Higher education council earmarks $27.7 million to boost campus entrepreneurship

Funds to be distributed to colleges and universities over 5 years to encourage students’ creativity, innovative thinking and collaboration

Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

Illustrative image of entrepreneurship (teddybearpicnic; iStock by Getty Images)
Illustrative image of entrepreneurship (teddybearpicnic; iStock by Getty Images)

With the so-called Startup Nation thirsty for technological talent, Israel’s Council for Higher Education has earmarked $27.7 million over five years to encourage universities and colleges to set up or boost entrepreneurship and innovation programs.

“The nation’s academic institutions do not focus on these values,” the council said in a statement, and the CHE “is aiming to change that.”

The CHE this week unveiled its New Campus Vision, which aims to expose students and faculty from all disciplines to the worlds of entrepreneurship and innovation. The initiative wants Israel’s campuses to be on par with other nations, especially the US, where many colleges and universities have long established centers for entrepreneurship and innovation, the statement said.

The plan instills into campuses an “environment of creativity and collaboration; breaks down barriers across all disciplines and between students and faculty, so that students become active, entrepreneurial learners; and promotes multidisciplinary brainstorming and collaboration between students and researchers,” said the statement.

Illustrative: students at Tel Aviv University on October 14, 2018. (Flash90)

The funds will be distributed over five years to: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, and the Azrieli College of Engineering, in Jerusalem; Tel Aviv University, Shenkar College of Engineering. Design. Art, and Afeka Academic College of Engineering, in Tel Aviv; The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa University, in Haifa; ORT Braude College of Engineering, in Karmiel; Tel-Hai College in the Galilee; the Holon Institute of Technology in Holon; Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan; Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba; Sapir Academic College in Sderot; and Ariel University in Ariel.

“The goal is to promote vibrant, inspirational, entrepreneurial centers that will encourage students to be active and think innovatively, together with the best researchers the academic institution has to offer,” said the chair of the CHE’s Planning and Budgeting Committee, Prof. Yaffa Zilbershats, in the statement. “Rapid changes in technology require that academia make the necessary adjustments and integrate the world of innovation and entrepreneurial thought into every academic institution in Israel.”

In practice, universities and colleges across the country have already been rolling out entrepreneurship programs in a bid to arm students with much needed theory along with a toolbox of mentorships, networking and tips on how best to approach investors for funding as innovation in Israel booms.

Night view of IDC’s Adelson School of Entrepreneurship (Courtesy: Oded Amram)

The Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya has set up the Adelson School of Entrepreneurship (ASE), which has become a hub for all of the private college’s entrepreneurial activities, both academic and extracurricular. The nonprofit private institute for higher education’s flagship offering for undergraduates is its Zell entrepreneurship program, a venture creation program within academia.

Meanwhile, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem already plans to make entrepreneurship part of the staple diet of all of its students, including historians, engineers and philosophers. Ben-Gurion University of the Negev last year set up an entrepreneurship program, Yazamut 360, which aims to encourage students, faculty members and researchers to develop and hone their entrepreneurship skills. Nobel Prize winner Professor Dan Shechtman has been running a course on technological entrepreneurship at the Technion- Israel Institute of Technology for more than 30 years.

Now, these institutions will be getting funding from the CHE to boost these initiatives and similar ones.

The universities and colleges will be encouraged to attract leading Israeli researchers from across multiple businesses and industries and hold activities like hackathons and meet-ups to stimulate collaboration and creativity, the CHE statement said. Students from all parts of campus will be trained in entrepreneurship and will work with lecturers and researchers, as well as with professional mentors, “to create meaningful projects and impact society.”

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