UK energy firm Centrica, owner of British Gas, is to invest $100 million in Israeli start-up companies by the end of 2018.
The first Israeli start-up to receive investment was Driivz, a company which invented a data system for managing electric vehicle charging systems. Centrica gave $12 million in investment to the company, according to Israeli financial news site Globes.
Centrica’s investments are being made via an investment fund founded by the firm a year ago, Globes reports, with the fund’s total budget of $140 million “mostly designated for Israel.”
Centrica’s Investment Director, Idan Mor, told Globes that the company was also about to close a deal with another Israeli start-up, this time in the field of cybersecurity. The names of this and other companies earmarked for investment have not been released.
Centrica currently has 28 million customers worldwide and 33,000 employees, with a total revenue of $37 billion in 2017. In 2015, Centrica acquired Israeli company Panoramic Power for $60 million. Panoramic Power developed a series of sensors that monitor energy consumption in homes, which are now advertised on British Gas (a Centrica subsidiary)’s business-facing website.
International firms have been urged not to do business with Israel as part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. BDS calls for companies to divest from Israeli firms, citing their complicity in the State of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories and denial of Palestinian human rights. It also advocates for a boycott of Israeli products and cultural output.
A number of businesses have heeded BDS’ call, including major sports brand Adidas which recently announced it would no longer sponsor the Israel Football Association (IFA). In July, Scotland’s Falkirk Pension Fund decided to divest from Israel’s Bank Hapoalim, selling off its £6 million ($7.7 million) holding in the bank. Also in July, the Irish Senate voted to approve a bill that would see the country boycott goods from illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Israel has fought back against BDS’ momentum by banning numerous activists from entering the country, including prominent activists Ariel Gold and Ana Sanchez Mera. Israel has tried to paint the BDS campaign as “terrorism,” a move which was slammed by the European Union (EU) in July. EU foreign minister, Federica Mogherini, wrote a letter to Israel’s Public Security Minister, Gilad Erdan, criticising the Israeli government for conflating “terrorism with the boycott issue”. Mogherini also described Israel’s efforts as “inopportune and misleading” and liable to create “unacceptable confusion in the public eye regarding these two distinct phenomena”. Erdan has been closely involved in waging Israel’s war against BDS, personally intervening to ban Gold and Sanchez Mera.