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Monday, December 22, 2014

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York U’s engineering school, Technion agree to partnership

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Janusz Kozinski

The Lassonde School of Engineering at York University and the Technion Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa have entered into a strategic partnership that could ultimately see students at the two educational institutions jointly develop commercially viable projects.

The partnership will allow Lassonde students to develop their entrepreneurial skills based on the Technion model, said Janusz Kozinski, dean of Lassonde.

“Twenty-five of our people will go to the Technion and learn just how they do entrepreneurial education,” Kozinski explained.

The Lassonde personnel are particularly interested in learning “how they create an ecosystem at the Technion that’s the best in the world, better than MIT,” he added. “It’s a unique opportunity to learn from the best.”

 The “first phase” or “test drive” of the project is scheduled to kick off in August, when 25 Lassonde students, faculty and administrators will visit the Technion’s Haifa  campus “to learn more about the educational approach and how they teach entrepreneurship,” said Kozinski.

Spokespeople for the Technion welcome the arrangement with Lassonde.

“The program that the Lassonde School of Engineering and York University aims to take at Technion in August is a first step in a more comprehensive and large scale co-operation between the universities,” said Ariel Geva, managing director of Technion’s  International School in Israel.

“The Lassonde project is both the first time it is done with a Canadian university and also the longest faculty led entrepreneurship program. Technion e.Xpert® Program aims at capitalizing on Israel’s innovative and entrepreneurial success and the Technion’s reputation as a world class academic institution with a solid track record in entrepreneurial activity both on campus and through its alumni. The program is based on partnering with peer leading schools to enrich students’ knowledge in entrepreneurship,” Geva added.

Following the initial week at the Technion’s campus, students will head off for one week at spinoff companies created by Technion students.

In the last week they will visit larger, more mature companies whose businesses are related to the ventures they hope to start in Canada. That way students and faculty can witness first hand the entire chain – from education, to startup to mature corporation, Kozinski said.

The Lassonde participants are particularly interested in medical devices, public safety and security solutions, as well as civil infrastructure, including buildings, roads and materials, he added.

The second phase of the proposed arrangement will see participants from both sides jointly invest in businesses they create together.

So far, Lassonde students seem to be quite enthusiastic about the partnership with Technion, Kozinski said. A preliminary meeting that featured a talk by Hershel Recht, national development director of Technion Canada, was well attended.

“I’ve never had so many undergraduate students at a meeting with the dean,” Kozinski said. “They are into it.”

Asked whether there were any naysayers at the university, who object to joint programs with an Israeli school, Kozinski said, “There is always some place for nonsense in the world. It’s inevitable. We’re doing what’s best for our students and faculty.

“If you want to do something for the betterment of the school and students, then I don’t think there will be any problem with it.”

Geva said a recent MIT survey ranked Technion as one of the world’s leading universities – in sixth place – for “Creating an Eco-System of Entrepreneurship and Innovation,” but as the top university for doing so under challenging circumstances.

Technion, he noted, has trained many of the country’s top engineers and managers.

It has been at the forefront of the innovation and entrepreneurship that has led Israel to be dubbed “start-up nation,” said Geva.

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