TechNation: Chief Scientist Says No Funds Left for R&D Grants This Year

El Al readies itself for cyber threats; AOL fund donates $150,000 to teach girls software coding; Israeli e-learning startups Time to Know, Forclass merging.

El Al via Bloomberg

Chief scientist says no funds left for R&D grants this year

Avi Hasson, chief scientist of the Economy Ministry and chairman of the new Innovation Authority, told Israel’s high-tech companies he had run out of money to make further research and development grants this year, after his budget was effectively cut by 240 million shekels ($62.8 million).

Hasson’s budget for 2015-16 was supposed to be 1.45 billion shekels, but the amount was cut by 100 million shekels last week to meet the budget demands of Arye Dery for his Ministry for the Development of the Negev and Galilee. Meanwhile, a mid-year supplement of as much as 200 million the chief scientist traditionally gets has not been granted this year. “We are in advanced negotiations with the treasury and hope we succeed in agreeing on a budget sufficient for the Innovation Authority to appropriately support all the huge demand from industry,” Hasson said. (Eliran Rubin)

El Al readies itself for cyber threats

El Al Airlines is fortifying its defenses against cyberattacks on its computer-based equipment and communications networks by buying the aptly named Paranoid as a service solution from the U.S.-Israel company Nyotron.

The unique service, which copes with attacks after they have occurred, links the customers’ networks to Nyotron’s Global War Room, providing monitoring and early detection, proactive identification of infiltrations, a malware forensics lab and a response team for those who contract for its premium service.

Airlines and airports have become a prime target for hackers, with a Chinese hacker blamed for taking over flight display screens at Vietnam’s two largest airports to show messages criticizing Vietnam’s claims of territory in the South China Sea. Vietnam Airlines’ website was also briefly hacked and staff at the airports had to resort to checking in passengers manually. (Gili Malinsky)

AOL fund donates $150,000 to teach girls software coding

The AOL Charitable Foundation has donated $150,000 to help train Arab and Jewish girls in the Negev and Galilee to learn software coding. The money was given to the Appleseeds Academy, a nonprofit that aims to close Israel’s “digital divide” through technology programs, vocational training and life-skills development.

Appleseeds will use the funds in its Net@ Youth Technology program, which operates in 17 cities across Israel and serves about 1,000 young people, to develop and teach a coding curriculum to those students based on the foundations of computational thinking and coding skills.

The program – two thirds of whose past graduates have gone on to army technology units – will place a special emphasis on teaching Arab and Jewish girls in the fifth grade. “Making a difference in women’s equality means starting early and staying the course,” said Sara Link, president of the AOL Charitable Foundation.  A pilot program will begin this autumn. (Ruti Levy)

Israeli e-learning startups Time to Know, Forclass merging

Two Israeli e-learning startups are merging ahead of the new school year.

Time to Know, which has developed a portfolio of digital-learning solutions with a heavy emphasis of feedback to teachers, said Monday it would be taking over Forclass, which has developed cloud-based tools for college lecturers to prepare and teach classroom content. Terms were not disclosed but the so-called acquihire deal, in which a company is acquired to gain access to its employees, is estimated to be in the single-digit millions of dollars.

Formed in 2013, Forclass has raised $600,000 in capital and counts 90 customers, among them Columbia, Stanford and many of Israel’s top universities. It will continue to offer its services until the end of the current school year.

Time to Know was formed in 2005 by two founders of the giant tech company Amdocs, Morris Kahn and Shmuel Meitar, and has reportedly raised $60 million in capital over the last decade. (Eliran Rubin)