Technion professor Boaz Golany talks about the institute’s ventures and why it offers the most value in terms of support for Israel
By ERIN ELLIOTT BRYAN / Community News Editor
Professor Boaz Golany, vice president for external affairs at the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology, was in Minnesota recently as part of a fundraising tour of the United States.
“I’ve been roaming the land, as they say, from coast to coast, from south to north,” Golany said, during a visit to the AJW offices on Nov. 12.
Golany’s trip was coordinated by the American Technion Society, one of 18 friends’ societies around the world. The American society, Golany noted, is the oldest — it was founded in 1941 by Professor Albert Einstein — and most significant, accounting for nearly two-thirds of the Technion’s global fundraising.
“[The American Technion Society] has played an enormous role in making the Technion the leading science and technology university,” Golany said. “Over the years, approaching the 75th anniversary of this society, it has raised more than $2 billion for the Technion.”
While he was in the Twin Cities, Golany spoke at two events. On Nov. 11, he presented the Technion’s role in Israel’s defense and high-tech start-ups at the Stinson Leonard Street law firm. And on Nov. 12, in an event hosted by the American Israel Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Minnesota at Bell State Bank, Golany discussed promoting greater levels of collaboration between Minnesota companies, researchers and the Technion.
Among the projects in which the Technion is engaged is a joint project with Cornell University, which is known as the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute. The campus will be located on Roosevelt Island, on the East River between Queens and Manhattan.
The two institutions won a competition run by the City of New York to launch a new university aimed at strengthening the technology and high-tech sector in New York. The Technion-Cornell Institute is intended to offer a global perspective on technology transfer, commercialization and entrepreneurship.
“Around the new institute, we will have three rings of industrial activities: the first ring will be start-ups, then small to medium enterprises, and last, multinationals,” Golany said. “With the multinationals, we’ve already started with the likes of Google. On the start-up activity — because we’re pretty good at that in Israel and at the Technion, and we know how to generate such activity — we have launched a unique post-doctoral training program.”
Unlike traditional postdoctoral programs, which prepare Ph.D. graduates to become university professors, the Technion-Cornell Institute’s program will train graduates and prepare them to launch technology start-up companies.
“Out of the seven students in the first cohort, four new companies were launched already,” Golany said.
Also on the horizon is a joint venture between the Technion and Shantou University in China, to build the Technion Guangdong Institute of Technology. The new institute will be open to Chinese students and offer international faculty, who will be trained at the Technion in Israel.
Golany said the venture was completely financed by Chinese authorities, but all academic responsibility and authority is in the hands of the Technion, including admissions, hiring, curriculum and the awarding of diplomas.
“In both New York and China, we share the intellectual property on innovations that might arise from these joint activities,” Golany said. “And we certainly hope to generate some revenues that will help not just the Technion, but its partners.”
Golany mentioned several other projects in which the Technion is involved, including a cancer research project at NYU’s Langone Medical Center; ongoing postdoctoral training programs with Johns Hopkins University and MIT; and business partnerships with 24 multinational companies, such as Microsoft, Google, HP, and Johnson and Johnson.
In Israel, Technion graduates comprise 80 percent of the employees, and all of the engineers, of Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, which developed the Iron Dome missile defense system. The Technion is also one of only 10 universities around the world that has designed, manufactured and launched its own satellites.
“You can see, here and there, there’s a satellite that goes in the wrong way, you’ll know it’s an Israeli satellite. So when people ask me why, I say because we write from right to left,” Golany said. “But the truth is that the ‘goyishe’ satellites go in the correct way because they use the centrifugal force of the Earth, which means they shoot the missile that carries the satellite pointing eastward. In our case, if we had to do that, it means parts of the launcher would fall over enemy territory and that might be another war in the Middle East. So we are forced to launch our missiles in the wrong way, pointing westward, so that the parts will fall into the Mediterranean.”
This fact has also put Israel at a disadvantage as to how much of a payload can be carried into space, so the Technion is working on microsatellites.
Golany said the Technion is “leading the pack” in converting dollars of support into new innovations and research for a variety of areas around the world, including water treatment, biomedical devices and pharmaceuticals, energy solutions, security, transportation and communication. He also praised the institute’s 13,000 students, who tend to be more mature after completing their military service and embrace an entrepreneurial spirit.
“We have a lot of motivated kids who want to seek the highest level of education that they can get. Over the years, so many doors were closed to Jews and they had to improvise… Necessity is the mother of all invention, of course, which is true in our case,” Golany said. “There are many ways to support Israel and it’s important to support Israel. But if you want to find a place where you will get the most bang for your buck, there’s no better place than the Technion.” (American Jewish World, 11.21.14)
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