Israel’s I.T. League spawning innovations

Published on Tuesday, 15 January 2013 by Webmaster

Israel’s I.T. League spawning innovations
Much of the world as we know it finds its origins in the prestigious centers of scholarly preeminence known as the Ivy League. From the lightning rods installed at the University of Pennsylvania after Benjamin Franklin’s celebrated discovery to Mark Zuckerberg’s initially Harvard-based Facebook, Ivy League campuses have spawned revolutionary technologies as well as generations of scientific, political and corporate leaders. Interestingly, while many may have heard of Israel’s achievements in science and technology, fewer are fully aware of the extraordinary accomplishments of Israel’s bastions of academic and educational excellence undergirding its “Start-Up-Nation” culture.

The eight Ivy League universities have attained their unique stature through a virtuous cycle, in which scientific achievement, reputation, funding and selectivity of human resources at both the faculty and student-body level promote and mutually-reinforce each other. By drawing the best and the brightest from all over the world, these campuses have been able to store up an unparalleled reservoir of creativity and talent. A similar dynamic permeates Israel’s academic scene.

A quick glimpse at some of the technological innovations which we today take for granted exemplifies the role played by Israel’s universities in spawning entrepreneurial creativity. The USB flash-drive was invented by a startup company founded by a graduate of Technion, Israel’s Institute of Technology. Capsule endoscopy, today a standard in diagnosis of gastroenterological disorders, was also pioneered in Israel by a graduate of the Technion. Scientists from Tel Aviv University have been instrumental in developing global standards in Internet security architecture through corporate giants such as Check Point and green technologies such as the world’s first transparent photovoltaic glass, opening up a vast potential for solar-powered buildings. Mathematicians at Hebrew University are among the leading world authorities in game theory, which has profoundly impacted disciplines as far-ranging as biology, computer science, psychology and philosophy. Intel’s Israel-based branches, drawing on graduates from all of Israel’s universities, have been at the forefront of the company’s – and indeed the world’s – most significant computing advances, including development of the Ivy Bridge processor, the world’s first 22nm processor and Cloverview, a cornerstone of future tablet and smartphone processing. Pathbreaking work in biomedical research is being spearheaded today by the Weizmann Institute of Science’s Israel National Center for Personalized Medicine, holding promise of revolutionizing the practice of medicine in the 21st century through dramatic advances in genomics and bioinformatics. And the list goes on and on, encompassing every field of scientific endeavor and impacting virtually all aspects of life and society.

Cognizant of the important role of diversity and inclusiveness that has been central to success at Ivy League and other leading universities, Israel’s academic institutions are increasingly opening up to foreign students, offering a wide variety of full-degree programs in English. The Weizmann Institute’s entire graduate degree curriculum – covering 17 departments and 50 interdisciplinary centers in the exact sciences and mathematics – is offered in English. The Technion offers full degree programs in engineering, medicine and business management. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University, Haifa University and many other Israeli institutions of higher learning offer a broad array of full English undergraduate and graduate programs in the exact sciences, engineering, social sciences and humanities. Such distinguished academic degrees are offered at a fraction of their cost elsewhere. Of particular significance, graduates of Israel’s universities are prominent among many of the leading scientists and corporate leaders around the world, well beyond Israel’s own borders and corporate landscape.

The future will increasingly be about mobilizing knowledge in innovative, revolutionary ways for the advancement of science and human well-being. More than anywhere else in the world, Israel is where these things are already happening. In the dawning globalized era, intercultural cross-fertilization has become a sine qua non for cutting edge technology and game changing innovation.

With an increasing number of English language full-degree programs in Israel, it is now possible for prospective students outside Israel to become part of this exhilarating reality, by acquiring a first-rate education at some of the finest schools on Earth, while immersing in the surrounding culture of fast-thinking, authority-irreverent intellectual chutzpah that continues to underpin many of the most remarkable scientific and technological advances of the information age.

We can probably expect a large part of scientific advance to continue being played out in the Ivy League. But the view of the future is becoming increasingly I.T. And that future is already here in Israel’s I.T. League schools.


Uri Resnick is deputy consul general of Israel in Los Angeles.

The article was published in The San Diego Union-Tribune on January 10, 2013.

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