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.

The Technion Breaks Ground in China

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(l to r) Technion President Peretz Lavie; People’s Republic of China (PRC) Vice Minister of Science and Technology Cao Jianlin; Israel Minister of Science, Technology and Space Ofir Akunis; Governor of Guangdong Zhu Xiaodan; former Israeli President Shimon Peres; Secretary of the CCP Guangdong Province Committee Hu Chunhua; Chairman of Li Ka Shing Foundation Mr. Li Ka-shing; PRC Vice Minister of Education Hao Ping

When one of the most prominent philanthropists in the world’s largest country wants to transform his hometown, where does he look? Thousands of miles away to a small Start-up Nation and a world-renowned university with a quickly growing global reputation for innovation and excellence. In other words, the Technion.

Last month, I had the privilege of seeing this remarkable story unfold up close as I joined lay leaders and senior staff of the American Technion Society on a delegation to Shantou, China for the groundbreaking of the Guangdong Technion Israel Institute of Technology (GTIIT). A partnership between the Technion and Shantou University, the GTIIT will be the first campus of an Israeli university on Chinese soil. It is scheduled for completion in 2017, with enrollment slated to begin next year.

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(l to r) Frank Sixt, Group Finance Director and Deputy Managing Director of CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd.; Larry Jackier, Chairman of the Technion Board of Governors; Ofir Akunis, Israel Minister of Science, Technology and Space; Eleanor Jackier; Jeff Richard and Peretz Lavie, Technion President

The GTIIT would not have been possible without a visionary like Li Ka-shing, who is one of the world’s most successful businessmen and generous philanthropists. His philanthropic work demonstrates the potential of a single person to change many millions of lives – from children with cleft palates and disabilities in China, to earthquake survivors in Nepal, to cancer patients in America.

Seeking a partner institution of higher education to develop a world-class research university in the Guangdong province, Mr. Li chose the Technion.

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A rendering of the GTIIT campus. Photo credit: Guangdong Nan Ya Construction Engineering Design Co. and Mochly-Eldar Architects

Like many others around the world – including the City of New York, home of the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech – China’s leaders are now actively looking to build strategic partnerships with Israel. They see how the country has become a powerhouse of science and technology, attracting more venture capital and launching more startups per capita than anywhere else on the planet. There is no doubt that Israeli educational institutions – the Technion in particular, which Mr. Li described as “Israel’s greatest treasure” during his remarks at the groundbreaking – are at the center of this success.

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Former Israeli President Shimon Peres

After more than two decades of extraordinary growth driven by industrialization, China’s leaders recognize that developing human capital is key to their country’s continued economic expansion. GTIIT’s three academic departments – engineering, physical sciences, and life sciences – will equip graduates with the powerful knowledge and knack for out-of-the-box thinking that comes with a Technion education. This investment in the Chinese people will spawn new companies and drive economic activity in Guangdong, while advancing solutions to some of the greatest challenges facing the country – from reducing air pollution, to developing alternative energy sources, to addressing health crises like cancer and lung disease.

The groundbreaking at GTIIT also represents an important step forward in the development of Israel-Chinese ties. On hand to mark the moment was former Israeli President Shimon Peres, who established official diplomatic relations with China as Foreign Minister in 1992. He spoke about the vast potential in the emerging relationship between the two countries.

As Technion President Peretz Lavie said during the groundbreaking, combining Israel’s innovative spirit with China’s scale and resources will produce a powerful partnership. The new institute’s Chinese faculty will spend their first year at the Technion campus in Haifa, where they will develop classroom materials and launch new research collaborations with their Israeli counterparts. GTIIT will also provide a strong basis for business collaboration, including plans to build the China-Israel Innovation Industrial Park in Shantou.

The GTIIT will also yield benefits that ripple far beyond both countries and extend to all of mankind. Science is not a solo sport. Bringing together the most talented researchers in Israel and China will advance progress on challenges from fighting cancer to developing clean energy technologies that could change the way we live.

In so many ways, the great promise of the GTIIT brings to life the truly transformative power of philanthropy. Our whole delegation came home incredibly proud of our organization’s many decades of support for the Technion, which provided a crucial foundation for the university to grow into the world-class institution it is today – and attract investments and partnerships with visionaries like Li Ka-shing. Together, we will continue to strengthen the foundation of science that propels the Technion – and Israel – to the forefront of the global stage, offering light to nations everywhere.