TEL AVIV, Israel — Ford Motor Co. on Wednesday formally opened a research center here intended to help the automaker tap into the region's burgeoning mobility startup community.
Israel in recent years has grown to rival Silicon Valley in terms of tech entrepreneurship, with success stories such as Mobileye, which is headquartered in Jerusalem and was acquired by Intel in 2017 for $15 billion. Investors have poured roughly $6 billion into Israeli smart mobility startups since 2013, according to EcoMotion, a nonprofit organization that hosts a yearly mobility conference in Tel Aviv.
"We recognize the importance of being in one of the world's leading innovation communities and ecosystems," Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford said in a statement. "This new center is not only an expansion of our existing Research and Innovation centers but provides an opportunity to join a growing innovation community in Israel."
Ford gave a keynote speech Tuesday at the EcoMotion conference and attended the opening of the center.
“This really becomes the lifeblood of what Ford Motor Co. will be in the future,” Ford said at the ribbon cutting ceremony.
He told Automotive News the site would start small, with roughly 10 to 12 workers, but likely would grow quickly, similar to Ford's research center in Palo Alto, Calif., which opened in 2015 with a small staff that has grown to about 250 today.
He said the site's researchers would work with those in Palo Alto and Dearborn, Mich., to explore future technologies, and would work closely with SAIPS, an Israeli computer vision company Ford acquired in 2016.
The research center is located next to SAIP’s offices. The two combined are roughly 5,000 square feet, according to Udy Danino, the company’s founder and CEO.
He said the two companies would focus on research on interior monitoring, sensors, OTA updates, cybersecurity and autonomous technology.
The automaker has worked with local tech scouts here for nearly a decade and was among the first automakers to host a developer challenge here in 2015.