Weizmann Institute of Science.
(photo credit: MICHAEL JACOBSON/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
In today’s ever-changing world there is fierce competition for knowledge, as companies, countries and individuals seek to harness their power to advance and compete. The strongest economies are those capable of establishing and maintaining excellent academic institutions, helping develop unique patents and taking a leadership role in cutting-edge scientific research.
Israel is a world leader in terms of its investments in civilian R&D and is one of the few countries that has launched a satellite into space. Israel also boasts one of the highest rates of citizens with academic degrees, likely because of the strong motivation on the part of an immigrant society to get an education and develop professionally in the pursuit of economic and social advantage.
Since the earliest days of the state, Israeli leaders attributed tremendous importance to the development of science and technology. Prime minister David Ben-Gurion founded Israel’s Scientific Council out of the belief that “in order for our country and culture to prevail, we must base our economy, communities and education on the pillars of science.” In his book Engineer-King: David Ben-Gurion, Science and Nation Building, Ari Barell recalls that Ben-Gurion viewed scientific, technological and engineering activity in Israel as key to the Jewish people’s historic national revival.
In 1923, Albert Einstein visited Israel and helped establish two academic institutions – the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the Technion in Haifa – and became the first president of the Technion Society. In today’s technological world, the Technion’s scientific achievements are exceptional by both local and global standards and many of its graduates go on to run successful companies and lead global R&D centers, including those established in Israel.
According to a Bloomberg report, the Technion is ranked among the top academic institutions worldwide, in the same league as Princeton, Stanford and Harvard, whose graduates run technology companies that are worth over a billion dollars. The innovation coming out of the Technion, both directly and via its alumni network, has played a key role in positioning Israel as the Start-Up Nation.
The Technion is now bringing its unique academic excellence to the US and China, in an inspiring example of the impact Israeli academic institutions can have worldwide. In New York, the Technion and Cornell University are opening a new tech campus on Roosevelt Island. And in China, the Technion is opening a new campus in cooperation with Shantou University. With these initiatives under way, the Technion is truly fulfilling its vision of becoming “a science and technology research university, among the world’s top ten, dedicated to the creation of knowledge and the development of human capital and leadership, for the advancement of the State of Israel and all humanity.”
While advancing research and science are among the main goals of the Technion and Israel’s other academic institutions, they also ought to give their graduates a solid knowledge base and the tools and training to succeed in today’s competitive world. There is little doubt, for example, that a graduate of the Technion will face very good odds in joining and succeeding in the professional world. Taken together, the graduates of Israel’s academic world will play a vital role in contributing to Israel’s professional, technological and scientific advancement, and will replenish the reservoir of engineers, many of whom came to Israel from Russia in the early 1990s, who have played a critical role in Israel’s advancement and who will soon begin to retire.
Wishing us all success in the upcoming academic year! The writer is chairman of the Board of Directors of Bank Hapoalim.