'Aspiration, Inspiration, Perspiration': Authors review their own book

"I urgently want to reveal the solution to a puzzling quandary, presented in our book. And it just can’t wait. Book reviewers take forever. And then they usually get it wrong."

 'Aspiration, Inspiration, Perspiration: How Technion Faculty & Graduates Fuse Creativity with Technology to Change the World' (photo credit: TECHNION)
'Aspiration, Inspiration, Perspiration: How Technion Faculty & Graduates Fuse Creativity with Technology to Change the World'
(photo credit: TECHNION)

Jerusalem Report logo small (credit: JPOST STAFF)Jerusalem Report logo small (credit: JPOST STAFF)

Columnist: Author, this is out of the question. Outrageous! Authors do not review their own books.

Co-Author: Well, yes, I know that. But this is an exception. 

Columnist: Exactly why is that?

Co-Author: Because... well, because I urgently want to reveal the solution to a puzzling quandary, presented in our book. And it just can’t wait. Book reviewers take forever. And then they usually get it wrong. Besides, at my advanced age...

Columnist: I still don’t like the idea. What is this deep dark secret you are revealing? That you have inflicted another 100,000 boring words on innocent bystanders?

Israel Start up (credit: INGIMAGE)Israel Start up (credit: INGIMAGE)

Co-Author: There, you see? Hostility! Despite you and I being the same person! Look, I intend to reveal to the world the recipe for Start-up Nation’s innovation secret sauce.

Columnist: All right, go ahead. Reveal your secret. But I reserve the right to scrap what follows if it is too long, too dull, or too anything.

And one more thing. All the stories in your book are about Technion faculty and graduates. Why just Technion?

Co-Author: Of course, Israel has scads of marvelous innovators from Tel Aviv U., Ben-Gurion U., Weizmann Institute, and other universities. Together they have created Start-up Nation and changed the world. These Technion geniuses were simply the innovators to whom we had quick, fast access.

So, here goes...

“There are pioneer souls that blaze the paths, Where highways never ran – But let me live by the side of the road, And be a friend to man.” The American poet Sam Walter Foss wrote these words in 1897.

For 43 years, I have lived in my Technion house by the side of the road, observing, studying and sometimes teaching pioneer souls who blaze new trails and implement tikkun olam – changing Israel and the world for the better, making people healthier, smarter, happier, and longer-lived, through their creativity. This has been a great blessing and privilege for me.

So what is the true source of the creative spark? To be honest, despite many articles and books on creativity, some of them my own, for many years I did not truly understand it. At the side of the road I pretended I did, especially when hoards of visitors from abroad came to learn the Technion recipe for the secret sauce. But in truth, the secret sauce remained a mystery.

Then one day I engaged with someone who has spent his life on the innovation road itself, rather than beside it, inventing and implementing innovative products and services – my friend and colleague Rafi Nave. He suggested that we interview Technion graduates and faculty who are outstanding pioneer innovators and have them recount in their own words what they did, how they did it, and why.

Rafi was managing director of Intel Israel, VP of Given Imaging, and held many other senior hi-tech positions. [See “Rafi Nave: Hi-Tech Pioneer,” Jerusalem Report, July 8, 2019]. Together, we devised a short, four-part questionnaire and used it to interview 100 creative innovators who were either graduates of Technion or past and present faculty members. We did this during the corona lockdown, which enabled us to contact by Zoom many very busy people who might otherwise have been far less accessible.

Rafi Nave addresses a conference of Falling Walls, an international platform for leaders from the worlds of science, business, politics, the arts and society initiated on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall (credit: Courtesy)Rafi Nave addresses a conference of Falling Walls, an international platform for leaders from the worlds of science, business, politics, the arts and society initiated on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall (credit: Courtesy)

Our book tells their innovation stories in their own words. Perhaps, in its own way, our book is innovative. There are mountains of books and articles on the creative process, but very few recount the secret sauce of creativity in the innovators’ own words.

Here, then, is the recipe for creativity that emerged. There are three primary ingredients:

  • Aspiration – aim high, tackle huge tough unsolved challenges others may avoid.
  • Inspiration – think differently, way out of the box, cultivating wild ideas.

And last and far from least:

  • Perspiration – Creative ideas are worthless unless they are implemented. It takes long hard work to transform a radical idea into something millions of people use, love and enjoy, often swimming upstream against a powerful tide of opposition.

That’s it. Those are the ingredients.

And now, the stories to illustrate each one, drawn from our book.


My co-author Rafi Nave led development in Israel of the pioneering Intel 8087 math co-processor, announced in 1980. It was the first floating-point Math co-processor for the 8086 microprocessors. And it was a huge challenge. Nothing like it had been done before. In Rafi’s words: 

“By far, my most outstanding accomplishment was the development of the Intel-8087, for several reasons. At the time, it was the most complex Very Large-Scale Integration chip that Intel developed to date. It literally put Intel Israel center on the map as a leading center within Intel. Some experts maintain that Intel won the race against Motorola to develop the microprocessor for the IBM PC due to having the math co-processor. If that is true, winning this competition is what ensured Intel’s success for three decades. For several years, in the late ’80s, the math processors were the most profitable product line and most of Intel’s profits were due to their sales. It helped establish it as the de-facto standard for all computing systems worldwide, thereby making computers and all systems far more reliable and accurate.” 

Prof. Arie Warshel completed his B.Sc. degree in chemistry at Technion and won the Nobel Prize in 2013 for creatively combining four distinct fields: chemistry, biology, computer science and quantum mechanics. Mastering only one of them would be hugely difficult. Integrating all four is Herculean.

He describes his challenging aspiration:

“The gradual acceptance of my work has not been a simple ride. My key idea and results were originally considered to be incorrect and then termed as trivial ideas that were persistently attributed to others. We developed a major computational method for correlating the structure and function of biological molecules and these methods have become major tools in studies of medically related problems.

“Today there is no doubt that computers are assuming larger and larger roles in modeling complex systems, and that their role will only increase even further in the future. In this respect, the contribution of my colleagues and myself in pushing the field forward has been just the first step in what is going to be a long-lasting merger of experiments and computations.”

Professor Shulamit Levenberg served until recently as dean of Technion’s Biomedical Engineering faculty. She made breakthrough discoveries for vascularization (improving blood flow) in engineered stem cell tissues, to repair ailing heart muscles and even spinal cords. In her own words:

“My discoveries involve in-vitro vascularization (blood vessel formation) of engineered tissues where, upon implantation, the engineered vessels connect with the host vasculature, improving survival and perfusion of engineered grafts. We were also the first to engineer vascularized tissue flaps, offering novel reconstruction techniques using engineered tissue constructs. Our work demonstrated the effect of scaffold stiffness and tensile forces on early differentiation and organization of stem cells in 3D constructs and on alignment of vessel networks in engineered tissues. Recently, we developed unique stem cell engineered tissue constructs that induce the regeneration and repair of injured spinal cords, demonstrating such regeneration in rats.”


Prof. Avram Hershko, together with Prof. Aaron Ciechanover, won the 2004 Nobel Prize for Chemistry. He recounts: 

“My primary discovery was ubiquitin and its role in the mechanism of destruction of proteins. In one of my first experiments in my post-doc assignment, I observed that the destruction of a protein inside the human cell required energy. This was interesting since protein degradation outside of cells does not need energy. I looked for a new kind of energy-dependent mechanism that degrades proteins in cells. This led me to the discovery of ubiquitin, which is attached to proteins and labels them for destruction.

“It might have been mere luck that I chose to do this experiment early in my career. But luck by itself would not have steered me toward further achievements. I had to embark on serious scientific work to pursue this unique finding. I chose to study how and why proteins are degraded and destroyed, when others wanted to learn only how proteins are made. It was a fortunate choice and may lead to novel and targeted treatments for cancer.

Prof. Avi Schroeder is in the Chemical Engineering faculty:

“Being an engineer, I thought of an engineering approach to prescreen drugs on a personal basis before we begin a [cancer] treatment cycle.

“The idea is simple. It is like testing for an allergy, by scratching the skin and applying a tiny amount of the allergenic material. In this approach, the cancer patient is given a battery of drugs, in minuscule doses, and then tested to see which, if any, actually reach the tumor, penetrate the cancer cells (which have clever defenses) and kill them.

“There are over 200 different anti-cancer drugs. Each person may react differently to them, depending on their genetic makeup and the type of cancer they have, and even depending on their gender. We now know that different patients respond completely differently to the same drugs, therefore there is a great need to tailor the treatment to each patient.”

In his method, Schroeder creates nanoparticles containing drugs “barcoded” (biologically marked) with DNA. These nanoparticles are injected into the patient’s bloodstream. They travel around the body and when they identify a tumor, the particles penetrate its cells through micro-fissures that cancer cells typically have. The drugs are then released into the cancer cells. Some of the drugs will work and kill the tumor; some won’t. To find out, the tumor is then biopsied, and cells are examined individually. The dead cells are separated from the living ones to see “which drug barcode is the most associated with killing cancer cells, and which are not.”

The late Uzia Galil was Israel’s first start-up entrepreneur. He passed away in June at age 96. His words were adapted from what he wrote in the past.

“The establishment of Elron was an innovative and most impactful step. Originally, I set Elron up as a lab in a small apartment, while maintaining, as a required source of income, a job at the Technion’s Faculty of Physics, in charge of its electronics laboratory as well as a lecturer in electronics. The evenings were dedicated to our mission in the small lab business.

“In 1961, Professor Moshe Arens introduced me to Dan Tolkowsky. At that time Dan managed the Discount Bank Investment Corporation. He came to visit our lab, was very impressed by what he saw and by our ideas, saw the potential, and convinced his directors to invest in the small Elron Lab! This led to the creation of a new ‘Elron Electronic Industries Ltd.’ on February 4, 1962!

“Our initial products were in the defense sector. Then in 1966 we set up Elbit Computers Ltd., 50% owned by the Defense Ministry and 50% owned by Elron Electronic Industries Ltd. I managed both Elron and Elbit.

“Next, I hired Avraham Suhami and we established Elscint, which developed systems for the medical market. In 1971 Elscint became the first Israeli hi-tech company to go public on the Nasdaq. All in all, those were pioneering days! We did start-ups 40 years before this term was born and contributed greatly to Israel’s electronics industry and to its defense.”

Prof. Hossam Haick, dean of undergraduate studies, and his research group have developed and patented 56 inventions, creating a new technology termed artificially intelligent nanoarray that can ostensibly diagnose more than 17 disease states through exhaled breath by using a non-invasive, inexpensive and fast method, known as an ‘electronic nose.’

The artificially intelligent nanoarray is easily portable and affordable in developing countries. As a result, the use of this technology by the world population, in developed countries and poorer areas, could lead to higher rates of the early detection of disease, which, in turn, could result in better prognosis and survival chances, as well as significant savings in healthcare expenditure.


Inbal Kreiss is head of innovation at the Systems, Missiles and Space Division of Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) and chairwoman of RAKIA, Israel’s second Scientific and Technological Mission to the International Space Station.

“In 2007 I was assigned to be the program manager of the Arrow 3 exo-atmospheric interceptor development program and led the program from concept to the successful flight tests in 2013. The system was awarded the prestigious Israel Security Prize in July 2017.”

Since 2013, Kreiss has played a critical role in the development of satellites and the success of Israel’s Beresheet spacecraft, designed by SpaceIL and IAI. [See Jerusalem Report, “Small Country, Big Dreams”, Jan. 10]. Although Beresheet failed to land successfully on the moon, crash-landing on April 11, 2019, the mission captured the imagination of children and adults alike worldwide. 

Her current additional mission as the chairwoman of the RAKIA mission provides a platform for the multitude of Israeli experiments that wish to leverage the lack of gravity and vacuum that exist only in space. She said she is proud to help lead the Israeli space industry to new heights as the most senior female figure in the industry,

David (Dadi) Perlmutter was executive vice-president of Intel, second in rank to the CEO. He led the team that shaped the definition of the Pentium. In addition, he was instrumental in transforming the personal computing market to notebooks with wireless communication and multi-processing on a single die, in all computing markets.

“The key to this revolution was the Centrino chipset, introduced in March 2003, with the marketing motto ‘unwire your world.’ Today, we take ubiquitous WiFi for granted. But 17 years ago, the transition to WiFi-enabled laptops (and later, smartphones) was a radical idea. This involved shifting Intel’s value proposition from ‘more megahertz’ to ‘wireless mobility’ and ‘compute anywhere, anytime.’

“As an Intel Group general manager in the 1990s, I led the team that revolutionized computer architecture by creating ‘Out Of Order’ Execution, which led Intel into the data center (cloud). There, over 90% of data center computing runs on Intel products; we transformed supercomputing from big machines nitrogen-cooled (e.g. Cray) to silicon-based multiprocessing, where thousands and even tens of thousands of off the shelf microprocessors are used in combination.”

One of my hobbies is baking bread. I use an old Japanese bread machine that seems immortal. The ingredients are straightforward: egg, water, flour, yeast. And a bit of honey for flavor. The machine kneads, lets the dough rise, kneads, lets it rise again, bakes – and in four and one-half hours, presto. Fresh-baked bread! The wonderful smell pervades the whole house.

The ingredients of world-changing creativity are also, we believe, straightforward. Aspire. Inspire. Perspire. 

But there is no bread machine to process them. That takes extraordinary people.

Israel is blessed with an enormous number of them. With their creativity, they enrich our lives and the lives of people in the whole world. In my house by the side of the road, observing, admiring, and interviewing them was a great blessing and privilege. When my co-author and I completed our book, we said the blessing of thanksgiving, sheheheyanu. ■

The writer heads the Zvi Griliches Research Data Center at S. Neaman Institute, Technion, and blogs at www.timnovate.wordpress.com 

Aspiration, Inspiration, Perspiration: How Technion Faculty & Graduates Fuse Creativity with Technology to Change the World.Shlomo Maital & Rafi NaveS. Neaman Institute, Technion: Haifa, 2021. 397 pages.