Technion Gets $130 Million Donation to Build China Branch

Li Ka-shing's donation is the biggest ever given to an Israeli academic institution.

The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and Shantou University have landed a Chinese donor to establish a joint academic facility in China.

The Technion Guangdong Institute of Technology is sponsored by the Li Ka-shing Foundation, which is giving $130 million for the institute, which is to focus on research and innovation in science, engineering and life sciences. 

Ka-shing spoke at Sunday’s ceremony in Tel Aviv to formalize the memorandum of understanding for the establishment of the technology institute.

The project represents a new level of cooperation between the People’s Government of Guangdong Province and Shantou Municipal Government, the Technion, and Shantou University, the foundation and the Technion announced in their joint press release published Sunday morning.

The $130 million grant is the largest ever to the Technion specifically and Israeli higher education in general. It will be allocated for strengthening the Technion's home campus in Haifa, for the benefit of its students and researchers and for enabling the Technion to fulfill its leading role in the new joint institute in China.

The Guangdong Province and Shantou Municipal Government will set aside approximately $147 million to fund construction and initial operations, as well as 330,000 square meters for the campus, to be located next to Shantou University.

The donation to the Technion comes in part from profits from the fund’s recent share of the billion-dollar sale of Waze to Google.

The agreement was signed by Technion President Peretz Lavie and Shantou University provost Gu Peihua, and will soon be brought for approval by the Technion and Chinese statutory authorities. The partnership between Israel and Li’s foundation began in 2011, with a visit from foundation executives to the Technion and a reciprocal visit by Lavie to the foundation’s headquarters in Hong Kong. That visit to the Technion also resulted in an investment from Li’s private investment company Horizons in Waze.

“The new technology institute will begin offering undergraduate programs in civil and environmental engineering and computer sciences in the 2014 academic year,” the foundation and the Technion announced in their joint statement. “The establishment of an innovation center, connecting industries in Guangdong with Israel’s technological creativity, will bridge Israeli technology into China and promote joint research and innovation."

"The language of instruction at the TGIT (Technion Guangdong Institute of Technology) will be English and its faculty will be recruited from international researchers and scientists in universities around the world. Beginning in 2014, TGIT will join STU (Shantou University) to conduct life sciences research based on Big Data to tackle the pressing social and livelihood issues like inadequate healthcare system and services, as well as improvements of clinical diagnosis procedures," it continued.

"During the campus construction phase, the inaugural group of TGIT students will spend the first two years of studies at Technion in Israel, and will all come back to Shantou in their third year, in order to cultivate the culture of innovation locally. By 2020, the institute will offer courses in other engineering-related fields, from mechanical to aerospace engineering.”

“In this new world of fluid boundaries, the fast changing, fascinating, and transforming power of technology sometime does seem to wave like a magic wand, bringing new models and opportunities to many frontiers and generating new solutions to entrenched problems at a pace that is often hard to keep up with,” Mr Li said during Sunday’s signing ceremony. “Our responsibility is to invest in reforms in education that unlock that genius and enable the continuing realization of human potential, building a knowledge rich society and securing a sustainable quality of life for all.  Failing to do so amounts to a crime against the future.”

Prof. Gu said the Technion had shown the world what the future university should do in order to deliver values of regional, national and international significance. He said economies in Guangdong and China are undergoing structural changes, to which industrial and technological innovations were critical factors for success. “What Technion has done to advance the Israeli economy through student and staff research and innovation is an example for Chinese universities to follow,” Professor Gu said. “If many universities in Guangdong and China do the same as the Technion has been doing in Israel, an innovation-based economy will emerge.”

Technion President Peretz Lavie  described  the  partnership  as  "a  major  breakthrough  and  an  opportunity  to strengthen ties between Israel and China."

"We believe in globalization. We believe that cross-cultural dialogues are essential. Opening up the Technion and Shantou to these cultural dialogues is very important,” Professor Lavie said.

“When you combine the innovation and entrepreneurial spirit of Israel with the unbelievable scale of China, you have a great partnership,” he added. “We hope that by combining our research methodologies with the scale and resources of China, we will create a major research institute that will help not only China and Israel, but also mankind in general.”

Li Ka-shing has a history of doing business in Israel, including ownership of the Partner Communications mobile operator, which he sold to Israeli businessman Ilan Ben-Dov in 2009.

Yuval Tebol
Bloomberg