BioWorld International Correspondent

ZICHRON YAAKOV, Israel - The technology incubator council headed by Rina Pridor within the Chief Scientist's Office of the Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Labor announced that it has approved NIS15 million (US$4 million) in grants for the establishment of nine new start-ups in the government-sponsored incubator program.

Four of the nine approved projects are in the life sciences - one biotechnology company and three medical device firms, all of which are located in incubators in the north of the country, close to the Haifa industrial area.

The projects are for technologies under development, and because they are yet to be patent protected, Pridor's office would offer only some minimal details. One project is designed for the chronic slow release of drugs. The three medical devices under development are a product to separate semen to improve the outcome of in vitro fertilization, a device to non-invasively treat varicose veins in the legs, and an add-on device to improve endoscopy.

The ministry's chief scientist, Eli Opper, noted that the council approved 85 incubator start-up projects in 2003, which, he said, will pay off the government's investment in creating future jobs and new businesses and stimulating economic growth.

Other research and development grant programs have been flooded with applications, compared with 2003. The first round of applications for 2004 showed a 32 percent increase in the number of companies submitting applications for budgets exceeding NIS30 million, a 20 percent increase in the number of applications for research projects and an 18 percent increase in the amount requested. Overall, 33 companies submitted 219 research and development grant proposals totaling NIS2 billion, said Opper, who attributed the rise to the credit crunch.