Globally collaborative universities are driving the solutions of the future

July 11, 2019 by  
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In 1990, one of the most ambitious scientific endeavours the world has ever seen was launched…writes Michael Waxman-Lenz.

The Technion campus on Mount Carmel, Haifa. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

It took 13 years, 20 institutions and thousands of scientists to complete, but it was undoubtedly worth it. The Human Genome Project gave us the genetic blueprint of the average human being—and it was only made possible by harnessing the talent and trailblazing research from universities around the world.

The project demonstrated the extraordinary potential of higher education’s globalization—a trend that has grown exponentially in recent years. As someone who has lived and worked in several countries, including Germany, Israel and the United States, I’ve seen firsthand the remarkable benefit of the exchange of ideas between people with diverse backgrounds, values and approaches.

The world’s most complex problems call for solutions drawing on ideas and expertise that often come from across cultures and continents. Universities are at the forefront of developing these solutions, which is why they have increasingly opened their doors to international students and visiting faculty, supported more joint research and established satellite campuses abroad.

We see the distinct advantages of a globally collaborative institution in the success of the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology. In the last decade, the Technion has transitioned from being one of Israel’s leading universities into a global powerhouse in higher education, with a presence in Israel, China and New York, and a range of dynamic international partnerships.

The Technion’s international growth has propelled it to the top of the rankings for science and technology research institutions. It was ranked first worldwide in digital education in a survey by Times Higher Education and ranked No. 14 in PitchBook’s 2017 list of the top 50 schools that have spawned the most venture-capitalist-backed entrepreneurs.

Over the past 70-plus years, Israel, a land with limited natural resources and a small domestic market, quickly learned to deploy its greatest asset—the innovation of its people—to build a dynamic, export-driven economy that creates jobs and touches lives in all corners of the globe.

The Technion has been a key driver of this trend. In the past decade, it has worked to export the Israeli people’s signature model for thinking outside the box and for daring to venture where no one ever has before.

Take, for instance, the Guangdong Technion Israel Institute of Technology (GTIIT)—the first Israeli university in China—that trains elite students in sciences that could help solve the world’s most pressing environmental issues. The historic collaboration between the Technion and Shantou University serves as a bridge between Israel’s entrepreneurial spirit and China’s scale and resources.

In New York, the Jacobs Technion–Cornell Institute (Jacobs Institute), part of Cornell Tech, brings together two of the world’s leading universities to build pioneering leaders and technologies for the digital age. The Jacobs Institute emphasizes a transdisciplinary view of science and encourages translational research that ultimately serves the worldwide common good.

Beyond partnerships on these campuses, Technion professors collaborate with colleagues from universities around the world on groundbreaking research. Earlier this year, a team of researchers from the Technion and Stanford University completed a study that found that the state of a person’s immune system may provide a more accurate measurement of health than chronological age or physical signs. The team has developed a way to gauge “immune age,” which has the potential to unlock new frontiers in personalized medical treatment, drug and vaccine clinical development, and health-management processes.

The same is true in the business community.

As major corporations look towards the future, they are turning to the Technion as a partner. Through the new Center for Artificial Intelligence, Intel and the Technion are working together to advance research in AI and computational learning. Alibaba recently acquired Israel-based startup Infinity Augmented Reality as it looks to accelerate the development of frontier technologies including AR, computer vision and AI. InfinityAR’s research-and-development team is working from Alibaba’s lab in Israel, led by Technion professor Lihi Zelnik-Manor.

The globalization of higher education is allowing the brightest minds to come together from all corners of the world and power the research, discoveries and companies of the future. As more universities share their human capital and view the world as their campus, there’s no telling what can be accomplished.

Michael Waxman-Lenz is the Acting Chief Executive Officer of the American Technion Society.

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