The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology on Sunday received a $130 million grant to build an academy called the Technion Guangdong Institute of Technology as a joint venture with China’s Shantou University.
The grant, from the Li Ka Shing Foundation, includes profits from the foundation’s 2011 investment in Israeli mobile app Waze. The grant is the largest in the Technion’s history, and among the largest ever for Israeli higher education.
Google purchased Waze in June for nearly $1 billion.
Guangdong Province and the Shantou Municipal Government will allocate some $147 million to fund construction and initial operations of the institute, which will extend over a 330,000-square meter campus to be located next to Shantou University.
Speaking at the signing ceremony in Tel Aviv on Sunday, Li Ka-shing, thought to be the richest person in Asia, emphasized the importance of education to scientific progress.
“In a world of fluid boundaries, the transformative power of technology waves like a magic wand, bringing new models and opportunities to many frontiers and generating new solutions to entrenched problems, but we all know the wands are only as powerful as the wizards who use them, and the magic comes from the genius within,” he said.
“Our responsibility is to invest in education to unlock that genius and enable the continuing realization of human potential, building a society rich in knowledge and securing a sustainable quality of life for all. Failing to do so amounts to a crime against the future.”
The Technion Guangdong Institute of Technology will begin offering students undergraduate programs in civil and environmental engineering and computer sciences in the 2014-2015 academic year. Programs will be taught in English, and the faculty will be recruited from the ranks of researchers and scientists at universities worldwide.
Starting in 2014, Technion Guangdong Institute of Technology will join Shantou University in conducting life sciences research tackling important social and livelihood issues in China, such as healthcare. During the campus construction phase, the inaugural group of students will spend the first two years of studies at the Technion in Haifa, after which they will return to Shantou for their third year.
According to the universities, by 2020, the institute will offer courses in other engineering- related fields, including mechanical and aerospace engineering. Some of the grant’s funds will go toward upgrading the Technion’s Haifa campus.
Technion President Peretz Lavie described the partnership as “a major breakthrough and an opportunity to strengthen ties between Israel and China.”
“When you combine the innovation and entrepreneurial spirit of Israel with the unbelievable scale of China, you have a great partnership,” he said in a statement.
Following a visit to China in May, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu cited increased trade with China as one of Israel’s main motors of future economic growth. To that end, Israel is laying the groundwork to begin free trade negotiations with the world’s most populous country.
Just as China offers tiny Israel a sizable market, Israel’s innovative ways may provide some solutions to China’s tough challenges.
China has a growing middle class, an aging population and plans to urbanize a quarter billion people by 2025, and must deal with all the accompanying environmental, infrastructural and energy challenges.
Rebecca Zeffert, founder and executive director of the Israel-A’sia Center, said that all of “Asia – China included – is facing some of the world’s most pressing challenges.”
“In the past couple of years, Israel has been playing catch-up in its building of stronger ties with countries in Asia, and China in particular. There is still a great deal of work to be done. However, the Li Ka Shing-funded partnership between the Technion and Shantou University is a big step in the right direction,” she said.
Shantou University Provost Gu Peihua, who has set his sights on making the Technion Guangdong Institute of Technology the best technological university in Guangdong, China and eventually, the world, said he hoped to be able to reproduce in his country the contributions that the Technion’s research and innovation have made to the Israeli economy.
“If many universities in Guangdong and China do the same as Technion has been doing in Israel, an innovation-based economy will emerge,” Gu said.
During the signing ceremony, Lavie gifted Gu with a sapling from the palm tree that Albert Einstein, who founded the Technion’s first support society, planted at the the school’s gates 90 years ago. Gu said it would go well with the sapling from Isaac Newton’s apple tree that they had received from the University of Cambridge.
View original Jerusalem Post publication at: http://www.jpost.com/National-News/Technion-scores-130m-grant-for-joint-venture-in-China-327440