At first glance, it looked like a Lego toy, but the robot demonstrated at last week’s Showcase of Maryland-Israel Business in Silver Spring was the same one that swept the Gaza tunnels for explosives during this summer’s war between Israel and Hamas. And like so many of Israel’s high-tech and national-security inventions, this robot has ties to Montgomery County.
Israeli companies that are involved in Iron Dome’s radar system, apps to get emergency workers to the scene of an emergency more quickly, scales to weigh wounded patients who can’t get out of bed, devices to make sure a premise is secured, and equipment to detect illegal drugs right on the scene were on display Nov. 18 at the Silver Spring Civic Center Building in an event sponsored by the Maryland-Israel Development Center (MIDC).
While the ideas and the construction of these products take place in Israel, the companies have offices in Bethesda, Rockville or Gaithersburg, where efforts are made to sell the product in the United States, provide customer support or obtain funding.
Montgomery County is a hotbed of Israeli business due to what Barry Bogage, executive director of the MIDC, calls the four Cs. The area surrounding Washington, D.C., is where the customers are, where many of America’s chief executive officers (CEOs) can be found and where many Israelis have families, or cousins, Bogage said. A fourth C refers to capital and is why other Israeli companies turn to the Silicon Valley, Bogage said.
Israeli companies also set up base in Montgomery County because “we spread the word that the market is here,” Bogage said.
For the past 22 years, the MIDC has been working on bilateral economic development between Israel and Maryland, with offices in Rockville, Baltimore and Tel Aviv. While working to bring Israeli companies to the state, MIDC also helps match Maryland companies with businesses in Israel.
MIDC operates on a budget of $275,000 from the Maryland Department of Economic Development, $40,000 from the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development and $150,000 from The Associated: Jewish Community Federation in Baltimore.
It also receives money from membership dues.
The event in Silver Spring was MIDC’s fourth-annual showcase, and the first one ever to be held in Montgomery County. A crowd of people – most of them under 40 years old – mingled, viewing the products while nibbling on hors d’oeuvres of chicken and Israeli dips and sipping Israeli wines.
Close to 25 companies displayed their wares, including Roboteam, the company that created the robot that crawled through the tunnels that terrorists in Gaza used to smuggle in weapons and to launch attacks. The company has an office in Bethesda where it provides the training and customer support for its unmanned systems.
The robots it creates can climb stairs and utilize up to seven cameras for a 360-degree view, said CEO Shahar Abuhazira.
Also attending last week’s event were representatives from Medispec, a company that offers shock-wave therapy used in various medical procedures. Its office in Gaithersburg distributes the machines that were made in Israel.
Equivo is an Israeli company that takes large quantities of computer text and analyzes it for large corporations, picking out what a particular company deems important without a human having to search large amounts of data. Its customer support center is in Rockville.
Also attending the event were representative from Elta, which operates in Fulton and is a subsidiary of the Israeli company that designed and produced the radar system used by the Iron Dome missile defense system.
Another company featured was Jedvice, which operates in Baltimore, and utilizes sensors to make sure an area is secure.
During the two-hour showcase, speaker Jeremy Bash, a former senior adviser to Leon Panetta at both the CIA and Department of Defense and was involved in the capture of Osama Bin Laden in 2011, spoke about his work. Currently, Bash is founder and managing director at Beacon Global Strategies.