TECHNION – THE ART & HEART OF TECHNICAL INNOVATION
Just like a visit to England for me includes a visit to the country’s famous seats of higher learning, Oxford and Cambridge, and a visit to Paris includes a visit to the Quartier Latin and the Sorbonne, so a visit to Israel includes a visit to the world-famous Technion Institute of Technology. Plus, ever since the 2009 publication of the best-selling book, Start-Up Nation, I have been intrigued as to how the young country of Israel with a population of just over 7 million (at the time of publication) could have more companies listed on the NASDAQ than any other country in the world besides the U.S. and could also rank 2nd in successful start-ups after the U.S.
I suspected I would find some answers in the heart and soul of the Technion Institute of Technology. After all, 85% of Israel’s technological workforce is employed by companies led by Technion graduates, half of the Israeli companies traded on NASDAQ were founded by Technion graduates, and 23% of Technion graduates start at least one new company during the course of their careers. So half suspecting to find some kind of genius dust in the air molecules, we went to the Visitor’s Center on the Technion campus to get a sense of the driving spirit of innovation which is known to widely exist among its 14,000 students.
What we discovered during the course of our morning visit as we learned about the Technion, past and present, was that a combination of factors lead to creating one of the most perfect incubators for innovation in the world. First and foremost, the Technion opened its doors in 1912 with a profound focus on pioneering new technologies, and blessed by Albert Einstein’s commitment, a tradition of excellence was quickly born which has strengthened throughout its more than 100 years of operation to this day. Part of the “tradition” is undoubtedly survival-based, for example the Iron Dome which protects civilians against missile attacks, and part is most assuredly the passion for innovation and discovery in the hearts of these savvy technological pioneers.
Moreover, situated on the slopes of Mt. Carmel in Haifa, the Technion seems to provide the ideal environment for nourishing creation with a wide range of opportunities for personal growth. Affectionately referred to as “Technion City”, the large campus offers pretty much everything students need for that famous Israeli “happiness factor” (http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-improbable-happiness-of-israelis-1462833235 ) — from a wide range of restaurants and cafes to a variety of weekly athletic, social and cultural activities plus an active Student Association. Once a week there is a 2-hour hiatus from classroom instruction and Technion City comes alive with musicians and open air markets, inviting students to recharge their batteries and enjoy life together.
Students can also take a break from their studies and research by enjoying films at the campus cinema at the Student Center or live concerts at the nearby amphitheater. For student athletes, there is a wide assortment of sport teams to join, from water sports and racket sports to martial arts and extreme sports, and for the culturally-inclined, there is the Technion Symphony Orchestra and Choir, and the Technion’s acclaimed Folk Dance Troupe which performs on and off-campus. Finally, if students need a big-city fix or want to relax on the beach, public transportation is readily available to take them into Haifa, the third largest city in Israel with beautiful beaches and a harmonious lifestyle among the many religious groups and sects living there. The Technion nourishes the whole person, not just the innovator/scientist.
The Technion has often been called “Israel’s MIT” for good reason. In fact, in a recent survey by MIT, the Technion scored #6 in the world for its “contribution in the field of entrepreneurship and innovation”, and #1 worldwide for “technological innovation in a challenging environment”.
Plus, in the past several years, the Technion which annually hosts several thousand foreign students has expanded its innovative reach through launching two successful joint ventures, one with Cornell University which won a huge award from NYC to create the Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute (TCII) on Roosevelt Island, and another in China with Shantou University which will create the Technion-Guandong Institute of Technology and very significantly amplify the impact of Technion research and graduates on China and the world. The pioneering spirit of the Institute’s founders, marked by devotion to innovation and growth, is alive and growing today.
Why is all of this so important and interesting? Are there some kind of genius particles floating around Technion City? Ask yourself these questions the next time you use a USB memory stick or have a family or friend whose cancer is detected by a simple breath test using nanosensors, or whose life is saved thanks to non‐invasive destruction of tumors by ultrasound or by advances in stem-cell research. And wouldn’t you prefer surgery using non-invasive ultrasound rather than having to go under the knife? These and so many more technological advances are all in our lives today thanks to the graduates of the Technion. My reaction goes from interest to awe when I contemplate the wide range of Technion inspired innovations … and now with the new joint ventures, the innovators and innovations should multiply exponentially. For more information or to better understand the creation of innovation, visit the Technion website or better yet, go to the Visitors Center on the Technion campus in Haifa.
Stay tuned to BonVoyageurs.com for our writings about other Countries of the World as we share our joie de vivre from around the world. Luxury escapes, cruises and city breaks to Quebec City, New York, Washington, Buenos Aires. In Europe and the Mediterranean, places like Paris and Nice in France, Florence, Rome, Napoli and the Amalfi Coast in Italy, Tel Aviv in Israel. In Asia, countries like China, India, Nepal and so much more!