Technion International Partnerships Yield Major Grants

September 24, 2012
By: Kevin Hattori

The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology has received two multimillion-dollar grants for research with other universities in the areas of renewable energy and computer intelligence. The grants recognize the excellence of the Technion’s multidisciplinary research, and its collaborative work with universities in Israel and around the world.

The first of the grants, for $15 million – comes from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust to the Technion and the Weizmann Institute of Science. It will be used to enhance ongoing Technion research on converting solar energy into electricity and biofuels.

Technion-Israel Institute of Technology campus

Technion-Israel Institute of Technology campus

The second, also for $15 million, is from the Intel Corporation to the Technion and Hebrew University for the establishment of the Intel Collaborative Research Institute for Computational Intelligence. The Institute will bring together 40 researchers from the two universities, as well as an equal number of graduate students and several Intel employees. The goal is to find new ways for humans to interact with technology.

“These two international grants recognize the excellence of the Technion in areas with tremendous impact on humanity’s future,” said Professor Peretz Lavie, Technion president. “Ever smarter computers promise to change our lives in ways few of us can imagine, while renewable energy is vital to the future of the earth we share.”

The Helmsley Charitable Trust grant will bring together the Technion’s outstanding researchers in electrical, chemical and materials engineering, as well as biology and biochemistry to find ways to improve the production of biomass and its conversion into biofuels; to develop solar cells at lower cost; and to harvest sunlight in these conversion processes. The work will take place within the Nancy and Stephen Grand Technion Energy Program, an interdisciplinary program dedicated to finding solutions to the world’s energy challenges.

“With the world’s rising demand for oil beginning to outpace our ability to supply it, renewable energy in all its forms is a matter of ‘global survival,’” said Professor Gideon Grader, leader of an intense multi-disciplinary campaign to focus the Technion’s own unique energy source – brainpower – on the world’s growing need for answers. Prof. Grader also leads the Israel’s Center of Excellence in Alternative Energies Research. The initiative, one of four I-CORE (Israeli Centers of Research Excellence) programs, encompasses 36 researchers at the Technion, Weizmann Institute of Science and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

“The Helmsley Charitable Trust is proud to partner with Technion in supporting the cutting-edge research and this cadre of exceptional scientists to develop cost-effective and environmentally sound alternatives to fossil fuels, which is so critical to the well-being of our world,” said Sandor Frankel, a Helmsley Trustee.

The Intel funding is part of a $40 million investment that includes similar research centers in Britain and Germany. The goal, according to Intel, is to build a vibrant global community of experts from academia and industry to focus on machine learning, brain-inspired computation, and advanced computer architecture.

“Israel’s tremendous intellectual talent made it only natural that when we started to think about where we might locate a new research institute that we’d want to look there,” says Justin Rattner, Intel’s Chief Technology Officer. Intel Israel is a major employer with 6,600 employees in its development and production facilities, many of them from the Technion.

“The Technion’s excellence and contributions in alternative energy and computer science to the well-being of people around the world is recognized and increasingly looked to for solutions to our most pressing challenges,” said President Lavie. “These gifts are also a testament to the Technion’s ability to productively work together with groups of researchers from universities around the world, a prime example of which is the Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute in New York City.

The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is a major source of the innovation and brainpower that drives the Israeli economy, and a key to Israel’s renown as the world’s “Start-Up Nation.” Its three Nobel Prize winners exemplify academic excellence. Technion people, ideas and inventions make immeasurable contributions to the world including life-saving medicine, sustainable energy, computer science, water conservation and nanotechnology.

American Technion Society (ATS) donors provide critical support for the Technion—more than $1.7 billion since its inception in 1940. Based in New York City, the ATS and its network of chapters across the U.S. provide funds for scholarships, fellowships, faculty recruitment and chairs, research, buildings, laboratories, classrooms and dormitories, and more.