Israel and Georgia signed a memorandum of understanding Thursday, June 7, to promote research-and-development projects pairing companies from both states.

The document clears the way for grant-funded efforts to develop or improve products or processes in:

  • Vehicle automation, electrification, safety systems and related areas.
  • Advanced materials.
  • Sustainable energy, water and agriculture systems.
  • Public safety and homeland security.
  • Smart homes, energy efficiency and aging in place.
  • Data collection and analytics.
  • Systems to improve utility operations and maintenance.
  • Distributed energy resource management.
  • Marketing and customer relations systems.

Georgia Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson and Israeli Ambassador Judith Varnai Shorer, the consul general to the Southeast, signed the agreement at the Midtown offices of the Economic Development Department, a few blocks from the Israeli Consulate.

Under the deal, Georgia companies seeking research partners will issue requests for proposals with the Israel Innovation Authority. The Georgia company will provide funding, and the IIA will match it.

“This is a tremendous day not only for the state of Georgia, but for our partners: the Southern Co. and any number of businesses that are going to be able to take advantage of this,” Wilson said, adding that the agreement enhances “a long-term relationship that means a lot to us.”

He said Georgia has maintained a presence in Israel for a quarter-century, producing a range of benefits. More than 40 Israeli businesses operate in Georgia.

The program is a partnership between the IIA and the Georgia Centers of Innovation, a division of Wilson’s department. It is starting with the Southern Co., which liked what it saw during a Conexx mission to Israel that included meeting with the IIA last year, said Michael E. Britt, the vice president of the Southern Co.’s Energy Innovation Center.

He said the Southern Co. has identified a potential Israeli partner for innovation in electric vehicles, which would help the energy company’s customers and its own fleet of vehicles.

Southern Co. Chairman Thomas Fanning and the IIA will sign the RFP in Israel in a couple of weeks, said Oded Shorer, the Israeli Consulate’s economy and trade director.

The Atlanta-based company and the Israeli agency each will put up $1 million for the first year of the program. Oded Shorer said the hope is to increase the grant funding in future years.

While the Southern Co. is the first Georgia business operating under the agreement, Wilson expects other companies to take advantage of the structure now that it is in place.

The Southern Co. has a database of Georgia companies in the technology areas covered by the RFP and is prepared to help them find Israeli partners, while the IIA has a database of Israeli companies and provides immediate matching.

Israeli tech innovation and the IIA are impressive, Britt said. “We’re excited.”