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Israeli spy agency to offer equity-free grants in emerging technologies

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The Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, has set up a new fund to invest in emerging technologies to accelerate its technological capabilities.

The Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, has set up a new fund to invest in emerging technologies to accelerate its technological capabilities.

The technological innovation fund, the Libertad, will offer grants of up to two million shekels (£442,000) per project in exchange for rights to the technology. It will fund up to five projects a year. At the end of product development, the intelligence agency will receive a non-exclusive license for the know-how.

According to the Mossad, the original developers would retain the rights to the products, and later be able to sell it on.

“The Mossad wants to encourage innovation and creation of ground breaking technology […] the technology developed will be implemented by us, in cooperation between the parties,” a Libertad document explained.

An Israeli government spokesperson said that Libertad would enable the Mossad to take advantage of Israel’s start-up ecosystem. The idea, he said, was not to buy into technology that already exists, but to be involved from the early stages of development.

A government statement this week confirmed that Mossad would seek technologies in various fields relating to intelligence, including high-speed encryption, online personality profiling, miniaturised systems, biomimetics, all-terrain robotic capabilities, automated methods to collecting information from documents, and new approaches to stealth.

The Mossad advised potential grant applicants to “closely observe” these areas of interest, and said that they would open public calls for proposals shortly. The statement that “anyone” can apply for funding suggests that the grants could be open to foreign start-ups, although only incorporated companies would be able to receive funding.

Israel has over 450 registered cybersecurity companies. According to the Israel Venture Capital Research Centre, 78 start-ups raised more than 2.3 billion shekels (£510 million) from investors in 2016.

Benjamin Betanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, posted a video on Twitter demonstrating futuristic espionage technology, captioned in Hebrew: “Mossad will continue to be sophisticated, daring and ground-breaking in its paramount task of ensuring Israel’s security.”

In 1999, the US Central Intelligence Agency established In-Q-Tel (IQT), the non-profit “strategic investor” for accelerating emerging intelligence and defence technologies and delivering them to US intelligence organisations.

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