Last month, I accompanied Technion President Peretz Lavie on his first trip to Roosevelt Island. Construction will begin soon to transform the land we stood on into the first graduate school of its kind – a global educational hub focused exclusively on developing pioneering leaders, entrepreneurs and technologies for the digital age. The Joan and Irwin Jacobs Technion— Cornell Institute will be the key anchor of activity on the Cornell Tech campus.
Many ask me: Why is this major collaboration between Cornell University and the Technion on Roosevelt Island such a big deal?
For Israel, this collaboration represents a major milestone in the export of the country’s greatest resource: innovation. For years, Israelis have been exporting the products of their innovation – from drip irrigation to the Pentium computer processor to the Waze traffic navigation app. Yet, rooting an Israeli university on American soil for the first time will export the process of Israeli innovation. The Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute will equip American and international students with the unique mindset and skillset that only comes with a Technion education.
This invitation to join an Ivy League institution in the United States – and subsequent expansion to other markets, including China – represents the first Israeli manifestation of the growing globalization of higher education. The Technion has now entered the ranks of other world-class institutions that serve students residing in all corners of the planet.
Building this global presence yields enormous benefits for the Technion. The introduction to new markets will allow the university to attract top faculty who were previously inaccessible – and facilitate synergies in international research projects. More than ever before, talented students from around the globe are expected to study abroad at the Technion’s Haifa campus.
These global partnerships will create particularly important opportunities for young Israeli academics. In fields like the life sciences, Israeli academia produces an excess of graduates that it cannot immediately reabsorb back into its system. The Technion’s international campuses will create a pathway for recent PhDs to gain experience and remain on track to pursue academic careers back in Israel.
For my hometown of New York City, partnering with the Technion is an integral part of its plan to jumpstart a new high-tech and startup economy. Cornell Tech and the Jacobs Institute will attract the next generation of great companies, entrepreneurs and technologists to the heart of Manhattan, spurring economic growth across New York City – and well beyond it.
Of course, it’s not just New York and Israel that will benefit from the Technion’s exciting expansion to the United States. The Jacobs Institute will create unique laboratories of ideas that harness technology to address some of the world’s most complex challenges.
The Institute’s three areas of focus, called “hubs,” are Connective Media, Built Environment, and Healthier Life. Each of these centers holds extraordinary possibilities for changing lives all over the world. The development of artificial intelligence could reshape human knowledge. Deploying cutting-edge information processing could fundamentally alter the way we build buildings and plan cities. Harnessing health-care technology systems and mobile applications can make us all healthier.
As I stood on a now empty plot of land alongside President Lavie, it was powerfully moving to imagine what this big, bold idea for Roosevelt Island will mean for my hometown, my homeland, and the university that I proudly work to support. As a permanent piece of the Technion takes root in New York City, our organization will take an active role and watch with excitement, knowing the extraordinary opportunities for advancing the university’s mission – to strengthen Israel and improve the world.