, the city’s population loss has been halted.  For a period of some 10 years, an average 8,000 residents left the city each year. In 2018, only 6,000 residents left.  Secular residents comprise 22% of Jerusalem’s population.

Nearly half (49%) of ultra-Orthodox men of working age are participating in the workforce, the highest percentage since records have been kept.

Not only has the number of high-tech businesses in the city grown by 33.8%, but the Jerusalem Municipality also reports that the city has seen one of the highest survival rates for high-tech businesses – 62% compared to 50% nationwide.

According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, some 927,000 people currently live in Jerusalem, compared to 200,000 prior to the 1967 Six-Day War and 83,000 at the end of the 1948 War of Independence.

Living in Jerusalem is costly, with the average cost of an apartment standing at NIS 2.018 million, compared to the national average of NIS 1.801 million.  The average rent in Jerusalem is currently NIS 3,308, also higher than the national average, which stands at 3,183 million shekels.

The population of Jerusalem is 62.1% Jewish and 37.9% Arab.  The city’s Jewish population has one of the highest average birth rates in the country, 4.27, compared to the average of 3.05 elsewhere in Israel.  In 2017, 24,704 babies were born in Jerusalem, 15,790 Jews and 8,914 Arabs.  Big families are common, with 15% of families numbering seven people or more, compared to the rest of Israel, where only 6.1% of families include seven people or more.

The number of pupils in public schools stands at 282,000.  During the last school year, there were 78,600 elementary school children in Jerusalem, 51,800 of whom were studying in Haredi educational institutions.  (IH 30.05)

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7.2  Weizmann Institute of Science Ranked in Top 25

The Weizmann Institute of Science has been ranked among the top 25 research institutes/universities in the world in two main categories by U-Multirank, 2019.  This organization named the Institute a Global Top 25 performer in two areas: Top Cited Publications and Patents Awarded.  This ranking, an initiative of the European Commission since 2014, uses all of the information available about hundreds of institutes worldwide, and analyses it according to numerous variables to show which of them leads in five main categories.  Each category is assessed independently, according to parameters unique to that category, and they are weighted so as to add a qualitative – rather than just quantitative – dimension to the ranking.

The Weizmann Institute of Science places in the top 25 in two of those categories; within the category of patents, the Institute is outstanding not only for the share of patents registered to Institute scientists, but for the ratio of Institute publications, in proportion to their numbers, cited in patents by others around the world.  It has long been a leader in the global impact of its scientific research; the number of top cited publications are evidence of that impact. Institute researchers are more likely to have their research published in top journals, and that research is more often read and frequently used – and cited – by others.

Even more outstanding is the fact that as a basic research institute, the Weizmann Institute of Science does not demand of its scientists that any of their research be market-, clinically or industrially oriented; yet with the help of Yeda Research and Development Co, the Institute’s technology transfer arm, scientists who do come up with discoveries that may help treat cancer, create greener chemistry or design new nanotech devices have had a large degree of success in patenting these findings.  The end result is improvement in the quality of life for millions of people around the world.  (Weizmann 04.0)

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7.3  TAU & Technion Among Leading 100 Universities With Most US Patents in 2018

Tel Aviv University received the highest ranking for an Israeli institution in a list of top 100 universities around the globe with registered patents in the United States during 2018.  The list was compiled by the National Academy of Inventors and Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO).  Tel Aviv University ranked 66th on the list of Top 100 Worldwide Universities Granted US Utility Patents in 2018.  The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa was the second Israeli university on the list, with the 75th spot.

The University of California ranked first, followed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Stanford University. Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals was in fourth place.  It was the only university not based in the United States in the top 10.

Tel Aviv University was recognized through its Ramot technology transfer arm, which registered 37 patents in the US in 2018.  It registered a total of 121 international patents in 2018, the university said.  The Technion was recognized through its Technion Research and Development Foundation and had 32 patents registered in the US.  (No Camels 05.06)

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7.4  Likely Eid Al Adha 2019 Date Announced

The new moon of the lunar month of Zul Hijjah is expected to be on 1 August, so Eid Al Adha is likely to fall on Sunday, 11 August, according to the International Astronomical Centre (IAC) in Abu Dhabi.  As is the case every year, Saudi Arabia will announce the sighting of the new moon of Zul Hijjah and most countries will approve this sighting which is linked to the season of Haj or pilgrimage.

Last year, the new moon of Zul Hijjah was sighted on Sunday, 12 August, 2018, while the Eid Al Adha fell on Tuesday, 21 August last year.

As per by the UAE Federal Authority for Government Human Resources list of holidays, Arafat (Haj) day, expected to fall on Saturday, 10 August, will be a holiday.  The three days that follow, Sunday, 11 to 13 August, will be an official UAE holiday for both private and public sector employees.  (Various 09.06)

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8.1  iCAN: Israel-Cannabis Announces Medical Cannabis Investments in Israel and US

iCAN: Israel-Cannabis recently made strategic investments; the companies join iCAN’s already robust portfolio in iCAN Incubate, iCAN’s cannabis industry incubator which offers guidance and support for cannabis start-ups to successfully develop, produce and market products.

In the United States, iCAN has invested in Vanguard Scientific, an Oregon based botanical and equipment provider of end-to-end solutions for integrated botanical extraction and equipment services.

Israel has just recently allowed companies to export medical cannabis products and Isracann Biosciences, an Israeli based cannabis producer is targeting both a massively undersupplied Israeli domestic market and anticipates near-term expansion to major European markets where demand is fast growing.  Focused on becoming the region’s premier, low-cost cannabis producer, ISRACANN’s three farms in Israel have cultivation licenses for total of 580,000 sq. ft.

iCAN: Israel-Cannabis is building the Global Cannabis Ecosystem.  iCAN is committed to accelerate Israel’s CannaTechnology industry, capitalizing on Israeli innovation and a leading cannabis regulatory environment to bring premier products to market.  iCAN is powered by CannaTech, the premier international cannabis summit held annually in Tel Aviv, and around the world, including London, Sydney, Hong Kong, Panama and Cape Town, South Africa in November 2019.  (iCAN 30.05)

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8.2  Teva Reaches Agreement with State of Oklahoma to Resolve State’s Claims

Teva Pharmaceuticals USA and related affiliates of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and the state of Oklahoma, have entered into an agreement for a one-time payment of $85 million to the state.  The settlement resolves the state’s claims against Teva.  The settlement does not establish any wrongdoing on the part of the company; Teva has not contributed to the abuse of opioids in Oklahoma in any way.  The company has resolved this matter in a way that benefits the people who have suffered from abuse of opioids and to help stop the effects of the opioid crisis.  Teva continues to keep the long-term stability of the company at the forefront.

Teva remains focused on its future as a leader in creating access to life saving medications like the company’s recent final approval for the first generic naloxone spray, which is widely recognized as an essential lifesaving medication to combat opioid abuse.  The state will allocate the payment made by Teva at its discretion including for payment of its fees and costs in connection with this settlement.

Israel’s Teva Pharmaceutical Industries has been developing and producing medicines to improve people’s lives for more than a century.  They are a global leader in generic and specialty medicines with a portfolio consisting of over 35,000 products in nearly every therapeutic area.  Around 200 million people around the world take a Teva medicine every day, and are served by one of the largest and most complex supply chains in the pharmaceutical industry.  (Teva 26.05)

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8.3  CartiHeal’s Agili-C Implant Enhances In-vitro Osteogenic Differentiation of Mesenchymal Stem Cells

CartiHeal announced the publication of an in-vitro study demonstrating that the Agili-C implant enhances osteogenic differentiation of human bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells.  The goal of the study was to investigate the mechanisms induced by the bone phase of the Agili-C implant on the osteogenic differentiation of Bone Marrow-derived Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs) when cultured under differentiation-inducing conditions.

Study results demonstrated that the bone phase of the bi-phasic aragonite-based scaffold supports osteogenic differentiation and enhanced proliferation of bone marrow-derived MSCs at both the molecular and histological levels.  The scaffold was colonized by differentiating MSCs, suggesting its suitability for incorporation into bone voids to accelerate bone healing, remodeling and regeneration.  The mechanism of osteogenic differentiation was found to involve scaffold surface modification with de-novo production of calcium phosphate deposits.  This novel coral-based scaffold may promote the rapid formation of high-quality bone during the repair of osteochondral lesions.

Kfar Saba’s CartiHeal, a privately-held medical device company, develops proprietary implants for the treatment of cartilage and osteochondral defects in traumatic and osteoarthritic joints.  In the United States, the Agili-C implant is not available for sale – it is an investigational device limited for use in the IDE study.  (CartiHeal 30.05)

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8.4  Medial EarlySign First Suite of Machine Learning-based Predictive Diabetes Risk Solutions

Medial EarlySign announced its first suite of diabetes risk predictors for healthcare organizations.  Expanding the company’s portfolio of clinical risk predictors, these new diabetes-focused AlgoMarkers are designed to help healthcare systems identify and engage patients at high risk for diabetes and downstream complications.  The initial suite includes EarlySign’s Pre2D AlgoMarker solution to identify prediabetic patients at highest risk of progressing to diabetes within a one-year period; and the Diabetes to CKD AlgoMarker, which identifies type 2 diabetic patients at high risk for developing stage 2-4 chronic kidney disease (CKD) within three years.

EarlySign’s Pre2D predictive solution applies advanced machine learning-based algorithms to identify “hidden signals” residing in existing, routine blood tests.  Factoring in age, gender and BMI – and requiring no special patient preparation – it flags those prediabetic patients at high risk for progressing to diabetes in one year or less.  In a retrospective data study of 1.1 million prediabetic patients, the Pre2D AlgoMarker flagged the top 10% of the prediabetic population at risk and successfully identified 58.3% of patients who became diabetic within a 12-month period.  This is a 14.7% increase over a logistic regression model that, by flagging 10% of the population, identified only 43.6% of future diabetics.

Founded in 2009, Hod HaSharon’s Medial EarlySign helps healthcare systems with the early detection and prevention of high-burden diseases.  Their suite of outcome-focused software solutions (AlgoMarkers) find subtle, early signs of high-risk patient trajectories in existing lab results and ordinary EHR data already collected in the course of routine care.  EarlySign’s AlgoMarkers help clients identify patients at high risk for conditions such as lower GI disorders, prediabetic progression to diabetes, downstream diabetic complications, chronic kidney disease (CKD), and first coronary artery disease (CAD) and equivalent events.  (Medial EarlySign 29.05)

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8.5  Techsomed Secures $2.6 Million for Predictive Imaging System for Thermal Ablation

Techsomed has secured $2.6 million for further development towards obtaining FDA, PMDA and CE regulatory approval.  The financing round was led by Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JJDC, Inc., with participation from existing and new investors: SCREEN Holdings (Japan), AMIT-Technion (the Alfred Mann Institute), NextLeap Ventures, and Axil Capital (Japan).

Using advanced proprietary AI and image analysis, Techsomed’s BioTrace system integrates with standard ultrasound devices to track the target tissue’s unique biological signature as it responds to heat during thermal ablation.  This signature is used to visually simulate the post 24-hour thermal effect in real-time, thus enhancing the surgeon’s level of control and accuracy during the procedure.  The system transforms thermal ablation therapies from guesswork into precise, real-time, feedback-dependent treatments that minimize healthy tissue damage and maximize target tissue ablation, resulting in higher efficacy and lower recurrence rates.

Rehovot’s Techsomed, a privately-held biotech company, develops ultrasound-based real-time monitoring systems for thermal ablation procedures.  Following the recent investment, TechsoMed will open a subsidiary in Japan, targeting commercialization in the Japanese and other Asian markets.  (Techsomed 29.05)

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8.6  ReWalk Robotics Receives CE Mark for ReStore Exo-Suit Stroke Rehabilitation Device

ReWalk Robotics announced that the ReStore Exo-Suit for stroke rehabilitation has received CE marking, clearing it for sale to rehabilitation clinics in the European Union.  This CE Mark is the first clearance of a soft exo-suit, a next generation medical device which can serve a larger and more diverse patient population facing mobility challenges.  ReStore’s soft, garment-like design allows variability of movement which combines with first-of-its-kind plantarflexion propulsion assistance that adaptively synchronizes with the patient’s natural gait to facilitate functional gait training activities.  The device also provides therapists the ability to adjust and optimize a patient’s treatment using real-time analytics.

The company announced that ReStore will be priced significantly lower than the first generation of rigid exoskeleton technologies, and can be used to treat a broad range of stroke rehabilitation patients.  ReWalk will offer direct purchase and third party leasing programs for the ReStore in the EU.

ReStore is ReWalk’s second marquee device, joining the ReWalk Personal 6.0 – a robotic exoskeleton for home use by individuals with paralysis from a spinal cord injury.  The expansion to soft exo-suits gives ReWalk a diverse offering of innovative technologies, and expands the company’s impact to millions of patients worldwide.

Yokneam Illit’s ReWalk Robotics develops, manufactures and markets wearable robotic exoskeletons for individuals with lower limb disabilities as a result of spinal cord injury or stroke.  ReWalk’s mission is to fundamentally change the quality of life for individuals with lower limb disability through the creation and development of market leading robotic technologies.  (ReWalk Robotics 29.05)

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8.7  Pi Therapeutics Announces $19.7 Million Series B Financing

Pi Therapeutics announced the completion of a $19.7 million Series B financing.  The financing was led by existing investor Pontifax, with participation from Quark Venture and GF Securities through GHS Fund, Arkin Bio Ventures, CBG and existing investor, RMGP.  Pi’s lead product is a novel first-in-class inhibitor of protein degradation that generated encouraging pre-clinical activity in multiple models of liquid and solid tumors.  Proceeds from this financing will be used to advance Pi’s lead program to clinical proof-of-concept.

Ness Ziona’s Pi Therapeutics is a preclinical-stage pharmaceutical company dedicated to the development of protein degradation modulators for the treatment of cancer.  PI’s lead drug modulates pathways related to proteostasis, offering a unique approach to the preferential targeting of cancer cells.  Preclinical data to date have demonstrated a compelling safety and efficacy profile which is differentiated from approved protein degradation inhibitors.  The company was established in 2015 based on technology in-licensed from Johns Hopkins University and has raised a total of approximately $24 million to date.  (Pi Therapeutics 29.05)

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8.8  Sensible Medical Innovations Licenses ReDS Technology to Bayer

Sensible Medical Innovations and Bayer successfully signed an agreement making Bayer, Sensible’s largest customer in Europe.  Bayer will use Sensible ReDS technology as an exploratory device-derived biomarker to monitor lung congestion in a clinical trial.  The ReDS System is a wearable vest which quantifies the amount of lung fluid non-invasively.  It can be used as a Point-of-Care device in hospital and clinic environments, as well as a monitoring system for the home setting, creating a Continuum of Care for patients with fluid management problems. Sensible currently concentrates on the heart failure (HF) market.

HF is a serious and chronic medical condition in which the heart is unable to adequately fill with and eject blood. It is a global pandemic affecting at least 26 million people worldwide and is increasing in prevalence.  HF health expenditures are considerable and will increase dramatically with the ageing population. Despite the significant advances in therapies and prevention, mortality and morbidity are still high, and quality of life poor.  Almost 1 out of every 4 hospitalized patients (24%) are re-hospitalized for heart failure within the 30-day post discharge period. Nearly 1 out of 2 patients (46%) are re-hospitalized for heart failure within the 60-day post discharge period.

Netanya’s Sensible Medical Innovations has set out to develop a new standard of care in lung fluid management.  Sensible developed the ReDS™ medical radar technology that stems from defense “see through wall” applications.  The technology is well positioned to be a game changer in a wide range of applications, and become the next generation monitoring and imaging modality.  Sensible Medical Innovations received FDA 510(k) clearance and CE mark for ReDS™ System, its non-invasive thoracic fluid status monitor.  The product is intended for use by qualified health care practitioners and by patients, under the direction of a physician, in hospitals, hospital-type facilities and home environment, for the non-invasive monitoring and management of patients with fluid management problems in a variety of medically accepted clinical applications.  ReDS is indicated for patients with fluid management problems, taking diuretic medication, living with Heart Failure, or recovering from Coronary Artery Disease related event.  (Sensible Medical 28.05)

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8.9  New NRGene Product Provides Whole Genome Assembly at Lower Cost

NRGene announced the launch of DeNovoMAX – a new product that aims to empower breeding and maximize agricultural yield as part of the Denovo assembly product suite offered by the company.  The product is now available for the majority of popular homozygote genomes.  DeNovoMAX is a lean version of the legacy DeNovoMAGIC platform, which has been cited many times in scientific literature due to the high quality of results it generates.  The two assembly products complement one another.  DeNovoMAGIC relies on high coverage to provide a full-service genome assembly to all organisms at the highest standard of results (regardless of complexity), whereas DeNovoMAX maximizes efficiency by using a leaner library setup with minimal compromise in quality.  DeNovoMax is designed to meet the applicative genomics needs of professional breeders and will be offered to the most popular homozygote species such as wheat, tobacco, tomato, pepper, cotton, corn, soybean, sunflower and more.

As a result of NRGene’s data production optimizations and cutting-edge sequencing technologies such as Illumina’s NovaSeq, DeNovoMax is available at a significant price reduction.  The cost-effectiveness and potential for high-quality assembly has been shown on wheat, the most widely cultivated crop.  NRGene managed to successfully assemble, at reference quality level, the 16 GB-sized genome of common wheat (also known as bread wheat) at less than half the cost of former wheat assembly projects.

Ness Ziona’s NRGene is a genomics company that provides turn-key solutions to leading breeding companies.  Using advanced algorithmics & extensive proprietary databases, we empower breeders to reach their full potential by achieving stronger and more productive yields in record time.  NRGene’s tools have already been implemented by some of the leading agribiotech companies worldwide, as well as the most influential research teams in academia.  (NRGene 03.06)

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8.10  Seed-X and TomaTech Use AI to Accelerate Breeding of Superior Quality Hybrid Tomatoes

Seed-X and TomaTech, the dynamic and innovative tomato seed breeding company, have announced a new pilot of GeNee Breeder, the first and only seed phenotype analysis system that offers breeders reliable real-time classification of a wide range of genetic traits in vegetable / row crop seeds and grains.  In order to achieve quality traits in vegetables today, many breeders rely mainly on their proprietary breeding expertise and work processes.  Seed-X’s GeNee Breeder is a breakthrough that offers breeders an alternative seed qualification system that analyzes seed images.  GeNee Breeder provides breeders with a fast, professional and affordable way to capitalize on genetic models that until now have been off-limits to all but the seed industry’s biggest players due to lack of relevant genomic information.

The pilot program, which will take place in TomaTech‘s breeding site in Rehovot, Israel, will study the variation within each seed population and the prediction accuracy for different types of traits.

Magshimim’s Seed-X enables sustainable food security at the seed level by revolutionizing quality control at every stage of the seed/grain value chain – using a powerful combination of AI, deep learning, machine vision and innovative phenotype analysis.  (Seed-X 03.06)

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8.11  UPnRIDE Raises NIS 2.2 Million

UPnRIDE has raised NIS 2.2 million through Together Pharma’s crowdfunding platform.  The investors are from Together’s club of eligible investors.  UPnRIDE is now raising more money from the general public.

UPnRIDE does not enable disabled people to walk; it transports them in an erect position.  This enables them to view the rest of the world from the same height as other people and has health benefits – medical processes, such as digestion, are aided by gravity when the body is erect from time to time.  Constant sitting is liable to have fatal effects on those who are totally unable to stand.  UPnRIDE’s product features robotic capabilities enabling disabled people to travel erect over a range of field conditions, including slopes, without risking a fall.  The company said that it had already signed distribution agreements in the UK and Hong Kong.  UPnRIDE’s wheelchairs are currently being tested by the US army for use by disabled people.

Yokneam Illit’s UPnRIDE Robotics is a developer of innovative life-changing mobility technologies intended for the disabled.  Holding a patented technology and unique proprietary know-how, the company has spurred a significant leap forward in this field.  The company’s management team and advisory board include successful serial entrepreneurs and engineers with proven expertise in technological ventures, finance, healthcare, physical rehabilitation, biomedical engineering and wheelchair manufacturing.  (UPnRIDE 03.06)

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8.12  EarlySense Wins 2019 MedTech Breakthrough Award

EarlySense has been selected as the winner of the “Best MedTech Startup” award by MedTech Breakthrough.  This recognition follows EarlySense’s receipt of the MedTech Breakthrough “Healthcare Analytics Innovation Award” in 2018.  The MedTech Breakthrough Awards recognize leading companies, platforms and products in a range of health and medical technology categories.

EarlySense’s contact-free sensor continuously monitors heart rate, respiratory rate and movement without ever touching the patient.  The technology has been successfully implemented in hospitals, skilled nursing homes and rehab facilities around the world to assist health teams in early detection of potential adverse events, such as patient falls, prevention of pressure ulcers and patient deterioration.  EarlySense partners include Philips, Welch Allyn, and leading hospital bed manufacturer, Hill-Rom.

Ramat Gan’s EarlySense is the global leader in contact-free, continuous monitoring solutions for the healthcare continuum.  Used worldwide in hospitals, post-acute care facilities and homes, EarlySense assists clinicians in early detection of patient deterioration.  The solution has been proven to help prevent adverse events, including code blue events which are a result of cardiac or respiratory arrest, preventable ICU transfers, patient falls, pressure ulcers and hospital readmissions.  EarlySense’s FDA-cleared solutions leverage big data analytics to provide actionable health insights and improve clinical outcomes.  (EarlySense 06.06)

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8.13  Roche Selects GlucoMe as New Partner in Digital Health Startup Creasphere Accelerator Program

GlucoMe announced a new partnership with Roche from participation in the current Startup Creasphere Batch 2 program.  Established in 2018, Startup Creasphere is the first digital health innovation hub in Europe set-up by Roche and Plug and Play to accelerate digital healthcare.  GlucoMe was selected to partner with Roche from one of 11 companies that are taking part in the global initiative, following a screening process of over 200 health-focused start-up companies.

GlucoMe is a digital diabetes management solution that effectively and efficiently streamlines the disease management process for patients and the entire healthcare system, including health care providers, supporting medical teams, insurers, tele-medicine and remote care providers.  Using the system, medical teams can identify and prioritize urgent cases for more timely intervention while enabling a significant increase in patient interactions without the need to increase resources and staff.  The platform’s advanced insights, analysis and treatment recommendation provide quick guidance for medical teams to enable better control and effective management of diabetes patient populations.

Yarkona’s GlucoMe is a digital health company developing and marketing a comprehensive digital solution for diabetes management.  With its new algorithm-based Decision Support System analyzing relevant diabetes data and providing medical teams with treatment recommendations, GlucoMe is on track to realize its vision of offering an autonomous diabetes care platform.  The GlucoMe solution enables smart and cost-effective remote care and monitoring, streamlining and simplifying diabetes care for patients, caregivers and medical professionals. Its core architecture enables quick and simple implementation and allows organizations to easily scale up while delivering personalized quality care.  (GlucoMe 05.06)

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8.14  Sorrel Medical’s Wearable Drug Delivery Platform Wins 2019 MedTech Breakthrough Award

Sorrel Medical has been awarded the “Best New Technology Solution in Drug Delivery” designation from MedTech Breakthrough, an independent organization that recognizes the top companies and solutions in the global health and medical technology market.  The “Best New Technology Solution” award, given in the drug delivery category, specifically recognizes Sorrel Medical’s pre-filled and pre-loaded, wearable drug delivery platform, designed to provide patients with a simple and efficient means of drug administration, particularly for large volume and high viscosity medications.

Sorrel’s wearable devices are designed to accommodate drug reservoirs ranging from 1 mL to 20 mL in volume.  The devices utilize a variety of smart sensors to guarantee successful self-administration and first-of-its-kind UV LED technology to provide disinfection at point-of-care — addressing a longstanding challenge in pre-filled drug delivery devices.  Finally, the devices are able to connect to both Bluetooth and near-field communication (NFC) platforms, allowing patients to share treatment information with caregivers, healthcare providers, and other necessary stakeholders.

Netanya’s Sorrel Medical is a medical device company focused on the development and manufacturing of pre-filled wearable injectors for the easy and efficient self-administration of large volume and high viscosity medications.  One of three privately held companies operating under the Eitan Group, Sorrel leverages core capabilities and expertise in drug delivery technology development, manufacturing and regulatory experience to offer a robust platform solution to the healthcare market.  With innovative technology solutions, Sorrel’s devices address the need for partner-oriented and patient-centric drug delivery systems.  (Sorrel Medical 06.06)

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8.15  ReStore Exo-Suit Receives FDA Clearance

ReWalk Robotics announced that the U.S. FDA has cleared the Company’s ReStore soft exo-suit system for sale to rehabilitation centers across the United States.  ReStore is the only soft exo-suit with FDA clearance, and is intended for use in the treatment of stroke survivors with mobility challenges.  Stroke is a leading cause of disability, which affects approximately 17 million people worldwide each year and as many as 80% of people who have had a stroke will suffer from gait impairments.

The patented soft exo-suit technology was originally developed at Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering where it also underwent initial clinical testing that demonstrated its potential to improve walking for stroke survivors.  ReWalk and the Wyss Institute entered into a multi-year research collaboration agreement in 2016 which provides ReWalk access to future innovations that emerge from this collaboration and may be relevant to additional stroke products or other therapies.

The ReStore system is comprised of a soft, garment-like design which connects to a lightweight waist pack and mechanical cables that help lift the patient’s affected leg in synchronized timing with their natural walking pattern.  The system provides targeted assistance to the patient during forward propulsion (plantarflexion) and ground clearance (dorsiflexion), two key phases of the gait cycle.  The device also provides the physical therapists with extensive data during gait training with ReStore to inform strategies to optimize a patient’s treatment and progress using real-time analytics.  ReStore is ReWalk’s second major market segment, joining the ReWalk Personal 6.0 – a robotic exoskeleton for home use by individuals with paralysis from a spinal cord injury – and the ReWalk Rehabilitation system, which allows for multiple patient uses through height and weight adjustments.

Founded in 2001, Yokneam Illit’s ReWalk Robotics develops, manufactures and markets wearable robotic exoskeletons for individuals with lower limb disabilities as a result of spinal cord injury or stroke.  The Company’s mission is to fundamentally change the quality of life for individuals with lower limb disability through the creation and development of market leading robotic technologies.  (ReWalk Robotics 04.06)

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8.16  Essence Launches Breakthrough Radar Technology to Detect Senior Falls

One of every three seniors fall each year.  This is a startling number, one which is magnified by the fact that many, if not most, of these falls go undetected for long periods of time.  To combat this, Essence Smart Care has developed a ground-breaking solution that immediately and accurately detects falls without the need for a wearable device.  Essence Smart Care is part of the Israel based Essence Group, a company that specializes in intelligent IoT and cybersecurity solutions for the monitored security, connected home and senior telecare markets.

Based on 3D imaging technology, normally used in upscale outdoor perimeter security applications, the indoor Radar Fall Detector is able to recognize when a person has fallen.  Using AI, the device verifies that a fall has occurred and sends this information to the telecare service provider or directly to caregivers.  The Radar Fall Detector is triggered by a motion detector whenever there is movement in a room and continuously tracks the resident’s movements through the radar sensor.  If there is a sudden change from a standing to lying position, the device uses its internal decision-making mechanism to determine if a fall has occurred and notifies care providers through the Care@Home PERS+ platform.

Herzliya’s Essence is a global provider of IoT connected-living and cybersecurity solutions for communication, security and healthcare service providers, serving households and small-medium businesses.  Leveraging 25 years of experience and innovation with a global presence and 30 million devices deployed worldwide, Essence is committed to developing and supporting solutions that enhance partners’ businesses and enable people to live fuller, better lives.  The multiple award-winning Care@Home Multi-Service Platform is an aging in place product suite offering seamless home care monitoring indoors and outdoors, allowing independence for seniors and peace of mind to their loved ones.  (Essence 04.06)

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8.17  Pitango Launches $150 Million Health Tech Fund

Pitango Venture Capital announced it is looking to raise $150 million for a new fund dedicated to healthcare and digital health technology.  Pitango said the health tech fund will operate alongside Pitango’s Early-Stage Tech Fund and the Pitango Growth Fund, focusing on “highly disruptive, game-changing entrepreneurs and ventures” in digital health, health IT, and medical tech.  The firm added that the fund will also look into opportunities in diagnostics, biopharma, food- and agri-tech.

Pitango also announced that the fund made its first investment, leading a $7 million funding round in Israeli medical tech startup Variantyx, which developed what it calls the industry’s first comprehensive Whole-Genome-Sequencing (WGS) based diagnostic, effectively combining all genomic tests into one.  Founded in 2014, Variantyx says its services are used by a global network of world-leading hospitals and diagnostic labs.

Herzliya’s Pitango was founded in 1993 and has raised more than $2 billion in committed capital.  It has invested in over 200 companies, many of which have become publicly traded companies or were acquired by strategic players.  (NoCamels 06.06)

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8.18  Tel Aviv University Study Shows New System for Early Detection of Parkinson’s Disease

A new Tel Aviv University study unveils a novel method for detecting the aggregation of the protein alpha-synuclein, a hallmark of Parkinson’s disease.  With this knowledge, caregivers could introduce treatment that has the potential to significantly delay disease progression.

By the time a patient is diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, 50% to 80% of the dopaminergic cells in the part of the brain called substania nigra are already dead, possibly due to development of toxicity as result of alpha-synuclein aggregation.  TAU has developed a new method for tracking early stages of aggregation of alpha-synuclein using super-resolution microscopy and advanced analysis.

TAU’s Sagol School of Neuroscience and TAU’s George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, together with collaborators at Cambridge University, who developed a special mouse model for Parkinson’s disease, they were able to detect different stages of the aggregation of this protein.  They correlated the aggregation with the deteriorating loss of neuronal activity and deficits in the behavior of the mice.

The researchers, in collaboration with the Max Planck Institute in Gottingen and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, were able to illustrate the effect of a specific drug, anle138b, on this protein aggregation and correlated these results with the normalization of the Parkinson’s phenotype in the mice.  The researchers are planning to expand their research to family members of Parkinson’s disease patients.  (TAU 10.06)

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8.19  Itamar Medical’s WatchPATOne Receives FDA 510(k) Clearance

Itamar Medical announced that it has received  510(k) clearance from the U.S. FDA for WatchPAT One, the latest innovation of its WatchPAT technology and the first and only fully disposable  Home  Sleep  Apnea  Test(HSAT).  WatchPAT One incorporates the technology and comfort advances of WatchPAT 300, which received 510(k) clearance in August 2018 and was launched in March 2019.

WatchPAT One offers patients and physicians the same simplicity, accuracy and reliability as WatchPAT 300 without the need for return shipping, downloading, cleaning or preparation for the next study.  Itamar expects the availability of a disposable WatchPAT system will improve patient access by increasing the number physicians able to offer this cutting-edge technology to their patients.  Additionally, as a disposable HSAT, WatchPAT One may have particular utility in the inpatient setting, where transmission of infection through reusable medical devices is a significant concern.

Caesarea’s Itamar Medical is engaged in research, development, sales and marketing of non-invasive medical devices for the diagnosis of respiratory sleep disorders with a focus on the cardiology market.  The Company offers a Total Sleep Solution to help physicians provide comprehensive sleep apnea management in a variety of clinical environments to optimize patient care and reduce healthcare costs.  Its flagship PAT-based product, the WatchPAT device, is a home-use diagnostic device for sleep breathing disorders.  It also offers the EndoPAT system, an FDA cleared device to test endothelial dysfunction and to evaluate the risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases.  (Itamar Medical 06.06)

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8.20  AI for C-Spine Fractures: Aidoc Sets the Pace with 3rd FDA Clearance in 9 Months

Tel Aviv’s Aidoc, the leading provider of AI solutions for radiologists, announced that the US FDA has cleared the world’s first AI solution for triage of cervical spine fractures.  The latest 510(k) clearance is Aidoc’s third, coming just weeks after the FDA cleared Aidoc’s pulmonary embolism solution.  By prioritizing suspected C-spine fracture cases in a radiologist’s worklist, Aidoc’s AI-powered triage automatically prioritizes critical cases, ensuring that they are diagnosed by a radiologist in the timeliest manner.

Recent studies show that 54% of radiologists feel “burnt out” due to long work hours and on-the-job stress. Two of the main reasons for physician burnout are related to “hunt and search” tasks and the documentation process, both of which can be improved upon by AI.  In addition, the sheer volume of images that the physician is expected to analyze has increased dramatically; a radiologist’s workload in one day in 2018 is equal to a week in 2008 and a month in 1998.  Radiologists are expected to interpret one image every 3-4 seconds just to keep up with their workloads. AI-driven workflow triage is especially beneficial for empowering the radiologist by maintaining quality across the workflow, increasing confidence in treating critical patients on time, while making radiologists’ work a lot more rewarding and less tedious.  (Aidoc 11.06)

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9.1  Ethernity Networks Releases a Modular Programmable Universal Edge Platform

Ethernity Networks introduced its ENET Universal Edge Platform (UEP) network appliance, an edge-optimized low-space, low-power FPGA-based programmable device with up to 40Gbps of networking capacity and 10Gbps of IPSec security performance.  The UEP’s unique modularity enables the appliance to be easily adapted for multiple use cases, such as NID, DPU and MDU, and cell site router.  With its embedded dual-core ARM processor that handles the control plane, the ENET UEP is ideal as a standalone high-end Network Interface Device that offers rich routing and IPSec security functionalities.  The ENET UEP contains an interchangeable mezzanine card that enables the appliance to be designed for XGS-PON connectivity for placement at cellular base stations, to support for distribution point unit and multi-dwelling unit deployment, or to support Internet of Things (IoT) aggregation elements, for example, a radio modem for the IoT sensor network.

The main board of the ENET UEP comes with two SFP+ interfaces that can be equipped with 10GbE or XGS-PON transceivers, and an FPGA equipped with Ethernity’s ENET Flow Processor, implementing a complete Carrier Ethernet switch, hierarchical QoS, router, IPSec, and optional XGS-PON MAC.  The default ENET UEP offers 8 x 1Gb RJ45 ports in the mezzanine card, but can be designed to support, enterprise Power over Ethernet (PoE) solutions, radio interfaces, or additional connectivity via GbE/10GbE.  The ENET UEP also comes with a unique PCIe connection to any standard server, enabling it to be used for NFVI acceleration.

Lod’s Ethernity Networks provides innovative comprehensive networking and security solutions on programmable hardware for accelerating telco/cloud networks.  Ported onto any FPGA, Ethernity’s software offers complete data plane processing with a rich set of networking features, robust security, and a wide range of virtual functions to optimize your network.  (Ethernity Networks 29.05)

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9.2  Cyberbit Enhances Cyberbit Range to Personalize & Scale Cybersecurity Training

Cyberbit announced enhancements to Cyberbit Range, the most widely deployed cybersecurity training and simulation platform.  With this release, Cyberbit has introduced virtual instructor functionality and new training content that enables enterprises and academic institutions to deliver a richer, more personalized, and scalable training experience to cybersecurity practitioners and students.

The new version of Cyberbit Range features a Virtual Instructor – an AI-powered instructor which assesses trainee performance throughout the incident response process.  The virtual instructor evaluates the quality and relevance of evidence collected by the trainee, their progress in detecting, responding and remediating a threat, and, for red teams, their progress in completing their mission.  The virtual instructor provides trainees with continuous, automated and accurate feedback about their performance.

The new scenarios provide a richer training experience that enable cybersecurity practitioners to experience true-to-life simulations of the most recent threats and improve their ability to address them.  They include large-scale exercises and competitions designed to train a variety of students:  hand-on analysts, executives, offensive and defensive teams — on both individual and team skills.

Ra’anana’s Cyberbit provides a unique portfolio of products for cybersecurity training, simulation, detection and response for the converged IT and OT attack surface.  Cyberbit’s product portfolio is based on battle-proven technologies deployed in government and military organizations, made available to the commercial market since 2015, and includes: Cyberbit Range, the world-leading simulated training platform for cybersecurity practitioners; SCADAShield and SCADAShield Mobile for protecting critical infrastructure networks; SOC 3D, a Security Orchestration, Automation and Response (SOAR) platform proven to triple SOC capacity; and Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) for sensitive organizations and air-gapped networks.  (Cyberbit 30.05)

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9.3  VAYAVISION Demos Autonomous Vehicle Perception Software at EcoMotion 2019

VAYAVISION announced its participation at EcoMotion 2019, including a live demo of VAYADrive 2.0, the company’s innovative environmental perception solution.  The demo comes on the heels of the start-up’s appointment of European automotive veteran Carl-Peter Forster to their advisory board and entry into the European Market as a result of funding from the European Innovation Council’s (EIC) SME Instrument Grant – a grant offered by the European Union to innovators, entrepreneurs, small companies and scientists with bright ideas and the ambition to scale up internationally.  VAYAVISION is one of a handful of companies chosen with headquarters outside of the EU, indicative of the company’s forward-thinking ideas and practical ability to adapt and customize its software for the European market.

Backed by Viola Group, MizMaa, OurCrowd, LG and Mitsubishi Capital, VAYAVISION will offer the first demo of VAYADrive 2.0 since its January debut at CES.

Or Yehuda’s VAYAVISION‘s leading environmental perception solution provides vehicles with crucial information on the dynamically changing driving environment for safer and reliable autonomous driving.  The software solution encompasses state of the art raw data fusion with upsampling, AI and computer vision, and has inherent redundancy that is required for functional safety.  It is able to reliably and accurately detect small obstacles and “unexpected” objects.  (VAYAVISION 30.05)

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9.4  Cymulate Boosts BAS Platform With New APT Simulation to ID Gaps in Network Defenses

Cymulate announced the launch of its new Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) simulation.  The new simulation vector enables companies to simulate a full-scale APT attack on their network with a click of a button, challenging security control mechanisms through the entire cyber kill chain, from pre-exploitation (Reconnaissance, Weaponization and Delivery) into exploitation, and even post-exploitation activities such as Command and Control (C&C) communication and data exfiltration.  The APT simulation vector also tests security controls against the very latest threats circulating in the wild.

Unlike rival solutions, Cymulate’s Full Kill-Chain APT simulation vector is comprehensive and highly customizable, providing a sweeping overview of potential exposures including email, web gateway, phishing, endpoint, lateral movements and data exfiltration.  The platform also uses unique algorithms to predict potential future APT attacks, and proactively simulating them to offer appropriate detection and mitigation insights.  Cymulate’s SaaS-based platform enables organizations to automatically assess and improve their overall security posture in minutes by continuously testing defenses against variety of attack vectors and APT attack configurations.  Simulations, which can be run on-demand, or scheduled to run every day, week or month, provide specific actionable insights and data on where the company is vulnerable and how to amend the security gaps.

Rishon LeZion’s Cymulate is a SaaS-based breach and attack simulation platform that makes it simple to know and optimize your security posture any time, all the time and empowers companies to safeguard their business-critical assets.  With just a few clicks, Cymulate challenges your security controls by initiating thousands of attack simulations, showing you exactly where you’re exposed and how to fix it — making security continuous, fast and part of every-day activities.  (Cymulate 30.05)

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9.5  Sixgill New Automated Multi-Tenancy Solution Provides Actionable Cyber Threat Intelligence

Sixgill launched its new cyber threat intelligence platform tailored to meet the needs of Managed Security Service Providers (MSSPs).  With threats to organizations becoming more advanced, Sixgill’s solution equips MSSPs with automatic threat intelligence insights about their customers in real time, from the convenience of a single dashboard. Sixgill was named a Gartner Cool Vendor in Security Operations Threat Intelligence in 2019.

Sixgill’s new automated cyber threat intelligence solution was designed to equip MSSPs with the ability to outsmart the latest threats and ultimately give customers the coverage and peace of mind that they paid for.  While existing solutions are manual in nature, Sixgill’s platform scours Deep and Dark, and surface web sources to automatically provide accurate threat intelligence in real time to MSSPs, via its easy to use dashboard.

Netanya’s Sixgill’s cyber threat intelligence solution focuses on organizations’ intelligence needs, helping them mitigate risks more effectively and more efficiently.  Using an agile collection methodology, Sixgill provides broad coverage of exclusive-access deep and dark web sources, as well as relevant surface web sources.  By harnessing the exponential power of artificial intelligence and machine learning, Sixgill automates the cyber intelligence production cycle.  (Sixgill 03.06)

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9.6  Pcysys PenTera 3.0 Provides Breakthrough in Cyber Security Penetration Testing

Pcysys announced the availability of version 3.0, enabling CISOs to validate their organizational network security daily.  Focused on network and infrastructure, PenTera creates a new category by automating a critical cybersecurity function that, until now, was delivered as an expensive manual service – penetration testing.  The platform enables businesses to continuously validate their security defenses against the latest cyber-attacks and exploits. The platform is also available for Consultants and MSSPs to provide more competitive penetration testing services to their customers.

Petah Tikva’s Pcysys delivers an automated Penetration-Testing platform that assesses and reduces corporate cybersecurity risks.  By applying the hacker’s perspective, our software identifies, analyzes and remediates cyber defense vulnerabilities.  Security officers and service providers around the world use Pcysys to perform continuous machine-based penetration tests and improve their immunity against cyber-attacks across their organizational networks.  (Pcysys 03.06)

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9.7  MTI Wireless Edge Announced New Dual Band/Dual Slant 3.5/5.8 GHz Base Station Antenna

Rosh HaAyin’s MTI Wireless Edge reported the commercial availability of a new dual band 3.5/5.8 GHz Base Station antenna.  The antenna enables customers with licenses in 3.5 GHz to increase their capacity, coverage and installed base by utilizing the license free 5.8 GHz band.  The new antenna MT046S16DS operates in 3.3-3.8 GHz as well as 5.1 – 5.9 GHz with dual slant ports (±45⁰) per frequency range and a minimum gain of 16 dBi with azimuth coverage of 70⁰ and 65⁰ respectively in each range.  Due to market requirements, the next phase is an 8X8 dual slant antenna with four dual slant ports per frequency.

MTI Wireless Edge Limited – Antenna Division develops and produces high quality antennas for Commercial, RFID and Military applications.  Commercial applications include LTE, CBRS, TVWS, Wi-Fi, Point-to-Multipoint (PtMP), Point-to-Point (PtP), 5G and Small Cell Backhaul. Antenna types include MIMO, Dual Slant, Double Dual Slant, Omni, Base Station & CPE antennas.  For the RFID market, MTI offers antennas for RFID readers and terminals.  Military applications include a wide range of broadband, tactical and specialized communications antennas, antenna systems and DF arrays installed on numerous ground, airborne, naval and submarine platforms worldwide.  (MTI Wireless Edge 03.06)

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9.8  Credorax Launches Smart 3D Secure Solution in Partnership With Netcetera

Credorax announced its launch of its Smart 3D Secure solution in partnership with the Swiss digital payment expert and leading software company Netcetera.  This Smart 3D Secure solution was built in-house by Credorax on top of Netcetera’s advanced 3D Secure core technology, which is EMVCo certified and compliant with major EMV 3D Secure scheme programs.  Credorax has implemented the Necetera solution into its payment processing gateway and added an Artificial Intelligence (AI) based optimization engine that analyses each transaction in real-time for the best business results.  This early-market offering will assist merchants with their compliance requirements to card schemes and European regulations in the most seamless way possible, ensuring high acceptance rates.

While confusion still surrounds PSD2 in Europe and the transition to the new 3D Secure 2.0 protocol going into effect this year, Credorax’s Smart 3D Secure ensures that companies fully comply with the PSD2 requirements for Strong Consumer Authentication.  It also comes with compelling business benefits, helping merchants improve conversions, optimize their checkout process, reduce fraud, and stay protected from fraudulent chargeback liability.  Using Netcetera’s core technology, Credorax’s new Smart 3D Secure offers secure user authentication, supporting 3D Secure protocols 1 and 2, as well as a fully comprehensive mobile application SDK.  In addition, Cerdorax’s 3D Secure Adviser is an AI-based flexible decision layer that analyses each transaction in real time and decides on the best 3D Secure routing, including risk assessment and exemption management.

Herzliya’s Credorax is a licensed NextGen merchant acquiring bank providing cross-border processing for ecommerce and omni-channel payments.  Their core gateway technology, Source, has been developed in-house to provide a streamlined payments experience so smart, that merchants can reach their full business potential simply by better managing their payments.  Credorax merchants process in over 120 currencies, accept a wide range of alternative payment methods, and get paid in their currency of choice.  (Credorax 03.06)

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9.9  Nano Dimension Receives Grant to Develop Hardware to Fly on the International Space Station

Nano Dimension has received a grant approval from the Israel Innovation Authority for developing hardware, in cooperation with Harris Corporation, that will fly on the International Space Station (ISS) and communicate with Harris’ ground based satellite tracking station in Florida.  This project will provide a systematic analysis of 3D printed materials for radio frequency (RF) space systems, especially for Nano-satellites.  The total approved budget for the Israeli portion of this project is approximately $416,000, of which the Israel Innovation Authority will finance 40%.  According to the terms of the grant, Nano Dimension will pay royalties on future sales up to the full grant amount.

This unique project is being conducted in collaboration with Harris Corporation, a leading technology innovator that provides solutions that connect, inform and protect its clients.  The Harris portion of the project is sponsored by a grant from Space Florida.  During this one-year project, both companies will optimize the designs of the 3D printing process and RF components and prepare a system for the flight studies at the ISS.

This project will demonstrate innovative methods for manufacturing new RF systems.  Until now, manufacturing of RF systems has remained static for the last 30 years with each circuit in its own “gold box/boxes” interconnected with cables and connectors.  With 3D printing, the industry can explore a new manufacturing paradigm, which eliminates manual labor and streamlines production. Another benefit to this technology is a reduction/elimination of wasted material, making it a “green”

Ness Ziona’s Nano Dimension is a leading additive electronics provider of precision 3D printed electronics that is disrupting, reshaping, and defining the future of how functional and connected products are made.  With its unique additive manufacturing technologies, Nano Dimension targets the growing demand for electronic devices that require sophisticated features.  Demand for circuitry, including PCBs, sensors and antennas – which are the heart of electronic devices – cover a diverse range of industries, including consumer electronics, medical devices, defense, aerospace, automotive, IoT and telecom.  (Nano Dimension 03.06)

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9.10  IAI Places $1.8 Million Order for Orbit’s Airborne Audio Solution for Its “Heron TP” UAV

Orbit Communications Systems announced that Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), a world-leading aerospace company, placed a $1.8 million order for Orbit’s Orion airborne audio management systems for integration aboard its next-generation medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) Heron TP unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).  Delivery of the systems is expected in 2019 and 2020.  Orbit’s Orion enables essential communications between the UAV and civil Air Traffic Control (ATC) and other ground stations.

Orion is an innovative airborne audio management system, featuring exceptional 3D Audio, Adaptive Noise Reduction and Voice-Activated Detection as standard features.  A patented Dual IP Ring topology provides unsurpassed system redundancy, and the modular design permits reduced weight, incremental scalability and flexibility to suit both manned and unmanned aircraft of any size.  The IAI Heron TP is an unmanned reconnaissance aircraft developed by the MALAT division of Israel Aerospace Industries.  The UAV is an advanced version of the IAI Heron.

Netanya’s Orbit Communication Systems, a leading global provider of airborne communications solutions, is helping to expand and redefine how one connects.  Orbit systems are found on airliners and jet fighters, cruise ships and navy vessels, ground stations and offshore platforms.  They deliver innovative, cost-effective, and highly reliable solutions to commercial operators, major navies and air forces, space agencies and emerging New Space companies.  (Orbit 04.06)

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9.11  Vayyar First Single-Chip Imaging Radar Enables High-Resolution for Automotive Applications

Vayyar announced the launch of the first automotive 4D point cloud application on a single radar chip.  4D point cloud transforms radar technology by constructing a real-time, high-resolution 4D visualization of both in-cabin and car exterior environments.  Vayyar’s low-cost, high-performance single chip with point cloud displays the dimension, shape, location and movement of people and objects, enabling the complete classification of the car’s environment, regardless of bad lighting or harsh weather conditions.

Vayyar’s point cloud creates a new opportunity for a holistic solution maximizing in-cabin and exterior safety.  In-cabin solutions include seat belt reminders, optimized airbag deployment, gesture control, driver drowsiness alerts and infant detection alarms, even if the infant is covered by a blanket or hidden in a car seat or in the foot well.  Vayyar’s exterior solutions map and classify the car’s surroundings to enable enhanced parking assistance, blind spot detection, lane switching assistance, automatic speed and distance control, and alerts for height obstacles, obstructions and more.

Yehud’s Vayyar Imaging is a global leader in 4D imaging technology, providing highly advanced sensors to a wide variety of industries including automotive, smart home, robotics, retail and medical.  The company’s sensors can see through walls and objects and track and map everything happening in an environment in real-time, all while maintaining privacy.  Utilizing a state-of-the-art embedded chip and advanced imaging algorithms, Vayyar’s mission is to help people worldwide improve their health, safety and quality of life using mobile, low-cost 4D imaging sensors.  (Vayyar 06.06)

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9.12  Check Point Propels Mellanox Past One Million Ethernet Switch Ports

Mellanox Technologies announced the integration of its Ethernet switches into security leader Check Point Software’s “Maestro” security platform, which has propelled Ethernet switch shipments past the one million port milestone.  Check Point builds the world’s leading data center security appliances and has selected Mellanox Spectrum based Ethernet switches for its next generation Maestro platform – the industry’s first truly hyperscale network security solution.  This design win continues Mellanox’s momentum in Ethernet switch platforms shipped to the worlds leading cloud, storage, and security solutions providers.

The Check Point Maestro security solution leverages the Mellanox 10, 25 and 100Gbps Spectrum based Ethernet switch platforms.  The Spectrum based Open Ethernet platform enables Check Point to quickly allow Gaia, the next generation operating system for security applications, to run on the switch.  This flexibility enables Check Point customers to benefit from the best Ethernet switch data plane connectivity combined with the most secure and easy to use operating system for security appliances.  In addition, Check Point’s HyperSync patented technology allows customers to enjoy full redundancy within a system by utilizing all hardware resources.

Yokneam’s Mellanox Technologies is a leading supplier of end-to-end Ethernet and InfiniBand smart interconnect solutions and services for servers and storage.  Mellanox interconnect solutions increase data center efficiency by providing the highest throughput and lowest latency, delivering data faster to applications, unlocking system performance and improving data security.  (Mellanox 05.06)

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9.13  GuardKnox Funding Reaches $24 Million Upon Completion of $21 Million Series A Round

GuardKnox announced the completion of its $21 Million Series A round of funding, bringing its total raised to $24 million.  The round was led by Fraser McCombs Capital with participation from global investors including automotive technology leader Faurecia, SAIC Capital (Shanghai Automotive), Glory Ventures, NextLeap Ventures, VectoIQ, Plug and Play, Allied, Cyphertech, and Kardan.

The funding will be allocated to expand GuardKnox’s R&D team in order to meet the growing needs of its customers.  The company will also distribute funding to support its global expansion, opening subsidiaries in strategic locations.  These initiatives will enable GuardKnox to achieve its aim of eliminating risks of cyber security threats from connected and autonomous vehicles worldwide through its innovative next-level solutions.  GuardKnox pioneered the approach of using a deterministic model of cybersecurity protection, a zero-trust method allowing no margin for unexpected communication by passing all messages entering vehicles’ networks through routing, content and contextual layers.  Messages received by the GuardKnox system that are not precisely designated as acceptable are immediately rejected.

Ramle’s GuardKnox is a leading automotive cyber-solutions company providing comprehensive cyber defense for connected and autonomous vehicles.  The GuardKnox team brings decades of experience providing similar cyber security solutions to Israeli Air Force systems including Iron Dome, Arrow and F-35 fighter jets.  GuardKnox’s patented Communication Lockdown methodology is completely revolutionary in its approach.  The deterministic hardware and software solution — the SNO, or Secure Network Orchestrator — is completely autonomous, does not require constant online connectivity and can defend against both known and unknown attacks.  (GuardKnox 04.06)

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9.14  Forget Charging Pads: Real Wireless Power Is Finally Here

Wi-Charge announced the world’s first production-ready long-range wireless power product.  Companies interested in developing products with integrated wireless power may apply to purchase samples.  The new power transmitter is about the size of a soft drink can – one third the size of last-year’s prototype.  The transmitter blends into both residential and commercial environments and can be inconspicuously installed on track lighting, placed on a shelf, or plugged into a wall outlet.  A unique feature of Wi-Charge’s infrared (IR) light technology is that power levels are practically constant with distance, unlike other approaches, such as radio frequency (RF), which suffer a dramatic drop in power levels when the power receiver moves farther away from the energy source.

Wi-Charge’s IR technology is also significantly more efficient than other approaches to long-range wireless power.  Its light-based technology does not interfere with cellular, WiFi, Bluetooth or other forms of long-range communications.  The Wi-Charge product is also plug-and-play – meaning no configuration is required.  Partners may apply to purchase samples for development purposes.  Mass production pricing is also available upon request.  Mass-produced units will be available later this year.

Rehovot’s Wi-Charge is the long-range wireless power company, founded with the goal of enabling automatic charging of phones and other smart devices.  Their patented infrared wireless power technology can deliver several watts of power to client devices at room-sized distances.  The company develops remote charging solutions that enable mobile and wireless devices to seamlessly recharge themselves without user intervention.  (Wi-Charge 05.06)

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9.15  ECI Chosen to Bring Future-Ready Networking to the Channel Islands

ECI has been chosen by JT (JT Group), to upgrade the Jersey-based telecommunications company’s optical network.  When choosing a provider to upgrade the optical network, JT’s requirements were twofold:  First, address capacity goals in the short-term, then ensure the network can meet future business services and 5G backhaul needs.  JT required a solution with the ability to not only solve capacity issues, but also provide 10G B to B services, 10GbE data center connectivity and 8G fiber channel.

The ECI solution features a range of products from its Apollo optical portfolio, including the Apollo 9904, 9603 and 9608, which will carry 100G traffic between JT’s 6 core sites on and between the Islands.  The Apollo product line was designed for ultimate flexibility and scalability, with interchangeable cards, multi-port cards which offer additional capabilities and multi-service ports which can be provisioned for a wide variety of protocols and speeds.

Petah Tikva’s ECI is a global provider of ELASTIC network solutions to CSPs, critical industries, and data center operators. With the advent of 5G, IoT, and smart everything, traffic demands are increasing dramatically, and network operators must make smart choices as they evolve their infrastructure. ECI’s Elastic Services Platform leverages our programmable packet and optical networking solutions, along with our service-driven software suite and virtualization capabilities, to provide a robust yet flexible solution for any application. ECI solutions are tailored for the needs of today, yet flexible enough to meet the challenges of tomorrow.  (ECI Telecom 05.06)

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9.16  MIPI Alliance’s Ultra-High-Speed Automotive Standard to be Based on Valens’ Technology

Valens announced that the MIPI Alliance has selected its technology as the baseline for the Alliance’s A-PHY physical layer standard targeted for automotive applications.  The A-PHY standard will define an asymmetric physical layer for the automotive market to provide high-speed links for cameras, displays and sensors, through native CSI-2 and DSI/DSI-2 interfaces, to support autonomous driving and other use cases.  Valens’ technology provides the necessary resilience and performance for high-speed processing in the very noisy in-vehicle environment.  It brings the most reliable and powerful solution to support high speeds required in connected and autonomous vehicles, over existing cables and connectors.

MIPI Alliance’s selection of Valens’ technology followed an in-depth evaluation process, including testing and analysis of several proposed solutions from member companies.  Valens’ solution was determined best-suited to address the need for high-speed, in-vehicle video links, and to support the range of bandwidth defined by the A-PHY standard.  Two main profiles were outlined for the standard – Profile 1 to support lower speeds, and Profile 2 to support all speeds from 2Gbps up to 48Gbps and above (e.g., 100 Gbps). Profile 2 will be based on a Valens’ PHY-level Retransmission Scheme (RTS) with Narrowband Interference Cancellation (NBIC), as published by the MIPI Alliance.

Hod HaSharon’s Valens Automotive was established in 2015 with the singular goal of delivering the world’s most advanced audio/video chipset technology to the automotive world.  Valens Automotive chipset technology enables resilient ultra-high-speed in-vehicle connectivity to support the needs of the connected and autonomous car.  Valens’ patented HDBaseT technology is used by the world’s largest audio/video component manufacturers, enabling the highest quality of connectivity without the limitations of legacy infrastructure.  (Valens 04.06)

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9.17  RADWIN Chosen to Power CCTV & Wi-Fi Onboard Merseyrail Trains in UK

RADWIN announced that Panasonic Business will supply RADWIN’s FiberinMotion train-to-ground wireless broadband communications solution for the Merseyrail network in Liverpool, UK.  RADWIN’s FiberinMotion systems will be deployed across 75 miles of the Merseyrail route, powering a new fleet of 52 trains supplied by Stadler.  RADWIN’s train-to-ground solution will enable transmission of multiple services, including CCTV, on-board passenger Wi-Fi and Public Information Systems (PIS).

Tel Aviv’s RADWIN is a leading provider of broadband wireless solutions.  Incorporating the most advanced technologies such as a Beam-forming antenna and an innovative Air Interface, RADWIN’s systems deliver optimal performance in the toughest conditions including high interference and obstructed line-of-sight.  Deployed in over 170 countries, RADWIN’s solutions power applications including backhaul, broadband access, private network connectivity, video surveillance transmission as well as delivering broadband on the move for trains, vehicles and vessels.  (RADWIN 04.06)

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9.18  SecBI Amplifies Its Threat Detection Solution With Automated Response

SecBI announced the extension of its agent-less, threat detection solution with automated response.  Now security operations centers (SOC) and managed security service providers (MSSPs) can benefit from a comprehensive solution including detection, investigation, and automated response that delivers significant boosts in effectiveness and productivity.  Security operations using SecBI’s automated detection and response solution will benefit from:

-Full scope detection of suspicious incidents

-Drastically improved analyst productivity

-Instant coupling of detection with comprehensive response to threats, preventing damage, dwell time or further infection

-Better prevention due to automatic delivery of information from response mechanisms

Tel Aviv’s SecBI is an AI-based cybersecurity automation solution that makes detection and response, accurate and simple.  SecBI has developed a revolutionary approach to network traffic analysis (NTA) to deliver automated threat detection, investigation and response for security operations centers (SOCs) and managed security service providers (MSSPs).  Its value is best understood in contrast to solutions that generate sporadic alerts and anomalies requiring manual correlation, investigation, and remediation.  SecBI’s Autonomous Investigation technology incorporates machine learning to uncover the full scope of every suspicious incident, including all affected entities, within minutes.  (SecBI 10.06)

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9.19  Autotalks & NoTraffic Deliver a Traffic Management Platform with Global V2X

Autotalks is supplying its chipset to NoTraffic’s autonomous traffic management platform, which enables the delivery of infrastructure sensor information to vehicles through V2I communications.  The integrated solution is capable of identifying a whole range of objects including vehicles, motorcycles and pedestrians, communicating this information using DSRC or C-V2X to oncoming vehicles.  The vehicles will alert drivers and, in the future, automatically brake to avoid an accident in a time of danger.

Smart infrastructure equipped with both line-of-sight sensors such as camera and radar and V2X for non-line-of-sight sensing enhance safety while optimizing mobility at the same time.  NoTraffic’s platform can be deployed anywhere in the world, making city intersections safer and more efficient.  The advantages include keeping vulnerable users such as pedestrians and cyclists safe, providing priority for emergency vehicles and public transportation, enabling autonomous vehicles to safely traverse intersections and managing traffic in order to augment road capacity and enhance mobility.

Autotalks’ deployment-ready, 2nd generation V2X chipset is the world’s first available solution which supports both DSRC based on 802.11p/ITS-G5 standards and C-V2X based on 3GPP release 14 and 15 specifications with embedded V2X cyber-security functionality.  The chipset allows customers to easily toggle between DSRC and C-V2X communications.  NoTraffic’s platform includes fusing various sensor data (camera, radar, V2X) at intersections working directly with a centralized system in the cloud to enhance traffic flow and road user safety.  The integration of Autotalks’ V2X chipset enables NoTraffic to use vision sensors to improve V2X effectiveness.

Kfar Netter’s Autotalks, which was founded in 2008, is a V2X chipset market pioneer and leader, providing customers worldwide with state-of-the-art V2X solutions.  Autotalks helps reduce collisions on roadways and improve mobility with its automotive qualified chipsets.  The chipsets offer the most advanced, truly secure and highest performing global V2X communication solution designed for autonomous vehicles.

Tel Aviv’s NoTraffic is an autonomous AI traffic management platform solving today’s traffic challenges while preparing the roads for the connected era.  The platform enables cities to define policies like transit priority or pedestrian access using the cloud dashboard. AI algorithms intelligently implement city policies at each traffic signal in real-time, autonomously managing an entire grid to cut congestion, reduce emissions and prevent accidents.  (Autotalks 11.06)

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9.20  Howden & Cytegic Partner for Automated Cyber Risk Assessment

Cytegic and the UK’s Howden, part of the Hyperion Insurance Group, a leading international insurance intermediary, announced a strategic partnership leveraging Cytegic’s platform to automate cyber risk assessment and financial impact analysis across global markets.

After researching numerous solutions and putting the Cytegic platform through a variety of challenging tests, Howden was able to confirm Cytegic’s unique ability to accurately quantify financial risk through its automated ACRO platform.  Rapid evaluation of third-party risk and security posture optimization can be performed automatically through the Cytegic platform, providing clients with greater efficiency and transparency.  Howden will be able to provide a proactive partnership with customers by actively helping them understand and quantify their cyber risk.

Tel Aviv’s Cytegic’s revolutionary cyber risk quantification platform is the industry’s first automated end-to-end solution that encompasses the entire scope of cyber risk assessment and financial impact analysis across the entire insurance and risk value chain.  After 25+ man-years of R&D and 4 granted US patents, Cytegic has made groundbreaking steps in the highly challenging task of quantifying cyber risk at any level of scale, from SMB’s to Fortune 500.  (Howden 11.06)

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10.1  Composite State of the Economy Index for April 2019 Increased by 0.3%

The Bank of Israel’s Composite State of the Economy Index for April increased by 0.28%.  The Index’s average rate of growth from the beginning of the year is slightly higher than its average pace for 2018.  The Index was positively impacted by increases in imports of manufacturing inputs and in the job vacancy rate in April, and by an increase in the Industrial Production index in March.  The Composite Index’s rate of growth was moderated by a decline in consumer goods imports and in goods exports in April, and a decline in the retail trade sales revenue and services revenue indices in March.  The Index reading for January was revised upward due to an upward revision in retail trade data for that month.  (BoI 29.05)

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10.2  Israeli Startups Raised Over $500 Million in May

Israeli startups raised over $500 million in May, according to press releases issued by companies that have completed financing rounds.  The figure may be more as some companies prefer not to publicize the investments they have received.  After raising $1.55 billion in the first quarter of the year, according to IVC, Israeli startups raised $750 million in April and $500 million last month for a total of $2.8 billion in the first five months of 2019.  This figure is on course to beat last year’s record startup fund raising, when according to IVC-ZAG, Israeli startups raised $6.4 billion, up from $5.24 billion in 2017.

As usual, most of the money raised last month, was in large financing rounds by a small number of companies. $350 million was raised by just seven companies.  In May, taxi hailing company Gett led with a $120 million financing round.  Cloud protection company Guardicore raised $60 million and log analysis company raised $52 million.  Storage company raised $31.7 million, drug developer Ayala Pharmaceuticals raised $30 million, cybersecurity company Siemplify raised $30 million and cloud-to-cloud backup company OwnBackup raised $23.25 million.  (Globes 02.06)

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10.3  Israel Has the Highest Fertility Rate in the OECD

The total fertility rate in Israel in 2015 was 3.1 births per woman, the highest in the OECD.  Israel’s fertility rate was almost 1 higher than that of Mexico and Turkey, the OECD countries with the next highest fertility rates, according to the “A Picture of the Nation 2019” report published on 6 June by the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel.  The higher fertility rate among religiously observant women is not the sole reason for the difference: the fertility among secular and traditional women is 2.2 and has been rising for the past 20 years.

The report shows that the later age at which Jewish women give birth to their first child is not detracting from their fertility.  The average age at which women gave birth to their first child rose by three years in 1994-2016 among Christian and Druze women and by one year among Muslim women, accompanied by a 6% drop in the fertility rate among Christian women, a 41% drop among Druze women and a 30% drop among Muslim women.  While the average age at which Jewish women gave birth to their first child rose by 2.8 years in this period, however, their fertility rate increased by 0.4 children.

In line with the global trend, the highest fertility rates among Arab Israeli women were among women with the lowest education level and the lowest fertility rates were among women with academic degrees.  Among Jewish women, on the other hand, the fertility rate among non-Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jewish women who only graduated high school and those with an academic degree was the same.

Israel differs from other countries with similar per capita GDP, which have far lower fertility rates, e.g. South Korea (1.24) and New Zealand (2.02).  Other countries with fertility rates like that of Israel have much lower per capita GDP – an average of one fifth of Israel’s per capita GDP.  (Globes 06.06)

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11.1  ISRAEL:  Over 40 Big European Corporations ‎Operate Innovation Outposts in Israel

Over 40 large Europeans corporations from nine countries operate innovation outposts ‎in Israel, according to a new report, cited by NoCamels, published jointly on 3 June by three global ‎organizations tracking tech and innovation worldwide.‎  The report, titled “European Corporate Innovation Outposts in Israel – The Who’s ‎Who,” shows that nearly half of these European outposts were set up in Israel over the ‎past three years, growing at a pace of about eight per year.‎

The report maps the activities of 41 European corporations who set up outposts ‎in Israel, a majority in Tel Aviv, “tracking their presence and observing how they ‎increase, modify and diversify their activity over time.”  The document was put together ‎by Startup Europe Comes To Israel (SEC2IL), an organization that brings together ‎corporates, investors, and entrepreneurs from Europe and the EU, Mind the Bridge, a ‎global organization that provides innovation advisory services for corporates and ‎startups, and Startup Europe Partnership (SEP), a pan-European open innovation ‎platform established by the European Commission.

Companies with a presence in Israel include those who set up shop decades ago such as ‎German pharmaceutical giant Merck (launched in the 1970s, German software giant ‎SAP, and communications multinational Deutsche Telekom (each launched in the late ‎‎1990s).  A majority of the outposts were set up by corporations in the automotive, ‎engineering and electronics, and biotech fields, according to the report.  These include ‎Volkswagen, Skoda, Volvo, Porsche, and Daimler in the auto sector, Bosch, Nokia, and ‎Eriksoon in electronics, and Lonza, Bayer, and Novartis in pharmaceuticals and biotech.‎

European Corporations with Innovation Outposts in Israel in 2019

A majority of the corporations – 13 out of 41 – are from Germany, followed by France ‎with 10, the UK with seven, and Switzerland with four, according to the report. Sweden,  ‎Netherlands operate two corporate outposts in Israel, and Italy, Finland and the Czech ‎Republic each have one such center in the country,‎

The report notes that additional companies from across the continent will set up a ‎presence in Israel as “physical proximity to the key hubs of innovation is becoming an ‎increased necessity to remain competitive.”‎

‎“European economic presence in Israel is rapidly growing, a trend that has markedly ‎accelerated in the past three years,” said EU Ambassador to Israel Emanuele Giaufret, in ‎a statement accompanying the report.  “This is in addition to already very close ‎economic ties and the impressive trade flows between our countries whereby the EU is ‎by far Israel’s largest trading partner covering around 34% of its export and 40 ‎percent of its import.”‎

The innovation outposts themselves vary and the survey notes four key types: Corporate ‎Innovation Antennas, which employ small teams of up to 10 people tracking trends and ‎engaging with Israeli startups on an individual level; Corporate Innovation Lab which ‎act as incubators and “lean” R&D centers; actual R&D centers which employ at least 50 ‎people and have dedicated missions to draw on both startup technology, as well as local ‎talent; and Corporate Venture Capital Outposts (CVC), which are venture arms set up by ‎the corporate.‎

According to the report, 28 of the 41 corporations operate R&D centers in Israel, 11 ‎have a Corporate Innovation Lab, seven have CVC offices, and three operation ‎Corporate Innovation Antennas.  Six out of the 41 corporations operate multiple outposts ‎in Israel, often including a Corporate Innovation Lab in or a CVC facility in addition to ‎an R&D Center.‎

European Corporations in Israel as Shown by Outpost Headquarters

‎“The concentration of R&D centers in Israel is a testament to the strength of the Israeli ‎workforce and skills which make the country so attractive for corporates looking for a ‎non-European R&D Center,” said Mind the Bridge CEO Marco Marinucci in the ‎statement.‎

The report also devotes a short section to the comparison between European activity in ‎Silicon Valley and in Israel, noting that the former is currently a more frequent ‎destination for European scaleups with 60 outposts.  However, Israel is host to more ‎R&D and innovation outposts while Silicon Valley has more antennas, labs and investor ‎posts, suggesting a more “transactional” context (investments and M&As) versus a ‎more research/co-development approach in Israel, according to the report.‎

Alberto Onetti, chairman of Mind the Bridge, said “European companies from across ‎industries have been operating in Israel for decades, mostly through an R&D approach. ‎During the last three years, we have seen a strong shift towards a leaner approach and ‎the use of open innovation mechanisms.‎

‎“More companies are increasingly experimenting with different partnership models, ‎making innovation costs variable and on-demand.  This trend is similar to what we have ‎been observing since 2010 in Silicon Valley.  European presence in Israel is still not at ‎the same level as that of Silicon Valley.  However, it’s definitively on the rise.” he added.  ‎‎(No Camels 03.06)‎

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11.2  IRAQ:  Iraqi Kurdistan Chooses a New President, But Internal Rifts Deepen

Bilal Wahab noted in The Washington Institute‘s PolicyWatch 3129 on 30 May that the latest step toward ending the KRG’s political gridlock obscures more-worrisome Kurdish divisions, many of which threaten wider U.S.-Iraqi security and economic interests.

On 28 May, the Iraqi Kurdish parliament narrowly elected Nechirvan Barzani as the new president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, giving the longtime KRG fixture only 68 out of 111 votes.  The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the main rival of Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party, boycotted the vote over several issues, including the KDP’s broken promise to name a PUK official as governor of the oil-rich Kirkuk region. Meanwhile, the KDP still controls the northwest part of the Kurdish region and the PUK the southwest, each boasting equally strong armed forces.

Electing a president would normally kickstart the KRG’s government formation process, which has been delayed since elections were held last September.  The new president is expected to task his cousin Masrour Barzani with forming the next cabinet.  Yet the KRG’s deepening internal rifts will almost certainly delay the process even further.

Political Volatility vs. Systemic Inertia

The Kurdish political landscape has shifted to and fro in recent years due to several developments.  First, the Islamic State’s 2014 onslaught gave the KRG new opportunities for greater international military cooperation and control over territories disputed with Baghdad.  As recently as October 2017, Kurdish Peshmerga controlled Kirkuk and its oil fields, thereby doubling the KRG’s oil exports and ensuring its economic survival.

Then came the Kurdish push for independence.  Empowered by their role against the Islamic State and recognizing Baghdad’s embattled circumstances, then KRG president Masoud Barzani ignored foreign and domestic counsel by holding a 2017 referendum on potential secession from Iraq, which led to a standoff with the federal military and the loss of recently gained territories and resources.  After Baghdad seized Kirkuk, the KDP accused the PUK of colluding with federal forces and Shia militias.  The two parties have since continued this poisonous blame game and widened the KRG’s internal divisions, even as their respective relations with Baghdad began to recover.

Their internal balance of power has shifted as well.  When the two parties formed the first KRG cabinet in 1992, they were on equal footing, but by last year the KDP held forty-five seats in the Kurdish parliament compared to the PUK’s twenty-one.  The creation of the Gorran splinter party in 2009 weakened the PUK significantly, as did the passing of its leader Jalal Talabani in 2017.  The party remains leaderless today, though its cadres are still unified by the twin goals of opposing KDP hegemony and clinging to the status quo ante in the hope of putting their house in order and rising again.

In contrast, the KDP has enjoyed internal stability under Masoud Barzani and now seeks to end its parity with the PUK, in part by transforming Kurdish politics from coalition-based to majoritarian.  To guard against the PUK’s fate post-Talabani, Masoud is overseeing the transition of power to the next generation of Barzanis.  Yet given the current military and geographic dynamics between the two rivals, political jockeying in parliament has done little to define the KRG’s true balance of power or move them toward agreeing on a regional constitution – a situation that helps explain the KRG’s mutable laws and weak institutions.

The PUK has also sought to resist the KDP by taking its political action to the national level.  In October, the federal parliament in Baghdad chose senior PUK figure Barham Salih as president of Iraq despite significant opposition from Masoud Barzani.  The PUK now wants to put the Kirkuk governorship and a federal ministerial position on the table during KRG government formation negotiations, using its leverage in Baghdad to gain some reprieve from KDP dominance in Kurdistan.

For its part, the KDP aims to compartmentalize Kurdish and federal politics, but this goal may be undermined by the party’s own actions.  Although Nechirvan Barzani won the presidency and boasts congratulatory messages and policy endorsements from the United States, the KDP has greatly weakened his two main political levers against the PUK: the Kurdish legislature and Gorran.  In 2015, Masoud Barzani barred the speaker of parliament, a Gorran leader, from entering the KRG capital of Erbil, in effect shuttering the legislature for two years.  The current speaker is a KDP member by default, since the PUK boycotted the 18 February parliamentary session where the leadership was elected.  Despite this political monopoly, however, Nechirvan Barzani’s presidential decrees will have little or no effect outside the KDP-controlled half of Kurdistan absent a power-sharing agreement with the PUK.

To be sure, the KDP could simply ignore its rival’s obstructionism and complete the government formation process with the help of Gorran’s votes.  Ultimately, though, neither side wants the KRG to collapse into two separate provinces, a scenario that could happen given the current facts on the ground.

The Perils of a Weak Kurdistan

Although Kurdish factionalism is nothing new, the KDP and PUK previously managed to present a united front where it mattered most: in dealing with Baghdad.  Such unity served the KRG well politically and economically, helping it enshrine Kurdish rights in the Iraqi constitution and attract international business into the local petroleum sector.  Kurdish unity serves U.S. interests as well, since a strong Kurdistan is better equipped to prevent the accretion of terrorist movements and lawless zones that nearly ripped Iraq apart.  Today, however, the repercussions of intra-Kurdish fissures threaten all of these interests.

For example, Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdulmahdi has sought to turn a new page with the Kurds by letting Kirkuk’s oil flow through the KRG pipeline and resuming federal budget transfers that former prime minister Haider al-Abadi cut in 2014.  Yet, internal Kurdish dynamics could spoil this honeymoon if the KDP and PUK work against each other at the national level.  In addition to potentially dooming a permanent deal with the federal government over the increasingly combustible Kirkuk and other disputed territories, squabbling between the two parties could undermine KRG coordination with the Iraqi security forces in these areas.  The Islamic State is already exploiting this nascent security gap to regroup.

Similarly, factions within the federal government may start reaching informal agreements with the KDP and PUK separately rather than with the KRG.  Earlier last month, for example, the KDP struck a deal with the chairman of the Popular Mobilization Forces to appoint Mansour Marid, a member of the militia network’s associated parliamentary bloc, as governor of Nineveh province.  Meanwhile, the PUK seemingly supports a Kurdish parliamentarian’s legal case against the KRG over diverted budget transfers, arguing that federal funds earmarked for public salaries were used to pay back debts to oil firms.  Such controversies could lead officials to revisit a mechanism through which Baghdad would pay public employees in PUK-controlled territories directly rather than through Erbil — a notion that was taboo in Kurdistan only a few years back.

Sadly, the KDP and PUK are not fighting over which party has the better plan for instilling more accountable governance and better serving Kurdistan’s citizenry, but instead over who controls the patronage networks that stem from and perpetuate the KRG’s institutional weakness.  The KRG parliament has not passed a budget since 2013, and ongoing squabbles divert attention and energy from crucial institutional reforms.  Even after witnessing firsthand how partisan rifts exacerbated their military and political setbacks after the independence referendum, the two parties are still trying to manage the political landscape rather than reform it.  That is why the weak but persistent Kurdish opposition endures—as the rise of Gorran showed, a large segment of the public wants a third way.

Iran and Oil Issues

In addition to harming U.S. counterterrorism interests, a divided KRG provides an open door to Iran at a time when the regime is looking for new ways to ease its sanctions pains.  The Kurds have recalibrated their relations favorably with Tehran since the referendum, in part due to fear of Iranian threats resulting from that initiative, and also because of their disappointment at how Washington reacted to the plebiscite.  Moreover, American officials need the KRG’s help in blocking efforts by pro-Iran parliamentary groups to end the U.S. training mission in Iraq; although such legislation is tabled at the moment, it could pass if reintroduced amid deep Kurdish divisions.

It is therefore in Washington’s interest to reengage the KRG more seriously on governance reforms, particularly on Peshmerga and economic issues.  Despite some progress, the KRG economy remains oil-dependent and unable to create adequate jobs.  Its banking sector lags behind as well, with government employees still paid in cash handouts – a situation that is conducive not only to corruption within the KRG, but also to Iran gaining access to U.S. dollars via its networks there.

Relatedly, the KRG and Baghdad are overdue for a stable, long-term petroleum revenue sharing mechanism that depoliticizes the federal budgeting process. U.S. officials should facilitate this deal, whether directly or through the UN mission in Iraq.  The prospects of such an agreement coming to fruition would encourage KRG unity in negotiating with Baghdad, instead of the KDP and PUK making separate side deals.

Bilal Wahab is the Nathan and Esther K. Wagner Fellow at The Washington Institute.  (TWI 30.05)

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11.3  QATAR:  IMF Executive Board Concludes 2019 Article IV Consultation with Qatar

On 13 May 2019, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) concluded the Article IV consultation with Qatar and considered and endorsed the staff appraisal without a meeting.

Economic performance improved in 2018. Qatar’s economy has successfully absorbed the shocks from the 2014–16 drop in hydrocarbon prices and the 2017 diplomatic rift.  Real GDP growth is estimated at 2.2%, up from 1.6% in 2017.  Headline inflation remained low.  The central government’s fiscal position switched to a surplus of 2.3% of GDP in 2018 from a sizable deficit in 2017.  Recovery in non-resident deposits and foreign bank funding helped banks increase private sector credit.  Banks have been able to diversify the geographical composition of non-resident deposits.  The current account is estimated to have reached a surplus of 9.3% of GDP in 2018, largely reflecting higher average oil prices.  Reserves reached $31 billion (5½ months of imports) at end-December 2018.  Recently, Qatar issued $12 billion in international bonds, which was more than four times oversubscribed, with lower spreads than in previous issues.

Qatar’s banking sector remains healthy, reflecting high asset quality and strong capitalization.  At end-September 2018, banks had high capitalization (CAR of 16%) and maintained strong profitability (ROA of 1.6%), low non-performing loans (ratio of 1.7%), and a reasonable provisioning ratio of 83%.  Banks are comfortably liquid, with a liquid-asset-to-total-asset ratio of 29.7%.  Nonetheless, strong credit growth that outpaced deposits resulted in the system-wide loan-to-deposit (LTD) ratio of 103% which is higher than the CB’s guidance of 100%.  After a period of rapid growth, real estate prices in Qatar are adjusting to new levels.  According to the real estate price index developed by QCB, following an 82% increase during 2012–16, real estate prices fell by 15% during 2017–18.

Macro-financial prospects remain favorable, though risks skew to the downside:

-Overall GDP growth is projected to reach 2.6% in 2019 from 2.2% in 2018, underpinned by a recovery in the hydrocarbon output and still robust growth of the non-hydrocarbon sector.  The projected non-hydrocarbon growth for 2019 reflects the lingering multiplier effects of sustained increases in capital expenditures in the last few years, the gradual pace of fiscal consolidation, ample liquidity, and increased private sector activity.  Medium-term growth will be supported by increased gas production from the Barzan field, a planned increase in LNG production capacity by 40%. Inflation is projected to peak at 3.7% in 2020 with the introduction of a VAT, but converge to 2% in the medium term.

-Fiscal consolidation is envisaged to continue, albeit at a slower rate.  In 2019, expenditure restraint and lagged revenue impact of higher oil prices would result in further improvement of fiscal position to about 3% from 2.3% in 2018.  Over the medium term, the fiscal position would be in moderate surplus due to broadly stable hydrocarbon prices and sustained expenditure control.  A current account surplus of about 4.6% of GDP is envisaged for 2019 in line with the projected oil prices, and slower import growth than GDP.  Over the medium term, the current account would be in modest surplus.

-Lower-than-projected hydrocarbon prices constitute the main risk to the macro-financial framework.  They would translate into a deterioration in external and fiscal positions and a higher public debt. Rising trade and geopolitical tensions could undermine investor confidence and weaken fiscal and external positions.  Qatar is well placed to contain adverse macro-financial implications of downside risks, reflecting substantial buffers and prudent policies.

Executive Board Assessment

Qatar’s economy has successfully adjusted to the dual shocks of lower oil prices and diplomatic rift.  Prudent fiscal policy, an appropriate monetary anchor, sound financial regulation and supervision frameworks and considerable buffers continue to underpin strong macroeconomic performance.  Increased gas production, a slower pace of fiscal consolidation, infrastructure programs and adequate credit growth will underpin growth over the medium term.  The fixed exchange rate regime remains appropriate, as it has provided a clear and credible monetary anchor, although the external position is weaker than implied by fundamentals and desired policy settings.  Fiscal consolidation over the medium term would help close the estimated current account gap.  Lower‑than-envisaged hydrocarbon prices constitute the main risk to the macro-financial outlook.  Nonetheless, Qatar is in a position to weather such a shock, given significant buffers and prudent policies.

Gradual fiscal consolidation would help achieve adequate savings for future generations.  Proceeding with a gradual fiscal consolidation is appropriate, given the availability of substantial fiscal space.  Enhancing non-hydrocarbon revenues, including the introduction of a VAT should continue to be at the center of reforms for a broad-based tax system.  Other fiscal reforms should continue to focus on containing the growth of the wage bill and putting public investment on a downward path.  Education and labor market measures are needed to complement public -sector employment reform.  An accelerated strategy to further reduce utility subsidies would help generate additional savings and contribute to improved economic efficiency.  This strategy would need to be combined with the strengthening of social protection

A robust medium-term fiscal framework would bolster fiscal policy credibility.  Strengthening fiscal policy frameworks is vital to averting pro-cyclicality, mitigating risks and ensuring intergenerational equity.  The use of fiscal indicators that emphasize intergenerational equity, combined with indicators to better manage oil price volatility remains important.  Improving coordination among the fiscal authorities, QCB and QIA could strengthen fiscal-macroeconomic management.  These measures could be complemented with a medium-term budget framework.  Accelerating efforts towards turning the medium-term budget framework into a performance based medium-term expenditure framework would be useful.  Publication of comprehensive information on the budget, including fiscal risks, budget execution data, and the composition of QIA’s assets, would support improved transparency.

Banks remain sound, underpinned by strong profitability and capital as well as high asset quality.  It is important to continue to monitor closely banking sector’s assets, given the softening of real estate prices.  In this connection, QCB should consider introducing additional indicators such as vacancy rates to assess in a more timely fashion developments in the real estate sector.  The emphasis on risk-based supervision is important, as it provides the opportunity to detect vulnerabilities at earlier stages. The loan-to-deposit ratio should be enforced to encourage banks to reduce leverage.  Strengthening the modalities for the exchange of information between the fiscal and monetary authorities would help avert sharp swings in liquidity and the related adverse economic and financial impact.  Financial innovation tends to give rise to risks and vulnerabilities, despite the advantage of enhancing financial inclusion.  It is therefore important to further strengthen financial supervision and the regulatory framework to ensure that consumers are protected and offered sound products.

Structural reforms with emphasis on private sector-led growth and economic diversification would help support a more inclusive growth.  Authorities’ reform agenda pertaining to the business environment, special economic zones, labor law, increased foreign ownership limits and privatization is welcome.  While SEZs can be helpful in the short term, they should not constitute an alternative to economy-wide structural reforms.  Domestic and export-market competition should be used as benchmarks to hold beneficiaries of government’s support accountable.  Policy measures that focus on further improving the business environment, including improved contract enforcement and enhanced strengthened competition through reform of the insolvency mechanism, would buoy private sector-led growth.  Laws that focus on ensuring equal remuneration and support gender equality would support inclusive growth.  (IMF 03.06)

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11.4  OMAN:  In a Region Beset by Zero-Sum Conflicts, Oman Remains Open to All

Kristin Smith Diwan wrote for the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington on 3 June that avoiding provocation of international powers and regional neighbors, Oman remains determined to make its connections to all sides a strategic asset.

As tensions in the Gulf ratchet up between the United States and Iran, Oman is in a familiar place: utilizing its good relations with all to find an off ramp to conflict.  On 16 May, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke by phone with Omani Sultan Qaboos bin Said to stress the need for all parties to comply with commitments to the U.N.-led political mediation in the Yemen conflict and to discuss the Iranian threats to the region.  Four days later, Oman’s Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi was in Tehran meeting his counterpart, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.  In an interview, Alawi later confirmed that Oman is striving to ease hostilities and that Washington and Tehran are aware of the “seriousness of sliding into war.”

The moment highlights Oman’s determination to make its connections to all sides a strategic asset.  Yet there is no denying the difficulty of adhering to neutrality in this current moment in the Gulf when ultimatum takes precedent over negotiation: Washington’s comprehensive use of economic sanctions to force Iran’s strategic retreat and the Saudi and United Arab Emirates-orchestrated boycott to compel Qatar to change its policies.  These forceful campaigns to remake the regional order resist mediation and embrace the disruption of normal commercial activity as leverage. Both are a threat to Oman, which is courting investment from all.

It is a strategy born of necessity, as Oman faces challenges to its economic viability and sovereignty.  Thus far, Oman has met these challenges by doubling down on its strategy, welcoming overtures from all economic parties, and meeting pressure to choose sides by proposing new diplomatic overtures and opportunities for security cooperation.

Oman’s “Swiss Neutrality”

There is no doubting the vulnerabilities of Oman in the current moment.  Under the administration of President Barack Obama, Oman was able to utilize its historical good relations with Iran as an asset, facilitating the secret talks that advanced the U.S. policy of containing the nuclear threat of Iran through the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.  Yet this left many of the Gulf Arab countries and Israel dissatisfied with the failure to address Iran’s strategic advances in the Middle East.  The administration of President Donald J. Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal in favor of punitive sanctions to starve Iran of funds and force its strategic retreat.

The Trump administration expects the ratcheting up of economic pressure to force Iran back to the negotiating table under less favorable terms to the Islamic Republic.  Yet whether this succeeds or devolves into a more perilous cycle of Iranian strategic sabotage and U.S. counterstrike is unclear.  Iran, whose defense doctrine is based on forward positioning as security against attack, certainly has the assets and mindset for a high-stakes asymmetrical campaign characterized by drones, cyberattacks and tactical strikes, most of which would take place within Iraq and the Gulf Arab countries themselves.  The smaller countries along the Gulf littoral thus find themselves on the frontlines of this confrontation as the larger powers around them set the terms.

A similar dynamic is at play in the Gulf crisis, a zero-sum competition that pits the UAE and Saudi Arabia and their partners in the quartet against Qatar.  Oman sits uneasily among these rivalries.  While Oman shares the quartet’s concerns about the dangers of Islamist extremism, politically it is wary of the ascendancy of the Saudi-Emirati alliance, and potential competition with its own strategic interests in the Gulf and southern Arabia.  The Saudi-led intervention in neighboring Yemen is of particular concern due to the acceleration toward state collapse and potential opening for extremist parties, such as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.  With some trepidation, Oman is watching developments in neighboring Mahra governorate, which Oman views as within its sphere of influence.  Omani concern over the Emirati presence within the sultanate is increasingly apparent, as demonstrated in the foreign minister’s veiled acknowledgement of arrests for spying and the imposition of a new decree prohibiting non-Omani ownership of land and real estate in borderland regions as well as some heritage and agricultural sites.  This reportedly was prompted in part by concerns about Emirati purchases of contiguous properties in the strategic Musandam Peninsula and northern Oman.

The confluence of these twin campaigns contra Qatar and Iran has proved a predicament for Oman in Trump’s Washington, where Emirati and Saudi interests are well represented and Oman has been viewed with suspicion due to the role it played in facilitating the nuclear deal with Iran spearheaded by the Obama administration.

Yet open defiance is not an option for a small if proud state beset by economic challenges.  Instead, Oman has adhered to the strategy of being open to all. Indeed, when pressed to close doors, Oman has opened even more, notably in hosting Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in October 2018 – a politically deft way to play its neutrality to its advantage and to demonstrate its usefulness to the Trump administration’s objectives on other fronts.

A similar strategic flexibility, with even higher stakes, is at play in Oman’s navigation of the U.S.-Iranian standoff.  In March, Oman negotiated a framework agreement opening up its facilities to U.S. military ships and planes, primarily the strategic Duqm port.  Yet less than a month later, Iranian news sources reported that the two countries went ahead with the annual meeting of the Iranian-Omani joint military commission, including joint military drills and a new memorandum of understanding to boost cooperation.  Oman also participated in the recent emergency Gulf and Arab summits convened by Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz in Mecca, which were designed to present a united front in the face of recent drone strikes on the kingdom and attacks on vessels off the coast of the UAE.

Balancing political tensions in a maximalist Gulf is not easy.  Neither is preserving independence while facing economic austerity.  Just as Oman is seeking to avoid strategic “capture,” it is also working to avoid the fall into dependency on any one state.

Preserving Autonomy under Austerity

While Oman’s Swiss neutrality is calculated to insulate it from military conflict, it also is driven by economic imperatives – the need to draw upon diverse sources of investment to develop its ports and infrastructure.

Oman, like Bahrain, experienced domestic unrest in 2011 and is relying upon oil revenue that is insufficient to meet long-conditioned public demands.  In the past four years, Oman’s government debt has risen to nearly 50% of gross domestic product and, correspondingly, its credit worthiness has fallen from A-rated to below investment grade.  Yet, unlike Bahrain, which has turned to its Gulf partners for debt relief and relinquished some autonomy in the process, Oman has chosen to make its own way.  Indeed, even before the Qatar dispute, Oman was increasingly defining its interests within a framework distinct from the Gulf Cooperation Council, openly rejecting greater GCC unity and foregoing Gulf Arab government aid to meet its budgetary needs.  The sultanate will face a pivotal test as to whether it can continue to attract takers for its increasing debt when it offers a $2 billion bond issue later this year.

Oman has been much more receptive to direct investment from the Gulf private sector in addition to the large investment made by China to build Duqm port.  Investments in Oman’s major infrastructure, industrial, and housing projects have come from: Kuwait Petroleum in the Duqm port refinery; private Saudi investors in Oman’s first dry port in Khazaen; and the Emirati Majid Al Futtaim group in new mixed-use developments in Madinat Al Irfan and Al Mouj.  Oman’s gas pipeline project with Iran, for which a memorandum of understanding was signed in 2013, has faced numerous delays and now complications due to U.S. sanctions.  Still, Oman has been able to capitalize on new economic opportunities in the midst of regional conflict.  Since the boycott of Qatar began, trade with Doha has more than doubled, with Oman becoming a key hub for Qatari flights.  With the ongoing conflict in Yemen, displaced Yemeni businesses have been functioning in Oman’s southern cities and ports.

Business, as Usual

The competition to settle the political future of the Middle East in the wake of the political upheaval unleashed in 2011 has generated multiple fault lines among both regional and international rivals.  Still Oman isn’t closing its doors, avoiding provocation of international powers and regional neighbors; Oman is welcoming business, if not quite as usual.

Kristin Smith Diwan is a senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.  (AGSIW 03.06)

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