Thursday, December 29, 2011

Letter from Technion President Peretz Lavie on NYC



December 28th, 2011

To the entire Technion family,

The selection of the joint proposal submitted by Technion and Cornell to establish a Campus for Applied Sciences and Engineering in New York City was announced by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in a dramatic press conference on December 19th. The new campus, to be built on Roosevelt Island, will transform New York into a center for technological innovation.

In early January 2011, when a city representative conveyed Mayor Bloomberg’s invitation to  Technion to submit a proposal for the new campus, my first question to him was, “Why Technion?” He replied: “Mayor Bloomberg believes no other university has had such a significant impact on an entire country’s economy as Technion.”

The invitation to submit a proposal for such an illustrious undertaking reflects the international community’s perception of Technion’s prestige, excellent teaching standards, and quality research. Technion’s administration decided to accept the invitation and submitted a proposal together with Cornell University. Drafting the proposal was a learning process during which we confronted a number of potential issues at stake for Technion.

From the numerous proposals that were submitted by US-based universities, as well as by prominent universities in Canada, India, Korea and other countries, only five advanced to the final stage. The finalists included Stanford, Columbia, Carnegie Mellon, and the Technion-Cornell partnership. Technion’s successful partnership with Cornell is the result of lengthy, even grueling, negotiations, and is based on the prestige of both institutions and on Technion’s extensive experience in applied research and its immense contribution to Israel as a “start-up nation.” Throughout the negotiations, Technion remained firm on the issue of finance: Technion will commit our reputation, proven experience, and exceptional researchers, but we are not prepared to invest funds in this historic undertaking.

We repeatedly asked ourselves whether our participation would encourage “brain drain” from Israel. Extensive examination of this issue led us to the conclusion that the contrary was true: the prestigious Technion-Cornell New York City campus will serve as a bridge and encourage scientists to return to Israel. While many bright and promising Israeli scientists seek to return to Israel from their studies and training in the United States, and particularly in New York, the lack of positions available at Technion and other Israeli universities has left them to seek their futures elsewhere.

Inviting such researchers to the New York campus will be the first step in their return to Israel. Furthermore, Technion’s experience in establishing a center abroad has proved successful in Singapore. For several years now, Technion faculty have visited the center for varying periods, and this wonderful partnership has improved our ties with other universities in rapidly developing Asia.

The selection of the Technion-Cornell consortium’s proposal for the distinguished New York City campus puts Technion at the forefront of scientific, technological, and applied research globally, bringing us one step closer to realizing Technion’s vision of joining the world’s top ten research institutes.

I wish to thank everyone who labored over this complicated proposal, working tirelessly day and night throughout long negotiations with Cornell University. I would especially like to thank the senior administration team: Prof. Paul Feigin, Prof. Oded Shmueli, and Dr. Avital Stein; Deans Prof. Adam Shwartz of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Prof. Eli Biham of the Faculty of Computer Science, Prof. Pinhas Bar-Yoseph of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, Prof. Arnon Bentur of the Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Prof. Boaz Golany of the Faculty of Industrial Engineering and Management, Prof. Jacob Rubinstein of the Faculty of Mathematics; and Prof. Haim Gotsman from the Faculty of Computer Science, who coordinated the draft proposal.

On December 10, 2011, Distinguished Prof. Dan Shechtman of the Faculty of Materials Engineering stood on the famous “N” in Stockholm’s splendid concert hall to receive the Nobel Prize in Chemistry from King Carl XVI Gustaf. Distinguished Prof. Shechtman joined his colleagues Distinguished Professors Avram Hershko and Aaron Ciechanover, from the Rappaport Faculty of Medicine (2004 Noble Prize Laureates in Chemistry) in receiving the world’s most esteemed scientific accolade. Few universities have had three of their faculty members awarded such honor in just 7 years; even fewer scientific-technical institutions have had the privilege of three Nobel Prize Laureates.

Our proposal’s selection for the New York City campus is further recognition of Technion’s excellence, which is grounded in our academic, administrative, and technical faculty and staff; for this I extend my thanks.



Professor Peretz Lavie
President

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