Global Alliance for South Carolina: Connecting S.C. with Estonia & IsraelMay 21, 2020
Technology, innovation present opportunities for international growth
The role of technology and innovation has become increasingly visible as the novel coronavirus has spread across the globe – and growing international connections among those sectors is the core of the Global Alliance South Carolina.
The Global Alliance South Carolina (GASC) engages with academic, business and economic development leaders across the state of South Carolina to build and strengthen collaborations and partnerships that enable small, innovative companies to expand to new markets in South Carolina, Israel and Estonia.
Building a Research Support Ecosystem
In February 2019, GASC leaders spoke about the organization to Upstate leaders during a Grow Your Business Event. We checked in with the group for an update on its 2020 activities, including a recent 12-person trip to Israel.
The unique geographic focus of GASC is intentional, in place to prevent duplication from SC Department of Commerce or regional economic development focus areas, and the organization is geared toward providing support to small organizations that may not qualify for traditional investment incentives.
GASC was established in 2016, and it works with several organizations across the state, including:
- The South Carolina Department of Commerce
- The South Carolina Research Authority’s SC Launch program
- Clemson University, the Medical University of South Carolina and the University of South Carolina
- The College of Charleston and The Citadel
- Charleston Regional Development Alliance, EngenuitySC and the Upstate SC Alliance
- The South Carolina International Trade Coalition
You may be wondering: “Why Israel and Estonia?”
Israel’s Entrepreneurial Energy
Israel’s entrepreneurial energy is world-renowned. Often referred to as the “startup nation,” Israel is a leader in converting innovation and intellectual property into fast-growth companies. Because it is a small nation with a limited market, Israel is a leading exporter of intellectual capital and companies. Both South Carolina and Israel boast strengths in:
- Biomedical or Life Sciences
- Advanced Materials
- Sustainable Energy, Water & Agriculture Systems
- Transportation, including Aerospace & Automotive
- Defense or Homeland Security
- Insurance and Health Information Technology
In October 2013, the state of South Carolina and the state of Israel entered into a formal agreement on “Bilateral Cooperation in Industrial Research and Development.” Under this overarching agreement, research and business relationships have been forged, sustained and expanded through annual week-long visits by South Carolina delegations to Israel and other ad-hoc events convened in both South Carolina and Israel. Concurrent with executing the state-to-state agreement, a companion agreement was established for implementing a formal program of bilateral R&D projects. To date, five cycles of these R&D projects have been completed, and a sixth is planned to launch in late 2020. Funded projects to date have included:
- Clinical Research & Population Health Improvement via Natural Language Processing
- Technology domain: Health IT
- SC Participant: Health Sciences Health Information (Columbia)
- New Flame Retardants for Textiles
- Technology domain: Advanced Materials
- SC Participant: Alexium International (Greer)
- Improved Short Wave Infrared (SWIR) multispectral sensor
- Technology domain: Defense/Homeland Security
- SC Participant: Cirtemo (Columbia)
- Development of a pocket-sized biometric identity verification device
- Technology domain: Defense/Homeland Security
- SC Participant: Integrated Biometrics (Spartanburg)
In January 2020, Jonathan Zucker led his seventh business delegation to Israel for a series of business, research and cultural experiences. The trip’s goal? To learn more about the successes that drive the “Startup Nation” and explore opportunities for bi-national collaborations in the cyber, IT, medical, bioscience, transportation and clean tech industry sectors.
“This was the best international trip I have ever been on,” said Vanessa Goeschl, Managing Director of the South Carolina Department of Commerce’s European Office, which is based in Munich.
The trip was a 5-day whirlwind of activities from the Mediterranean Sea to the mountains overlooking Jordan and the Dead Sea, to desert towns, to the fertile “bread basket” that produces an amazing array of fruits, vegetables and grains. Trip highlights included:
- Meetings with the leadership of the Israel Innovation Authority, Rambam Medical Center, the Trendlines Incubator and the Weizmann Institute of Science
Relationships fostered through these delegation trips have led directly to recruitment of two Israeli companies to establish their initial North American operations in the Charleston area:
- In April 2014, Israeli-based NeuroQuest set up its clinical development center at Roper St. Francis Clinical Biotechnology Research Institute in Charleston. NeuroQuest is developing blood-based immune biomarkers that produce early and accurate diagnostic and therapeutic tools for Alzheimer’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease
- In 2018, Israeli-based Nanobebe opened its U.S. operations in Charleston.The company has engineered revolutionary new designs for infant feeding systems, and has won multiple industry awards for its innovative product line.
Estonia’s Technology-Driven, Knowledge-Based Character
Estonia is Northern Europe’s vibrant hub for knowledge-based, technology-driven business. Estonia’s smart, ambitious workforce, digital expertise and particular focus on the high-growth cybersecurity industry fuel the nation’s forward-thinking business environment. Both South Carolina and Estonia boast strengths in:
- Information and Communication Technologies (including cyber technologies)
- Health Technologies and Services
- Technologies that Increase Effectiveness of Resources
In April 2016, S.C. Commerce executed a similar agreement with the Republic of Estonia on “Bilateral Cooperation in Industrial and Technological Research and Development.” This agreement builds upon longstanding relationships between the Harry and Reba Huge Foundation, the College of Charleston and The Citadel, and counterpart organizations in Estonia. Representatives from South Carolina and Estonia have established a formal program for co-funding bilateral R&D projects similar to the one in place for South Carolina and Israel R&D projects. The first cycle of this program completed in the summer of 2019, and a second round is planned to launch sometime in late 2020. The initial R&D project funded was:
- Zero knowledge proof ticket and data authentication for online secondary ticket markets
- Technology domain: Information Technology
- SC Participant: Bandwagon Fan Club (Greenville)
On the Horizon for 2020
GASC Executive Director Russ Keller plans to visit with leaders in Greenville, Columbia and Charleston to share the group’s work, engagement opportunities, and facilitate information exchange between the companies it met in Israel and Estonia with potential partner organizations in South Carolina.