List of carmaker R&D centers in Israel
Charting the influx of automotive OEMs into cities in Israel as they seek to tap into the startup scene
As one of the global centers for startups working on the technology that will drive the car of tomorrow, Israel has already attracted a host of carmaker and car suppliers.
Often beginning with conference attendance and non-permanent tech scouting missions, these have grown in recent years to fully-fledged permanent offices allowing staff to build lasting connections with the tech firms shaping the future of the automobile. Here’s our list of some of the key OEM players who have opened their doors in Israel:
One of the first automotive OEMs to establish a permanent presence in Israel, the Center was doubled in size in 2016, signaling the importance that GM places on the region. The Center works on both software and hardware projects, and leans towards the development of connectivity, autonomous, cybersecurity, user experience, smart mobility, and controls. The office holds regular coding competitions in order to increase its links with the startup community.
In addition to confirming that it had opened an office in Tel Aviv, to compliment its Digital Lab in Berlin, Germany, Porsche invested ‘an eight figure sum’ in two venture capital funds: the Magma Venture fund and Grove Ventures. Magma has invested in artificial intelligence and automotive since 1999, while Grove Ventures was set up in 2015, concentrating on Internet of Things (IoT), cloud technologies and AI. Porsche confirmed that further investments are planned.
Founded by Israeli automotive importer Mayer Cars and Trucks Ltd, DRIVE is a smart-mobility accelerator, coworking space and prototyping lab in Tel Aviv. It selects smart mobility startups from areas including sensors, computer vision, machine learning, autonomous vehicles, mapping, parking and more, and connects them with its major sponsors. These include the Xcelerator program from Honda Silicon Valley Lab, Volvo Cars, Hertz car rental, Volvo Group, NEC, Ituran, and Aptiv.
One of China's 'big-four' state-owned carmakers, SAIC's Israeli R&D center is focused on developing the firm's skills in electric drive, car sharing, and data networks. The Israeli office supplements the Silicon Valley R&D center, which opened in 2015, and its UK facilities. Its office south of Tel Aviv is designed to allow SAIC staff to develop contacts with Israeli universities and startups, and open up opportunities for venture capital investments.
Not an office as such, but a partnership between Spanish brand SEAT and its Israeli importer, Champion Motors. The project is called Xplora: "a transversal team of specialists focused on technological innovation projects aimed at the connected car and smart mobility services.” After nine months, and meeting over 100 startups, SEAT moved on to screening eight firms ranging in focus from digital passenger screening to laser projection for windscreens.
Mercedes’ center in Tel Aviv joins a global network of 25 R&D centers in 11 countries. The Israeli office of around 25 staff is intended to support Daimler’s development of its global mobility strategy, including the development and testing of pilot projects for new user interfaces. The office is also strategically located to tap into the skills of local partners, universities and high-tech companies in order to speed up the development of connected vehicles.
Part of Skoda's 2025 Strategy, which sets out the Czech firm's plan for its future development, Skoda partnered with its Israeli importer, Champion Cars, to establish DigiLab Israel. The office focuses on working with startups developing solutions for big data, cyber security, car sensors, Industry 4.0, connected car, emobility and infotainment. The Digilab works with Volkswagen Group Campus Tel Aviv, in addition to two others globally, one in Prague and another in Beijing.
The Volkswagen Group's Konnect campus is designed to give reciprocal access – all of VW's brands can meet and work with local partners and start-ups face to face, while VW gets its pick of the best potential ideas to come through its doors. The office is focused on connectivity, smart navigation, cybersecurity, emobility and big data. When the campus opened, VW had already lined-up 41 start-ups to work with, all connected to the future of mobility.
Joining the first Hyundai Cradle, established in Silicon Valley, and now supplemented by a third office in Berlin, Germany, and another in Beijing, China, the firm’s Israel office is aimed at making investments in artificial intelligence, robotics, smart energy solutions, smart cities including mobility services, and cybersecurity. The office opened having already confirmed investments in two Israeli venture capital funds and five startups, and has confirmed the Tel Aviv office now has eight successful projects completed.
Designed to compliment the Alliance's other centers in Silicon Valley and Shanghai, the 1,600 square-meter facility focuses on sensors for autonomous driving, cyber security, and big data. According to the Alliance partners, testing is currently underway on over 10 projects with Israeli startups at different stages. Confirmed among them are: Apollo Power, Argus, AutoTalks, BrightWay Vision, Electreon, Enigmatos, IRP systems, Karamba, Moodify, Saferide and Upstream.
The doors to Ford’s new R&D center were opened by chairman Bill Ford on his first visit to Israel. The new location will be linked to Ford's global R&D network, and will focus on identifying technologies and startups in connectivity, sensors, vehicle interior monitoring and cyber protection – work that Ford has been doing via scouting missions since 2013. The center will also work closely with SAIPS, an Israeli company focusing on machine learning and computer vision, which Ford acquired in 2016 for an undisclosed fee.
The office joins BMW’s network of tech centers in the USA, China, Japan and South Korea. Its Tel Aviv operation, as described by BMW, will have a "small, agile team consisting of experts from various disciplines [and] will network intensively with local startups, evaluate and drive forward relevant trends, technologies and innovations. The full spectrum of technology enterprises based in Israel will be considered and the team will also seek to set up joint research projects with universities."
Major Automotive Suppliers in Israel
It's not just the automotive OEMs who have invested big in attempting to find the next big thing in tech in Israel. Arguably, the suppliers have been there even longer, stretching back to the 1970s with Intel. Here's a few that caught our eye:
Bosch has established two different offices in Israel. The first is an R&D Center, which focuses on collaboration with scientific institutions and universities and, at an early stage, to identify innovative startups working in fields such as machine learning (deep learning), robotics, cybersecurity, connectivity, and the internet of things (IoT). The second is the Robert Bosch Venture Capital office in Tel Aviv. This provides either direct or indirect investment to startups from the technology industry.
Global automotive parts supplier DENSO has been increasing its R&D footprint outside of its home country of Japan. This happened first in 2017 with a center in Helsinki, Finland, concentrating on mobility services, and now in Israel with a mission to accelerate the firm’s knowledge of advanced technologies. DENSO plans to collaborate with Israeli startups and universities in order to further its cybersecurity, telecommunications, AI, sensing, and software competences.
In the last five years, Samsung Electronics subsidiary Harman has acquired three Israeli startups: iOnRoad, a red alert company; Red Bend, which enables today's cars to be connected to the cloud; and TowerSec Automotive Cybersecurity. Its new facility, which essentially gathers its existing three R&D centers under one roof, includes an advanced Smart Car Lab that allows research, testing and validation of over-the-air software update tech, cybersecurity, and automotive cloud solutions.