'Freedom To Think Crucial For Innovation And A Start-Up Culture'

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At a time when India-Israel relations are on an upswing, collaborations in research, innovation, technology and education have also picked up. BOOM speaks to Professor Joseph Klafter, President of Tel Aviv University, on the

challenges faced by institutes of higher learning, Israel’s start-up culture and more.

Prof. Klafter is widely recognized in his field—chemical physics and he took over as the President of Tel Aviv University (the largest public university in Israel) in 2009. He has since then been credited with initiating ground-up changes at the institute like taking on academicians who have a multidisciplinary or an inter-disciplinary background. He explains that with a convergence brought about by technology, having studied in multiple disciplines allows us to think differently and hence have new ideas.

Israel today ranks 15 in the world in the innovation index, six in knowledge creation and 29 in the number of patents issued. This Prof. Klafter explains, has been achieved by working on multiple fronts – acquiring and retaining the right kind of teachers, allowing free-thinking and finally mentoring of students. Prof. Klafter says, “Actively working to create the right environment for learning is now producing students who want to go forth with their ideas and commercialise them.”

Tel Aviv University has gone beyond the borders of Israel and is exploring possible collaborations in education, agriculture and industrial sectors in India, “where there exists a lot of potential”, says Prof. Klafter. He mentioned that the University is looking to collaborate with both public institutes like IIT-Bombay as well as private ones like Thapar University in Punjab to try and utilize all its areas of expertise.

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