Text size

Some two and a half months New York City Hall extended an invitation to the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology to participate in the establishment of a new research institute in the city, the Israeli university has submitted its proposal for the project. It joins bids made by 17 other institutions, which include some of the leading universities in the world, among them Carnegie Mellon, Stanford and Columbia. Proposals have also come in from prestigious research institutes in Finland, India, South Korea, Switzerland and Britain. All will be required to send in detailed proposals by the end of the year.

The planned research center is intended to focus on engineering and applied science, and will award master's and doctoral degrees. New York is now talking about an investment of some $100 million in the center.

The Technion's proposal - which like those from the other institutions is at this stage a general vision and not a detailed or firm plan - was formulated by a committee headed by Prof. Paul Feigin, a statistician, whose other members included six deans of faculties. "Our vision is to develop those areas in which the Technion has a leading international position: computer sciences, micro-electronics, nanotechnology and smart buildings," Technion President Prof. Peretz Lavie told Haaretz this week. "The research center is conceived as a focus around which high-tech and other companies will be built, and our idea is that it will become a source of attraction for Israeli companies."

Lavie added that the Technion's participation in the tender to be held at the end of the year is far from certain: "The Technion administration has decided we will be prepared to go into this mission only if we are not required to allocate to this initiative money from the Technion budget, and if a high-level American partner can be found to submit a proposal with us. Columbia University is among the institutions we are looking at, but it hasn't yet been decided whether it will be the partner."

The financial condition could be a significant limitation to the Technion's bid. According to a press release from City Hall, some of the proposals from the institutions included plans to raise millions of dollars. "Most of the presidents I've spoken to are building on being able to raise funds from philanthropic foundations," says Lavie. He stressed that a new Technion campus in New York would not harm the faculty strength in Israel. "We are not going to participate in an initiative that will lead to a brain drain. The idea is to establish an independent institution with a faculty of its own, along additional faculty that will come for limited periods from the mother institution.

"The status of Israeli academia will be significantly different if the Technion becomes a participant in this project," says the president of the Technion. "This will open to us American foundations to which we do not have access now. A whole new world will open to us. Of course we will have to ensure that this initiative will be worthwhile for the Technion and for the State of Israel. One of the ideas we will be requesting or demanding is that a student who studies at the joint institution in New York will spend a certain amount of time at the Technion in joint research projects."

For now, New York has suggested four different potential sites for the establishment of the campus: the Navy Yard in Brooklyn, the campus of the Goldwater Hospital on Roosevelt Island in Manhattan, a site on Governor's Island and another site on Staten Island.