Inspiration for the New Year

During the final quarter of 2017 alone, Technion achieved what feels like many years’ worth of breakthroughs, awards, and milestones in its global partnerships, which are saving lives, creating jobs, and advancing the bounds of human knowledge in so many fields.

Here’s a quick review of some of the most exciting highlights from 2017, which offer a glimpse into the kind of transformative innovation we can expect in the year ahead.

An Israeli university in China

GTIIT_Dancing LionsIsrael’s population is less than 9 million, and China’s is more than 1.4 billion. Yet the two nations are true partners in the Guangdong Technion Israel Institute of Technology (GTIIT), which was inaugurated on Dec. 18 as the first Israeli university in China. The result of a historic partnership between Technion, the Li Ka-shing Foundation, the Guangdong Provincial Government, and the Shantou Municipal Government, the new university will train an elite group of scientists and engineers in disciplines related to the environment.

A starfish creates ceramics

An international research team led by Technion’s Department of Materials Science has discovered how a brainless brittle star can create material like tempered glass underwater at ambient conditions. The discovery may open new bio-inspired routes for toughening brittle ceramics in various applications.

The world’s leader in digital education

A recent survey of representatives from leading global companies that was published by Times Higher Education identified Technion as the world’s leading academic institution when it comes to preparing students to take top positions in the digital revolution. Technion came in ahead of the University College of London, the Korea Institute of Science and Technology, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the top 10 of the rankings, once again proving that Israel punches far above its weight in global innovation.

Stemming the rise of antibiotic resistance

Team Prismatix—a collaboration between Technion and the Bnai Zion Medical Center—earned the Longitude Prize Fund’s Discovery Award for making promising developments in rapid diagnostics for antimicrobial resistance. The Israeli team developed technology that provides a determination of antibiotic resistance in less than three hours—the first step towards a point–of–care diagnostic test that will conserve antibiotics for future generations and revolutionize the delivery of global healthcare.

Helping paralyzed rats walk again

A group led by Technion researchers successfully repaired completely severed spinal cords in paralyzed rats, giving them the ability to walk again. The researchers hope that once follow-up studies are conducted, the technology utilized to restore mobility for the rats can be applied to treating humans’ spinal cord injuries.

Producing Point-of-Sale Hydrogen

Technion researchers are using solar energy to make hydrogen from water, which will make possible the production of hydrogen in a safe, centralized manner at the point of sale (for example, at a gas station for electric cars fueled by hydrogen) located far from the solar farm.

Making waves in Illinois and New York

Technion continued the rapid growth of its influence in the U.S. this fall by signing a research accord with the University of Illinois system, the dedication of Cornell Tech’s Roosevelt Island campus in New York, home of the Joan & Irwin Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute, and inking a water technology agreement with the City of Chicago.

Diagnosing diseases based on eyelid motion

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Student Alon Berger (seated) wears the Technion-created device that can diagnose diseases based on eyelid motion. At right is lead researcher Adi Hanuka, of the Technion’s Andrew and Erna Viterbi Faculty of Electrical Engineering.

Researchers at Technion have developed a device that can diagnose diseases by means of an eyelid motion monitor. The device, which is in its developmental stages, has won several international awards.

It is no accident that Israel has cultivated an environment with the world’s largest number of start-ups per capita. The seeds of Start-Up Nation are planted at academic institutions, particularly at the Technion—where future and current innovators, Israeli and international alike, receive the training and conduct the research to advance game-changing innovation for Israel and the world.

Technion not only produces breakthroughs in cancer research, computer science, defense technology, environmental engineering, nanotechnology, and other fields, but amplifies the power of this innovation by forging key partnerships with fellow leading academic institutions worldwide.

These highlights symbolize the tremendous power of our work to advance knowledge and improve lives—fulfilling our role as a university of excellence in a global society. Stronger than ever, with more vital potential than ever, we look forward to spreading even more of our light in 2018.

The Technion and New York: Partners in Innovation

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2017 Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute Connective Media and Health Tech Graduates

New York City might seem like the center of the world when it comes to culture, finance and media, but that’s not all: it’s emerging as a capital of technological innovation and start-up gusto. In a global economy that relies on people disrupting the status quo, the city that never sleeps is working harder than ever to become a center for revolutionary new technology ideas. Perhaps what’s most interesting about the story is that New Yorkers have one of the best partners in the world in their quest to become a tech hub: Israel.

The new strategic New York–Israel tech partnership crystallized in 2011, when former Mayor Michael Bloomberg called upon the world’s leading universities to propose a plan to transform New York City into the next Silicon Valley. Cornell University and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology joined forces to submit the proposal that won NYC’s support, creating Cornell Tech, home of the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute, which offers an exciting model for applied graduate education by providing students with the skills and mindset to innovate. In a few months, Cornell Tech will open its state-of-the-art, 2.1 million-square-foot campus on Roosevelt Island.

Last month, the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute graduated its second class of Connective Media students and first class of Health Tech students. They have been hosted at Google’s New York headquarters for the past two years. Alumni are already making waves. A new fintech startup called Switch hopes to alleviate some of the stress of self-insurance. Switch is a platform that uses unique data about independent contractors that allows them to be covered for the duration of a job. Depending on the type of work required and the duration of the assignment, freelancers will be advised on the best type of coverage for them. Switch team member Rishav Kanoria is a 2017 Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute Connective Media graduate.

Another 2017 graduate, Claire Opila, is creating a smartphone keyboard that can detect the emotions of the user by measuring typing speed, punctuation changes, phone movement, distance between keys, and the words being used. Keymochi already has 82 percent accuracy, and will help future researchers determine how to improve health and healthcare.

Photo for blog.pngThese graduates aren’t just changing the start-up scene in New York City, but doing work that will change the world.

Along the same lines as Mayor Bloomberg’s vision for a 21st century New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo visited Israel in the spring and launched a New York– Israel economic development commission. I’m privileged to serve on this commission with 21 other people, as we work to unlock joint opportunities for innovation between the State of Israel and the State of New York—such as by supporting academic and research exchanges between SUNY and CUNY colleges and Israeli universities.

We have just scratched the surface of the potential for these collaborations.

Cornell Tech, home of the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute, is projected to generate more than $23 billion in economic activity over the next three decades. The New York–Israel economic development commission will strengthen an economic partnership that is already strong (to the tune of almost $5 billion in exports from New York to Israel).

What’s next? Other cities, states and countries may well look at New York, and see that where the Technion goes innovation follows. I expect that we will see more and more collaborations as Israel’s start-up powerhouse continues to build its name on the global stage.

Technion Integrated Cancer Center (TICC): Turning Big Ideas into Action

Compelling philanthropic initiatives often sound simple.

End child hunger. Educate all people. Spread clean water access. Help earthquake victims. Improve health care. Cure cancer.

But these bold objectives are not simple. These are big, complex ideas requiring tremendous resources that research universities are often best equipped to harness. Philanthropy is one of the key resources needed. We at ATS don’t actually execute these initiatives—but we play the critical role of translating the big ideas into action by connecting the diverse and sometimes disparate groups of people who can accomplish these far-reaching goals together.

In other words, we don’t solve the problem: we enable the Technion to assemble the team that can solve the problem. It’s a subtle but important distinction that was brought to life earlier this month, as we marked the opening of the Technion Integrated Cancer Center, a first-of-its-kind institution that brings together world-class clinical experts, a group of life science researchers led by a Nobel Prize winner, and top-level chemists, physicists and engineers to win the battle against cancer.

The TICC serves as a nexus for the Technion’s five affiliated hospitals that run clinical trials, the Rappaport Faculty of Medicine’s life sciences researchers, the Faculty of Computer Science’s innovations in processing large data sets, the Viterbi Faculty of Electrical Engineering’s and the Faculty of Physics’ development of devices for diagnosis and imaging, and the Faculty of Mathematics’ search for new, more powerful algorithms to quickly and effectively process complex data.

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(l to r) Prof. Ze’ev Ronai, Co-Director of the TICC; Technion President Professor Peretz Lavie; Yona Yahav, Mayor of Haifa; Distinguished Professor Aaron Ciechanover, Co-Director of the TICC; Prof. Rafi Beyar, Director of the Rambam Healthcare Campus  

 

Cancer is one of the greatest challenges of humankind today. In the U.S. alone, with its population of 300 million people, there are 1.5 million new cancer patients every year, causing 300,000 deaths. When I spoke with TICC Co-Director Ze’ev Ronai, he emphasized that harnessing the power of diverse, accomplished researchers and practitioners is essential to advancing our ability to combat cancer.

“We have quite a few ideas about how to combat this disease, but translating those ideas into actual drugs is not easy. We have to determine if the drugs work by finding the right patient population because not all patients will respond to certain drugs. And we need to develop new strategies to determine who those patients are,” Ronai said. “We used to develop the same drugs to attack cancer, but we now know that cancer is complex and heterogeneous. Our drugs need to be smart enough to attack the different elements of each different type of cancer.”

The TICC brings together these interdependent experts to win this battle. Researchers comprising the initiative have already published hundreds of papers and, right now, are working on five compounds to treat the disease. They are searching for ways to stop remission. They are developing new strategies that track patients’ reactions to therapies and will extend life without side effects.

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Distinguished Professor and Nobel Laureate Aaron Ciechanover, Co-Director of the TICC

“The powerful connections we enable between engineers, advanced cancer researchers, and clinical doctors,” Ronai said, “will drive the development of novel diagnostic tools and treatments that ultimately result in better outcomes for patients.”

As the Technion positions itself to meet the needs of tomorrow, the ATS is doing the same. We help our supporters zero in on big ideas that they are passionate about and work with the Technion to determine how to best translate these ideas into initiatives and programs that will have a transformative impact.

For instance, we partnered with philanthropists Laura and Isaac Perlmutter, whose generosity has financed a state-of-the-art cancer research facility at the Technion, along with six joint research projects between NYU’s Perlmutter Cancer Center and the Technion. Their investment has enabled the Technion to recruit Professor Eyal Gottlieb, a world leader in the study of cancer metabolomics, to lead this effort. He will work with other American and Israeli scientists to push the boundaries of human knowledge about the unique chemical fingerprints of cellular processes, which holds remarkable potential to unlock treatments for this deadly disease.

Like the Perlmutters, the Crown Family recognizes the importance of bringing together the wide-ranging teams of experts necessary to tackle the biggest ideas–like curing cancer. That’s why part of their support for the TICC is allocated to faculty recruitment. By daring to experiment boldly, thoughtfully, and without fear of failure, today’s social entrepreneurs are changing the way philanthropy works. This is not only exhilarating to behold–it is essential for our future.

I invite you to learn more about the TICC and other cancer breakthroughs we are supporting at www.ats.org/cancer.

#Technion3Qs: Cyber Security With Jacobs Prof. Ari Juels

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Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute Prof. Ari Juels

I am fortunate to have a front-row seat to some of the most exciting, innovative, and brilliant work of our times — talking to Technion-related thought leaders all over the world is definitely one of the biggest perks of my job. I’d like to start sharing more of these conversations with you, in blog and social media posts I’ll call “Technion Three Questions,” or #Technion3Qs. Today’s guest, in honor of National Cyber Security Awareness Month, is Ari Juels, a renowned computer scientist and professor at the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech.

Q1: As a cyber expert at the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute, what do you think is the biggest cyber threat today?
I’d highlight a couple that are of interest from a geopolitical perspective, with a U.S.-centric view. Cyberattacks by state actors that erode confidence in the outcome of the presidential election are a big, realistic, and proximate threat, aggravated by the doubts about the integrity of the system irresponsibly sowed by one of the candidates. A less visible, but perhaps equally pernicious geopolitical threat, is the silent theft of intellectual property from the United States by other nations. Such attacks harm not only U.S. industry, but also national security. And they are occurring on a truly massive scale.
 
Q2: What do most people not know about Internet security?
A rising threat that most people are oblivious about, but that happily researchers and policymakers are becoming increasingly sensitized to, is “algorithmic fairness.” Algorithms are increasingly making key decisions in our lives, filtering the news we see, computing our credit scores, sifting through our job and loan applications, and so forth. In many cases, even the creators of these algorithms don’t know how they work. They just train a machine learning model using existing data. Thus there are serious risks of hidden bias or error. Some high-profile cases, such as Staples’ inadvertent discriminatory pricing regime, illustrate the threat, but we don’t yet have good tools or practices to address it.
 
Q3: What new kinds of thinking are you seeing from your students who are preparing to be the next generation of cyber security experts?
My students are especially excited about blockchains and cryptocurrency, and thus viewing security as an enabling force, rather than just a tool to defend systems from breaches. Blockchains enable trust relationships to be forged between people and entities without longstanding relationships, sometimes in remarkable ways. Trust is, of course, the foundation of a flourishing society, so there are real opportunities for cryptography and security to improve well-being.

Learn more about how the Technion is helping transform New York City via the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech www.ats.org/nyc.
 

Sitting Down with Steve Blank: Entrepreneurship in Philanthropy

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(l to r) Steve Blank and Jeff Richard

Silicon Valley knows Steve Blank as a serial entrepreneur who has launched eight startups and as the creator of the Lean Startup movement. His books The Four Steps to the Epiphany and The Startup Owner’s Manual have emerged as required reading for anyone launching a startup.

In other words, Steve is one of the country’s top experts on entrepreneurship. This is why I was so honored to have sat down with him recently on his SiriusXM radio program to talk about ways to bring the ethos of entrepreneurship to our work in philanthropy.

Throughout my career as a development professional, I’ve always strived to bring an entrepreneurial spirit to my work. Just like in business, when it comes to philanthropy, you must be willing to take risks, think differently, and dream big. Leaders must have a vision for moving the organization forward so that colleagues and staff can rally behind it. You don’t need all the answers because entrepreneurs don’t do things alone — whether they are working in the social or business sector — they need to create an atmosphere where everyone has a voice and everyone shares a common purpose.

Thus, effective development in philanthropy at its core is the same as effective entrepreneurship in the private sector: it’s about understanding your product and your audience in a deep way, developing a vision, and getting others to believe in that vision.

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I am grateful to be surrounded by entrepreneurs as the Technion’s development partner in America. Israel is the start-up nation and the Technion is the beating heart of Israel’s high-tech economy. I get to experience the relentless drive and unique vision of each individual who works or learns at the Technion, as they advance solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems.

It is no coincidence that education receives the most support of any philanthropic cause, after religion. Recently, a Trust USA study on high net worth individuals found that 75 percent of donors give to higher education, more than half consider education their most important policy issue, and they give more to education dollar-by-dollar than any other cause.

The Technion provides a compelling example for this philosophy of giving. During the interview, Steve said to me, “This university in Haifa has a lot of reach.” It sure does. We reach across oceans and continents through our research and our alumni, and now through our campuses. We are the first Israeli university with foreign campuses and the first foreign university to offer degrees on American soil. The university is building new partnerships and important bridges for Israel all over the world, from New York to China.

When I told my parents that I was going to be a professional fundraiser—they said, “We taught you to give away money, not to ask for it!” I’m not just asking people to give away money, I’m asking people to share a vision for something better. I’m asking them to help us do good. I’m asking them to invest. I’m asking them to be a part of a powerful and effective way to improve the lives of people around the world.

If you’d like to hear more about entrepreneurship in the philanthropic world, listen to my full interview on “Entrepreneurs are Everywhere” with Steve Blank here.

https://soundcloud.com/sgblank/jeff-richard-on-entrepreneurs-are-everywhere

Celebrating America’s First Technion Graduates

I am proud to share with you that earlier this week I contributed an article to The Times of Israel about Celebrating America’s First Technion Graduates.

This has been quite a historic moment as the inaugural class graduated from the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute.

If the past is any predictor of the future, Technion graduates in America will make a transformative impact, leveraging the unique skills and mindset of a Technion education. These innovators will join the ranks of others who have made cutting-edge drugs to fight cancer, and invented new ways to store and move data, which undergirds today’s tech revolution.

Read my full article posted on The Times of Israel
and please share it with your family, friends and network.

 

 

Zuckerman Scholars Program Promises to Transform Israel’s Science Landscape

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(l to r) Jeff Richard, ATS Executive VP; Boaz Golany, Technion VP for External Relations and Resource Development; and Mort Zuckerman

Fulbright. Rhodes. Marshall. These programs represent the pinnacle of achievement for young scholars, and have long served as a launching pad for many of the world’s greatest leaders and brightest thinkers. Late last month, I was proud to be present at a major ceremony in New York City as a new name was added to this prestigious international group – the Zuckerman Scholars Program – which will put Israel on the map in unprecedented ways for the most talented, up-and-coming American researchers.

The program is the brainchild of Mortimer Zuckerman – a renowned business leader and visionary philanthropist – who announced a commitment of more than $100 million to support scholarships for the highest-achieving American postdoctoral researchers and graduate students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) subjects. They will conduct research at four Israeli institutions: Technion, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University and Weizmann Institute of Science. The program will simultaneously bolster Israeli institutions as world-class centers for research, providing significant funding to recruit Israelis doing research in the U.S. back to the faculties of the four universities, and to develop top-tier labs, projects and programs.

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Mort Zuckerman addresses the capacity crowd at the Harvard Club.

“Who knows what might emerge next from the unpredictable meeting of minds between Tel Aviv and New York, between Haifa and Harvard, between Yiddish and Yale?” asked Mr. Zuckerman at the ceremony unveiling the program – which was attended by a range of dignitaries, among them New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Technion President Peretz Lavie and other Israeli university presidents, Nobel Prize laureates, and a range of leaders from business, technology, politics, academia and the arts.

Sitting in the audience, I felt a surge of pride knowing the integral role that the Technion will play in bringing together these great minds to actualize the bold vision of this program in the coming decades. And I couldn’t help but imagine the range of discoveries – and millions of lives that will be changed – as a result.

Limited by funding, Israeli universities have long struggled to compete for the top postdocs from Western countries, particularly the U.S. This major influx of resources will level the playing field. The Zuckerman Scholars Program will enable the Technion to attract more postdocs like Dr. Beth Schoen, a native of Florida, who is now working with a joint team of Israeli and American cancer researchers. Last year, her team discovered a new way to use silicon nanomaterials and stem cells to deliver chemotherapy drugs directly to cancerous tumors, avoiding harm to the surrounding healthy tissues.

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(l to r) Technion President Peretz Lavie and Jeff Richard

The program will also help the Technion and other Israeli institutions attract the best and brightest Israeli faculty, who are often lost to universities abroad. It will sponsor cutting-edge labs and funds for research to support the work of professors like Moran Bercovici in the Technion’s Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, who made the decision to come back to Israel after completing his doctorate at Stanford in large part because of the Technion’s state-of-the-art facilities. He is now developing next generation medical tools that could provide instant disease diagnoses, and revolutionize the way malaria and tuberculosis are detected and treated in developing countries.

The Technion has long been at the center of Israel’s emergence as a global research powerhouse. It is a focal point for the country’s most significant international research collaborations and has been the first to export Israel’s uniquely effective formula for higher education, opening satellite campuses at the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech in New York City ,and at the Guangdong Technion Israel Institute of Technology in Shantou, China. Last month’s announcement will accelerate this progress.

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(l to r) New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo; Prof. Daniel Zajfman, Weizmann Institute of Science; Prof. Menachem Ben Sasson, Hebrew University President; Mort Zuckerman; Prof. Peretz Lavie, Technion President; and Prof. Joseph Klafter, Tel Aviv University President

The relationships forged between American postdocs and their Israeli colleagues will continue throughout their careers, fostering a new network of collaboration, enriching the scientific communities of both countries, and strengthening the U.S.-Israel alliance.

We do not yet know exactly what groundbreaking research and life-changing solutions will result from this exciting new partnership between the brightest minds in our two countries. How many innovative treatments for cancer will be developed? What advances in clean-tech will help to address global warming? What new technologies will be created to spawn new companies and new industries?

Only time will tell. Yet, one thing is clear to me: supporting Israel’s rapid rise as an international hub for science and technology is an investment that will yield benefits that extend far beyond the Jewish state to all corners of the world.

For even more about the Zuckerman Scholars Program: Read the full press release about the announcement, view event photos, and join the conversation online using the hashtag #ZuckermanScholars.