When I was asked to produce a short segment on the Technion I said "The what?" Like most Americans I had never heard of the place despite having visited Haifa in Israel. Now I know why it is called the MIT of Israel.
The Technion is Israel's brain trust. This institute for science and technology has produced the lion's share of Israel's engineers, doctors, researchers, computer scientists and innovators.
I had the pleasure of meeting Technion's 16th president, Peretz Lavie (pronounced "Parrots LAvee").He recounted the milestones of Technion's growth that started 36 years before Israel was even a state. A hundred years later Technion has produced nearly 70,000 graduates who have virtually built a nation from scratch.
In 1923 Albert Einstein visited the Technion and became an ardent supporter. He helped raise money for scholars and scientists who were fleeing Nazi Germany to come and study at the Technion.
Over the decades, what began as engineering university, has expanded into robotics, medicine, defense engineering, genetic research, computer technology and more. It is also a breeding ground for entrepreneurs. In fact, two-thirds of the Israeli companies on the NASDAQ stock exchange were founded by or are led by Technion graduates.*
Americans will soon be hearing the name "Technion" a lot more. Technion has teamed up with Cornell University to build an innovation institute on Roosevelt Island in New York City. It came about when New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg wanted to create something that would rival Stanford in Silicon Valley. So he launched a competition inviting the top universities from around the world to submit plans for a hi-tech research institute. The competition was intense. In the end the Technion-Cornell proposal was chosen.
Construction is underway and the first phase of the Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute is schedule to open in 2017, an event that will surely raise the collective IQ of NYC by more than a few points.
*From Technion Nation, by Amnon Frenkel and Shlomo Maital.