Technion lays cornerstone for China campus

Joint venture between Israeli institute and Shantou University to advance research, innovation in engineering

Israeli and Chinese officials at the cornerstone laying  ceremony for the Guangdong Technion Israel Institute of Technology in China, December 16, 2015 (Courtesy)
Israeli and Chinese officials at the cornerstone laying ceremony for the Guangdong Technion Israel Institute of Technology in China, December 16, 2015 (Courtesy)

The Technion on Wednesday laid the cornerstone for its new research center in the southern Chinese city of Shantou in a gala event that was attended by some 5,000 people. The Guangdong Technion Israel Institute of Technology (GTIIT) will be located on a 330,000 square meter campus – paid for by the richest man in China, Li Ka Shing, who donated $130 million for the project.

GTIIT is a joint venture between the Technion and Shantou University (STU), and will provide programs that focus on the hard sciences – chemical engineering, materials engineering and biotechnology engineering, granting Technion engineering degrees at all levels – BA, MA and PhD.

The campus will “maintain the same high academic standards of education, research and innovation for which the Technion’s Haifa campus is world renowned…to further the advancement of education, research and innovation in engineering,” said Dr. Peretz Lavie,

That $130 million gift is the largest ever given to the Technion, and one of the largest given to any Israeli school. The money, given as a donation by the Li Ka Shing Foundation (LKSF), will be used to develop programs at the new center, as well as the Technion’s home campus in Haifa.

Speaking at Tuesday’s ceremony, Li said that GTIIT will be home to the wise and the innovative.

The roots of the partnership go back to 2011, when LKSF officials visited the Technion, followed by a reciprocal visit to China by Lavie, where he met Li. The Hong Kong-based billionaire was so impressed that he decided to invest in several Israeli start-ups, including Waze. When that company was bought by Google in 2013 for over $1 billion, Li decided to use some of his profits to fund GTIIT. Shantou was chosen to partner with the Technion because LKSF is the main funding arm for Shantou, providing nearly all of the school’s endowment.

Besides the LKSF gift, Guangdong Province and the Shantou municipality are setting aside $147 million to fund construction and initial GTIIT operations. They are also providing land for the campus next to STU. In addition, Guandong and Shantou plan to build an industrial park adjacent to the GTIIT to enable graduates and Israeli firms to partner and develop products and services for the Chinese market.

GTIIT isn’t the Technion’s only “franchise.” The Israeli institution is building another research center with Cornell University in New York City. According to analysts, the NYC Tech Campus, as the project has been named, will generate more than $23 billion in overall economic activity over the next three decades, and net the city $1.4 billion in taxes. That, in addition to as many as 20,000 construction jobs and up to 8,000 permanent jobs that the campus itself will generate, along with as many as 30,000 jobs to be created by companies that the campus, as a tech incubator, spins off.

The campus will be built on land donated by the city, and the project has already raised hundreds of millions of dollars, including a $350 million gift from a single anonymous donor — the largest contribution in the university’s history and one of the largest in the history of American higher education.

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