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A railway station services the campus of Tel Aviv University. Transportation is one the of the many industries expected to be impacted by the "Internet of Things." [Image: George Dement/Creative Commons]

Tel Aviv University (TAU), Israel’s largest research university, has announced the formation of a new technology incubator—with a US$20 million initial investment stake—to focus on Internet of Things (IoT) and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technologies. The consortium, called Israel IoT Innovations–i3 Equity partners (i3), reportedly puts TAU in a cooperative relationship with a number of leading technology firms, including Microsoft, Qualcomm and GE.

A “brave new world”

The incubator would mark a foothold for TAU in a technology expected to become ever more pervasive in society and daily life. Intel Corp. has estimated that some 200 billion of the always-connected “smart” devices constituting the IoT—around 26 smart objects for every human being on Earth—could be tied to the internet by 2020. IIoT is driven by the use of such connected technologies in manufacturing and its related practices, such as quality control.

“The Internet of Things,” sums up i3 co-manager Eran Wagner, “is the heart of a brave new world.”

The i3 consortium, to be headquartered at TAU, includes five tech investment partners: GE Ventures, HNA EcoTech, Microsoft Ventures, Qualcomm Ventures and Tata. Those concerns will partner with Pitango Venture Capital and with TAU’s own technology-transfer arm, Ramot, to launch the incubator. Wagner, alongside Noga Kap, will co-manage the incubator; both are entrepreneurs and investors with experience in early-stage investments.

i3 expects to select high-potential seed and pre-seed new business ventures and startups, and set them up with “optimal conditions for success,” including up to US$1 million in investment. In addition, i3 startups will benefit from services such as mentoring and business development support, as well as technology and tools. Startups will also have access to “supportive” global corporations through every stage of their development.

Nearing next-gen

Daily life is increasingly driven by IoT and IIoT solutions, as evidenced by appliances and applications in healthcare, transportation, agriculture and mass production. Wagner notes that “IoT brings together the various IT technologies developed over the past decades—big data and analytics, machine learning, cyber security, sensors and communications networks—to create the connected solutions that are already starting to change every aspect of our lives.”

In a press release, the incubator’s chair, Ramot CEO Shlomo Nimrodi, referred to i3 as a “one-of-a-kind collaboration … to come up with the next big thing that will transform our world.” The news was announced at the IoT Summit 2016, which was held on the TAU campus in November.