In cooperation with the Alternative Fuels Administration of the Prime Minister’s Office, Tel Aviv University plans to be open the country’s first National Research Institute for Transportation Innovation.

The multidisciplinary institute is to operate under the joint umbrella of the Porter School of Environmental Studies and the Faculty of Engineering at TAU. With the purpose of promoting academic research across the many fields involved with transportation, the institute aims to contribute to an increased awareness on the subject in the government, business, public and civil sectors, according to the university.

Although the institute is to be housed at TAU, it will be opening its doors to researchers across the country and abroad. Preliminary collaborative negotiations are already underway with MIT, Tsinghua University in Beijing and others, information from TAU stated.

Entrepreneurs working in transportation innovation will be able to benefit from the institute, and some will be invited to perform research for half-a-year in the new building of the Porter School, as well as receive financial support during their stay, the university statement added.

“In recent years, a worldwide recognition of the need to find alternative solutions to oil has been established,” said Eyal Rosner, director of the Alternative Fuels Administration in the Prime Minister’s Office.

“The global need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution in urban centers generates a worldwide interest in finding innovative solutions that will enable transportation without reliance on oil.”

Promoting research that aims to accomplish this task is precisely the goal of the institute, Rosner added.

The Alternative Fuels Administration began operating in 2011, partnering with 10 ministries to help make Israel a global hub of knowledge in the industry, in addition to increasing the use of oil substitutes by 60 percent in 2025.

Dan Rabinowitz, head of the Porter School of Environmental Studies, called the establishment of the institute “an important milestone” for his school, particularly in its effort to become a national and global center for academic and applied environmental research.

“Transportation is an area that requires a combination of diverse disciplines: Mechanical engineering and product design for innovative mobility solutions, sophisticated utilization of computer databases for travel efficiency, advanced planning of needs and solutions for public transportation, sociological research and insights in the fields of law and public policy to streamline regulation, and more,” Rabinowitz said.

All in all, the institute will be receiving NIS 13.5 million in funding for the next five years, and will take its first call for papers in early September, Rabinowitz told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

The launch of this large institutional effort joins smaller ventures in transportation research at TAU, such as the opening of a Transportation Research Unit with the university’s geography and human environment department in April.

Rabinowitz said that he expects this research unit and other smaller programs to be applying for funding from the larger institute, which will likely “become the main organ” of financing transportation research within the university.

“Tel Aviv University is well on its way to becoming a considerable focus and center for the studies of transportation.”

he said.

In addition to the interdisciplinary academic approach of the institute, Rabinowitz stressed the importance of including an incubator for innovators who are not necessarily academics. Thus far, he explained, start-up innovators and academics have all too often embodied “parallel universes.”

“We are hoping to be one of the first attempts in Israel to invite start-up innovators into the university,” Rabinowitz said.

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