We are in the Business of Ideas

Posted on: Monday, 1 May 2017 at 9:42:32 PM

Israel is renowned for the technology transfer and commercialisation that evolves from the academic sector.  In a unique AICC(WA) presentation, the President of Tel Aviv University (“TAU”) shared his experience and personal insights into how the tertiary sector is able to not only join, but lead new opportunities for scientific innovation.

From L to R - Mr John Cluer, Chief Executive, Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce (WA), Mr Scott Henderson, Vice President (Corporate Services), Edith Cowan University, Professor Margaret Jones, Director (Office of Research and Innovation), Edith Cowan University, Mr Gary McGrath, General Manager Corporate Financial Services, Commonwealth Bank, Professor Julie Warn, Executive Dean (WAAPA), Edith Cowan University, Professor Joseph Klafter, President, Tel Aviv University, Mr Geoff Morris, Director, LWP Property Group, Ms Cheryl Robertson, State Director, Microsoft Australia, Sean Salter, Vice President, Technology, Woodside Energy Ltd, Professor Lyn Beazley AO, FTSE CIE, Sir Walter Murdoch Distinguished Professor of Science, Murdoch University and Professor John Challis, Executive Director, WA Health Translation Network (WAHTN)

Introducing Professor Klafter was sponsor Mr Gary McGrath, General Manager Corporate Financial Services WA, Commonwealth Bank.  Mr McGrath noted the shared culture of innovation that the Commonwealth Bank has with organisations such as TAU, and cited examples of product and technology innovation by Commonwealth Bank.  He noted that TAU is Israel’s largest and most comprehensive institute of higher learning.  As a global leader for business entrepreneurship, TAU has more than 30,000 students and undertakes 3,500 research projects annually.  Almost half the student body is at post graduate or Doctoral level, making the University a powerhouse of research and development.

 

 Mr Gary McGrath, General Manager Corporate Financial Services, Commonwealth Bank

Professor Klafter provided an insight into the history and evolvement of Tel Aviv University, which is now 60 years old.  It has thrived on a culture of independence, with a creed that values academic freedom without interference from political, religious or commercial interests.  A recent consolidation of the University into 31 schools has delivered collaboration between disciplines.  The TAU have particular strengths in areas such as management, engineering, computer science, nanotechnology, brain science and in the humanities.  In the latter, a large number of Australian students study archaeology at TAU. 

From L to R - Mr Meir Buber, Senior Resource Executive, English Speaking Countries, Department of Public Affairs, Tel Aviv University, Israel, Mr Geoff Morris, Director, LWP Property Group, Professor Joseph Klafter, President, Tel Aviv University, The Honourable Dr Hendy Cowan AO, Chancellor, Edith Cowan University, Mr Gary McGrath, General Manager Corporate Financial Services, Commonwealth Bank and Ms Cheryl Robertson, State Director, Microsoft Australia

The University registers a lot of patents across all of its faculties.  It has what Professor Klafter described as a “comparatively modest” research budget of $200m per annum.  It stretches the effectiveness of this budget through industry collaboration, and it was on this theme that he focussed his topic of “Joining the Global Innovation Train”.

Professor Klafter puts the success of TAU down to its process of selection; for research projects and industry partners.  Defining the “business” of the University as the “Business of Ideas” he framed a definition of innovation around four criteria;

  • What is a good idea?
  • What do we do with the idea once we think it is good?
  • Who owns the idea?
  • How do we use the idea to generate even more good ideas?

Professor Joseph Klafter, President, Tel Aviv University

The TAU experience has led to an evolvement of the traditional technology transfer models.  Professor Klafter explained that the key issue of Intellectual Property becomes an inhibitor when there is friction between the Researcher, University and Industry partner.  TAU have a number of examples of structures, funds, innovation partnerships, it’s own incubator on campus, and even social/philanthropic models to cultivate innovation.  All of them, Professor Klafter noted, have critical familiarity with industry to ensure relevance, but a focus on the “education dividend” that will ultimately foster the innovation spirit of the University. 

Citing one example, the funding models that provide for commercialisation are often contingent on proof of concept.  On occasions the University has the capacity and relationships to facilitate this.  On other occasions they may pursue a model that removes them from this phase of the process and allows the researcher and investor to directly contract.  If the venture is successful a dividend to TAU may be built into the model.  There are some instances where this may also rely solely on goodwill, whereby alumni recognise the source of their education and success, and choose to reinvest as donors and philanthropists in the future.  There is a strong sense of national pride and unity of purpose that is built into the culture of Israel’s business ecosystem that creates continuous opportunity.

A further example provided by Professor Klafter was the TAU Momentum Fund, which provides a special project pool of grant funding for projects up to $1 million in value.  Describing the “death valley” space between idea and implementation that stifles the actualisation of academic research, this fund delivers a strategy to overcome an opportunity cost due to funding.  Professor Klafter noted that some research may not have short term application, but may still be relevant the context of future compatible technological developments. 

On the topic of globalisation, Professor Klafter spoke of Israel’s academic and industry pivot towards alliances in the Asian region.  Collaborative research in China and India has led TAU to establish partnerships, presence and investment into projects such as a Centre of Technology in China, and product research for food supply and security, agtech and plant services.  Relationships with Australia are gaining momentum, with recent collaboration in the area of wheat crop purification research. 

Professor Klafter concluded that the recruitment process for innovation research within the academic sector often tests out how candidates research, and how candidates teach.  However too few Universities also ask how they innovate, which is a critical consideration of the TAU.

In further dialogue facilitated by Professor Margaret Jones, Director of the Office of Research and Innovation at Edith Cowan University, the Professor’s agreed that funding is “in the DNA” of Israel’s commercialisation of academic research.  Professor Jones further noted that innovation is flourishing in Perth, and that Professor Klafter’s presentation had opened eyes towards the many models of deployment and to the array of global opportunities that await.  

Professor Joseph Klafter, President, Tel Aviv University and Professor Margaret Jones, Director (Office of Research and Innovation), Edith Cowan University

Professor Joseph Klafter, President, Tel Aviv University

About Professor Klafter

Prof. Joseph Klafter is widely recognized in his field, chemical physics. He completed his BSc and MSc in physics at Bar-Ilan University, and his PhD in chemistry at Tel Aviv University in 1978 under the supervision of Prof. Joshua Jortner. After post-doctoral studies in chemistry at MIT, he joined the research and engineering division of Exxon in the US, where he worked for eight years. He joined the TAU Raymond and Beverly Sackler School of Chemistry in 1987, and was promoted to full professor in 1989. From 1998 to 2003 he was the incumbent of the Gordon Chair in Chemistry, and from 2003 onward he has held the Heineman Chair of Physical Chemistry.

Prof. Klafter has published close to 400 scientific articles and edited 18 books. He is a member of the editorial boards of six scientific journals, and has been a member of the scientific committee of dozens of conferences.

He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society among other organizations, and has won many prestigious prizes in his field, including the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Prize, the Weizmann Prize for Sciences, the Rothschild Prize in Chemistry, and the Israel Chemical Society Prize. He also holds an honorary doctorate from Wroclaw University of Technology in Poland.

The AICC(WA) acknowledges it’s sponsor organisations, whose generous support has enabled the 2017 futureNOW series.

 

 

 

  

 

From Top left clockwise - Mr Gary McGrath, General Manager Corporate Financial Services, Commonwealth Bank, Mr Steve Arnott, Chief Executive Officer, Perron Institute, Dr Rob Wilson, Advisory Board Chair, CHIRI and Rob Wilson Consulting, Prof John Mamo, Director, CHIRI - Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute, Dr Carolyn Williams, Chief executive Officer, CERI - Centre for Entrepreneurial Research and Innovation, Mr Geoff Morris, Director, LWP Property Group, Mr Graham Reynolds OAM, National Consultant, Lockton Companies Australia, Mr Charlie Bass, Founder and Chairman, CERI - Centre for Entrepreneurial Research and Innovation, Professor Lyn Beazley AO, FTSE CIE, Sir Walter Murdoch Distinguished Professor of Science, Murdoch University, Mr John Grohovaz, Partner, Deloitte, Professor Joseph Klafter, President, Tel Aviv University, Mr Meir Buber, Senior Resource Executive, English Speaking Countries, Department of Public Affairs, Tel Aviv University, Israel, Mr Boaz Nol, Federal Executive Director, Australian Friends of Tel Aviv University, Israel, Professor Julie Warn, Executive Dean (WAAPA), Edith Cowan University, Professor Margaret Jones, Director (Office of Research and Innovation), Edith Cowan University and Ms Rochelle Fleming, Research Development Advisor, Edith Cowan University.

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