Category Archives: University visit

Weizmann Institute: paradise for scientists

Scientific research in Israel: specific effort for the commercialization of scientific inventions

J-3. It was after meeting with entrepreneurs in the incubator in Nazareth NGT and tasted the food through the famous Israeli hummus that we visited the Weizmann Institute.

At Weizmann Institute

At Weizmann Institute

Weizmann is its founder’s name. Who is Mr Weizmann, the founder of the university? Mr. Weizmann was the first president of Israel. He promoted many innovations by giving a vision and taking actions. He is considered one of the founders of biotechnology.

inside the Weizmann Institute

inside the Weizmann Institute

the Innovators Nation team in the stairs, Weizmann house

the Innovators Nation team in the stairs, Weizmann house

The essential role of basic research to innovation

Located not far from Tel Aviv at Rehovot, the university dedicated to research is famous worldwide. To begin our visit, we had to go through the huge campus that is quite similar to US counterparts. In the most recent building, the Koffler accelerator, we realized that here science is a main concern. In the center of cancer research and genetics, we met Dr. Daniela Novick.

Then the heart of the building is a dream laboratory: freshly cleaned glassware, experiments in progress, ovens everywhere. In this atmosphere, Dr. Novick told us about her research. We learned how this brilliant scientist has fostered both fundamental and applied science. Compared to other institutes in the world, this is the major distinction of the Weizmann Institute, the emphasis is primarily focused on basic research, scientists are free to explore areas of interest. This is the curiosity of researchers that led to major discoveries in science.  These results led to applications for the general public that were not expected. Without basic research inventions like the microwave or pace makers could not have been launched.

Science is an integral part of the Israel  common thinking and is highly valued. Scientists are very well known and well perceived in society. The Weizmann Institute seeks to get still closer contact between scientists and the general public. This initiative is a good example: on March 30th, 2012, scientists will explain in many cafes in Tel Aviv their science projects to Israeli citizens.

The ability to commercialize scientific discoveries

The discoveries, resulst of basic research, are subsequently commercialized. In this field, the Technology Transfer Office plays an important role. Composed mainly of lawyers, they assist scientists in protecting their inventions and license sales.

The mindset of innovators in Israel

When asked about particular Israeli behavior that are conducive to the emergence of innovations, his answer is simple:

  • Improvising always-Never be paralyzed by the rules, invent alternatives
  • Stay focus of research is paramount, we must not turn away from the main purpose
  • Invest heart and soul – the experiments are not waiting, work on weekends is sometimes required

A little paradise

All the scientist can live in theur own villa on the center. The place is very nice: gardens, modern buildings, labs, museums, etc. We also visited the house of Mr Weizmann, founder of the institute, built in the ’30. A very modern building, full of souvenirs, in a beautiful garden.

Wiezmann house

Wiezmann house

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A discussion with Prof. Shechtman, 2011 Chemistry Nobel Prize

A solution for a more peaceful world: technological entrepreneurship!

During our 2nd day trip in Israel, we also met Dan Shechtman. He is Philip Tobias Professor of Materials Science at Technion – Israel Institute of technology located in Haifa, one of the most respected Engineering University in the world.

He was awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for “the discovery of quasicrystals and he has been teaching the course of Technological Entrepreneurship to C.10000 engineers during the last 26 years.

Prof. Shechtman argued that Entrepreneurship is the best way to create job places and, particularly, technological one which provides better tools to all the other kinds of entrepreneurships to be developed.

At the end of his very interesting speech, he started answering our questions, giving us many insights about Israel start-ups proliferation: he compared Israel to Far East countries, where, if your company goes bankruptcy, it’s a shame for all your family whereas in Israel is the opposite: someone who failed with his company, is considered to have become a better business man.

Last point was about nuclear energy, that, in his opinion, remains the best way to produce energy by far: he condemned countries like Germany and their shortermism simply saying that the question shouldn’t be going or not going for nuclear energy, but how to produce safer centrals.

Question-answer session with Prof. Dan Shechtman, at Technion

Question-answer session with Prof. Dan Shechtman, at Technion

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In the heart of Technion: scientific research in Israel

Early wake up for the innovators on Monday! We left Tel Aviv in order to reach Haifa where we visited Matam,  the largest and oldest hi-tech park in Israel, and Technion- Israel Institute of Technology, a public research University and also the oldest and most famous in Israel.

Welcome at Technion!

Welcome at Technion!

At the Technion we have had the pleasure of attending, with other French students from EDHEC and SUPELEC, two very interesting conferences. The first speaker was Mrs Keren Rubin, the director of BEIC, the Bronica Entrepreneurship & Innovation Center, placed in Technion.

Why Israel?

In the first part of her presentation, Mrs Rubin told us the major reason (now clear to all of us…) that led the Israeli high technological growth in the ’90:

  • a highly developed defence sector and its strong relation with Universities
  • a double digit growth in engineering/science graduates
  • the influx of Russian scientists and engineers that immigrates in Israel in order to find a job
  • the support of governments through specific policy and funds
  • the influx of US VC capital thanks to specific funds dedicated to Israel
  • high tech multinationals investments in R&D
  • the Israeli cultural, social and entrepreneurial capital

Entrepreneurship at Technion

Mrs Rubin then showed us how elevated is the entrepreneurial spirit in Israel and in particular at the Technion: there are several organisations that have all the same goal of develop and boost the technical entrepreneurship among Technion students.
These organisations include the BEIC, the knowledge center for innovation (KCI), the Technion R&D Foundation  (TRDF), the Alfred Mann Institute (AMIT) and the Technion incubator.

The ESCP Europe students listening to a conference at Technion

The ESCP Europe students listening to a conference at Technion

The BEIC: teach, outreach and research

Since Mrs Rubin is in charge of the Bonica Entrepreneurship & Innovation Center, she concluded her presentation explaining us which was her work there. The BEIC have as audience the students, the faculty and the alumni of Technion, and its missions are teach, outreach and research. Regarding the teaching aspect, the BEIC spreads the knowledge and develop the skills needed to have success as  entrepreneurs and boost network relationships thanks to its eClub (campus’ meetings every two weeks), eConference related to innovation and entrepreneurship topics , credited courses and programs, consulting services, bizTec (national business plan competition) and the “Technion for life” mentoring program (alumni that helps students).

Why studying in Israel?

After the conference, we had an informal meeting with French people studying at the Technion. Most of them have had a degree from a prestigious engineer school in France (Ecole Polytechnique, Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées, etc) and have decided to continue their studies here in Israel. We asked them what were their motivations. They explain that they had some personal motivation (possibility to live their faith) but above all they came for the very good quality of research in Technion and the strong technological applications of science in Israel.

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At Tel Aviv University with Prof. Waldman: why is Israel different?

We had the opportunity to meet Ron Waldman, professor at Tel Aviv University specializing in High Tech. He is from the USA and lives in Israel since 30 years. This first macroeconomic insight into Israel is a good introduction: Ron Waldman has introduced well-known companies representing the success of innovation in Israel, such as Given Imaging or Better Place (we will visit it in the coming days).

According to Prof. Waldman, Israel is “a small country but a vibrant economy”. Just a few figures:

  • unemployment rate = 5.6%
  • GDP growth = 3%
  • 34% of the population holds a university degree
  • there are 8 universities in the country
  • Israel has the highest number of engineers per capita (more than in the USA or than in Japan)

So why is Israel so different?

First, what emerges are the economical and governmental logics which make Israel an innovative country. This translates into the ability to quickly introduce innovations to the market (role of Technology Transfer Offices to assist the commercialization of university research results), the ability to finance and sell innovative companies to reinvest, the diversity of innovative sectors (IT , Web 2.0, Health, Mobile, Games), incubators (the state is funding 85% of the initial startups capital), tax benefits, public support for R & D and the existence of a developed market for private funding (investment funds, business angels).

But what is striking in our meetings during this day is that, beyond the rational aspects, which can be found in other innovative regions in the world, culture, history and Jewish religion make Israel very special. These unquantifiable and elusive ingredients really make a difference.

First, the phenomenon “Jewish mothers”: every mother wants for her son, in exchange for the effort for his education, a career as a doctor or engineer. This gives a spirit of winning and a lot of confidence to young people. The fact that this is a multicultural immigrant society (multiple socio-economic backgrounds, and pioneering spirit “from scratch”), with no hierarchical relationship in business, promoting spontaneous critics regardless of the rank and where everyone is called by first name rather than using the usual marks of respect (sir).

Moreover, the role of the army, including compulsory military service for young people (3 years for men and 2 for women), is important. The idea is that if the student is bright, he will integrate a technology or intelligence center, allowing him to get a great network in high tech. Generally the army builds trust between the young soldiers who will be able to advise and maintain a network of strong relationships for future business. The army can quickly give high managerial positions to young people, so they gain confidence. Moreover, according to the speakers, the army learns to never give up and relativize during hard times. The army also teach to be constantly on alert so that Israeli people are eager to live, are not afraid and do not hesitate to try.

Finally, the role of the diaspora and the idea that every Jew in the world feels like being Israeli are important. Economic zionism stimulates innovation through numerous funding of universities, startups … Thus, the R & D centers of major companies have settled in Israel soon. This is the case of Google for example, whose founders are Jewish.

Tel Aviv University Campus

Tel Aviv University Campus

Tel Aviv University: the business school

Tel Aviv University: the business school

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