By Laurent Zecchini
HAIFA - The campus of Technion sits atop one of the hills overlooking Haifa Bay. Below lies Israel’s Silicon Valley, where Matam High Tech Park brings together Israeli start-ups and top American firms like Microsoft, Intel, Google, Yahoo and IBM. From this vantage point, one can see the source of Technion’s power, not to mention job destinations for its students.
Facts speak for themselves: 75% of Israeli engineers come out of Technion’s faculties, research centers and labs, as do 70% of start-up founders. Technion also spawned two winners of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, world-reknown discoveries such as rasgiline, a drug that treats Parkinson’s disease, new eco-friendly electricity production and water desalinization technology, recognized know-how in microsatellites building, and more.
Technion alumni are the lifeblood of Israel’s society and economy, especially in fields like defense and Information Technology, but also in medicine, nanotechnology, civil and electrical engineering, management and architecture. And the list goes on: its 12,849 students can choose amongst 18 different faculties.
Medical Professor Peretz Lavie, Dean of Technion, says that “there is no other example abroad of a university with such a contribution to its country’s economy.” Professor Benjamin Soffer, a specialist in technology transfers, explains the secret to Technion’s success: “twenty years ago, generals were the heroes of Israeli society. Today, the heroes are entrepreneurs.”
Case in point: people at Technion are quick to point out that the reason 52% of Israel’s exports are concentrated in high-tech is that Israel has the highest concentration of high-tech start-ups outside of Silicon Valley. There is another, more political reason: beyond R&D, Israel’s isolation from its neighbors makes trade challenging, forcing it to seek partnerships far beyond its borders, in particular in the US.
Technion’s story began in Basel, Switzerland, in 1901, during the fifth Zionist Congress. The decision to create a Jewish university deep inside the Ottoman Empire was not a natural one, but its first stone was laid in April 1912, almost a century ago. Read more