MONTREAL — Montreal venture capitalist Matthew Price-Gallagher is bullish on Israel.
The successful high-tech entrepreneur has been to the country about 20 times in the last two years, attracted to its refreshing “can-do” approach to business – and science.
That spirit permeates not only the private sector, but also government and, most importantly for someone investing in innovative, science-based technology, academia.
Price-Gallagher, president and CEO of Water Cluster Scientific Inc., is collaborating with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and its affiliated technology transfer company, Yissum, on research and development.
If you are looking for expertise in making the best use of water and in the burgeoning field of nanotechnology, Price-Gallagher is confident that there is no better place to be than Israel.
Price-Gallagher was the guest speaker at the Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University, Montreal chapter’s Albert Einstein Business Forum, held in the 41st-floor boardroom of the Royal Bank of Canada in Place Ville-Marie.
The lecture series is intended to showcase Hebrew University’s R&D capability and its success in bringing scientific advancements to market.
Price-Gallagher, who is working with Massachusetts Institute of Technology theoretical physicist Keith Johnson, described water clusters as a natural molecular-level state of H2O about which nanotechnology is allowing a better understanding. They believe harnessing these clusters’ unique properties will lead to a myriad of practical applications for everything from airport security to drug delivery. They are now seeking a patent on the process of making these clusters vibrate at a frequency above the infrared wavelength.
One of the most exciting uses envisioned is capturing images up to 100 metres away that reveal the chemical composition of the target without harming either it or the operator of the technology. This could be invaluable in, for example, military surveillance or airport security, he said.
A former professional triathlete who has twice completed an Ironman Triathlon, Price-Gallagher doesn’t back down from a challenge.
He previously brought profitably to market the trademarked TerraClean, a high-tech system of decarbonizing car fuel systems.
Price-Gallagher was introduced to Hebrew University by his friend Ari Brojde, who chairs the Einstein Business Forum.
In memory of Ari’s father, the family established The Peter Brojde Centre for Innovative Engineering and Computer Science in Hebrew University’s applied physics department.
Price-Gallagher was astonished by how eagerly the Israelis “adopted me into the fold, as part of the mishpachah,” he said tentatively trying out his Hebrew.
He’s worked with other universities in North America – MIT, McGill, Caltech – “but Israel has them all beat,” he said, in its approach to getting down to business.
“I met Yissum CEO Yaacov Michlin immediately, and he said, ‘We will find a way to make this work,’” Price-Gallagher recalled. “These words mean a lot to an entrepreneur.”
Israeli technology transfer companies are separate enough from the universities to avoid the bureaucratic tie-ups that he has found often hinder progress at such companies affiliated with North American universities.
“The next day, I was in the office of Israel’s chief scientist. I’ve never had that experience here,” he said.
He lauded the Israeli government, and in particular the vision of President Shimon Peres, for fostering innovation and commercialization, something he believes Canada could learn from.
“Israel has the highest per capita R&D investment in the world,” and coupled with Israelis’ legendary brains and brashness, he said, it’s not surprising Israel is a world leader in technological invention.
Price-Gallagher would like to see more partnerships between Canadians and Israelis. The latter could benefit from Canada’s upper management skills, its access to large markets, and “the deep reserve of international good will” it has earned.
Unfortunately, the association of Israel with conflict continues to overshadow the “economic miracle” the country has become, he said.