Tech Roundup / An Israeli Brainstorm Is Brewing

President Peres announces new neurotechnology prize, internet companies on the rise, grows bigger, and tech geeks had their pick of four unqiue gatherings thoughout Israel last weekend.

The Israeli X Prize – On Wednesday, President Shimon Peres announced a new initiative, the $1 million B.R.A.I.N (Breakthrough Research and Innovation in Neurotechnology) Prize that will go to an extraordinary innovator in the field of neurotechnology. Peres announced the competition with Rafi Gidron, founder of Israel Brain Technologies and one of the co-founders of Chromatis, which in 2000 was acquired by Lucent Technologies for $4.8 billion. The B.R.A.I.N Prize is modeled on competitions run by the X Prize Foundation, an international non-profit that organizes public competitions to encourage technological innovation. It is best known for offering $30 million in prizes to the first privately funded teams to land a robot on the moon. During his announcement, Peres said, "With its reputation as a 'start-up' nation, renowned for its innovative and creative initiatives and its focus on science and technology as an engine for economic development, Israel is well-positioned to assume a leadership role in the emerging neurotechnology industry that promises to make the world a better place."

Internet companies on the rise – According to a report from the Israel Advanced Technology Industries Association, 199 start-ups were founded in Israel in the second quarter of 2012. That's up from 114 created in each of the previous quarters. More than half of those new firms, 102 to be exact, were classified as Internet firms, compared with 53 and 63 from the previous two quarters respectively. The report also mentions the decline in the number of chip companies founded in Israel during the same time period – a whopping two. This number can be explained, among other things, by the fact that establishing a chip company requires greater investment.'s hush-hush purchase – Software giant secretly acquired data mining company BlueTail, founded in 2009 by Alon Talmor and Koby Ben-Zvi, in July. The scope of the transaction has been kept under wraps but the deal is believed to have been small-scale. Last year, acquired Israeli firm Navajo Systems for $30 million.

Marshmallow shawarma: Is it only a dream? – Israeli entrepreneurs, programmers and geeks faced a tough dilemma last weekend: deciding which of the four techie events across the country, from Tel Aviv to Nazareth, to attend. The Center for Educational Technology organized a "hackathon" in Ramat Aviv related to the field of education; in Nazareth there was a competition for mobile application development organized by Google developers; geeks descended on Sdot Yam, near Haifa, to participate in GeekCon, while Haifa's hiCenter hosted a marathon of entrepreneurial initiatives in mobile and Internet. GeekCon undoubtedly presented the most out-there inventions, including marshmallow shawarma, a device that measures a person's urine and shares that information on Facebook, and the Cat-o-Matic, which photographs terrified kitties and spreads their fear on Facebook.