Blog 2013 july I been back for a couple of days from my expedition, with executive heads of five other canadian universities, to israel and the west bank.The extremely packed schedule of meetings allowed very little time for blogging while on the trip so i am writing this continuation of my previous post after having been back for a couple of days. After 3 days visiting jerusalem and the west bank(See previous post re birzeit university)The group relocated to haifa overnight and then took a visit to the technion, which might best be described as israel counterpart to mit or caltech, a university focused entirely on science, engineering Mother of the Bride Dresses and medicine.It set up on a mountain and we had a series of presentations by the president and members of his team.Our last visit there was with a faculty member in engineering who by coincidence is originally from kingston(He was an lcvi grad)And who maintains a research relationship with our own prof ian moore of civil engineering. Following the trip to haifa we made our way to tel aviv for the rest of the trip.Unlike jerusalem, tel aviv is an entirely modern city, which did not exist a century ago.It is right by the sea, which adds a bit to the humidity which was absent in jerusalem. Our visits during the final 3 days of the trip included tel aviv university, where on behalf of aucc i cosigned(With university of calgary president elizabeth cannon)An mou with aucc counterpart body in israel.We were hosted for the meeting by president joseph(Yossi)Klafter, whom i previously met on my 2010 visit with thenpremier dalton mcguinty.The signing was attended by staff from the canadian embassy, who also provided us with a briefing the following day.That was on monday the 8th.Two days later, on the 10th, i departed from our group to make my own trip back to tau.In the morning i met with tau history students and faculty members(Including my oxford grad school friend and fellow 17th century british historian prof david katz).Mous can be rather empty affairs unless there is funding to make them work.Both queen and tau are highly optimistic about this one, thanks to generous funding from queen alumnus(And former rector)Jeremy freedman and his family.There are other research relationships between queen and tau, in astrophysics, history, and biology, with the potential for others given common areas of interest. Meeting with tau president joseph Dresses Australia klafter(2nd from right)And colleagues The trip to tel aviv also included an afternoon at the weizmann institute.Named for its founder, israel first president, chaim weizmann, this is a remarkable institution which is not really a university but a centre for advanced research.If the technion is israel mit, the closest analogy here would be with the institute for advanced study in princeton, new jersey(Though unlike the ias, the weizmann has no nonscience schools, and, unlike ias, does have a graduate program). Some common themes kept cropping up in our visits.First, given the the focus on science and technology, one might think that israeli universities and funding bodies have given over the humanities and social sciences.One would be very wrong in making that assumption.We found robust departments and programs in those areas, and no particular bias among funding bodies.Among the most telling quotations of the trip was one we heard while visiting the israel science foundation(Isf), which is a kind of omnibus combination of our SSHRCC, NSERC and CIHR, the Canadian evaluate projects on their merits, not their areas.A project on greek mythology is as likely to receive funding as one on nanotechnology israel has famously become termed the nation thanks to a popular book by that title.So, one wonders, is there any appetite for basic, curiosity driven research?Or is all funding, within and outside universities, driven by the imperative of immediate commercialization potential? The answer is surprising.The support for basic research is enormous.Indeed, speakers at the isf and elsewhere scoffed at the idea that they would somehow steer research in the direction of shortterm economic goals.They reminded us that none of the it, engineering, and life sciences/biotech industry in israel came about as a result of government policy(Except a very favourable tax regime)Or through steering research funding.Indeed, they could not understand why one would think differently.The isf this was true at other places, even the technion basic research as the seedbed from which commercializable products would spring naturally, and asserted that, vice versa, steering research toward shortterm, applied goals would be bad policy in the long run. Thirdly:How has the nation economic miracle occurred?Because the focus has been on research and development from industry(Including many global companies who have set up shop in israel, intel among them)Rather than the approach we often take in canada.Most(But not all)Of the universities and institutions we visited had techtransfer shops like queen parteq, to establish patents and build bridges to industry.The key difference is that there has also been attention to getting products across the infamous of death that lies between an invention and a scalable, marketable product(this is a problem that besets Canadian techtransfer, and one whichMostcountries have wrestled with has a slightly different approach, with its Fraunhofer Institutes, but has also largely solved the problem).The approach varied a bit from institution to institution weizmann institute for instance took the view that its faculty could not be involved in running their own spinoff companies because that would be a distraction from basic research:Nevertheless they did license discoveries to companies and the revenues flowed back to the researcher and the institution. (Faculty benefit from their discoveries through revenues;Ip however appears in nearly all places to belong to the institution, not the faculty member). Meeting with president of the technion, haifa It not all perfect, of course.There are some gaps in the system.We consistently heard that government funding for major infrastructure in israel was inadequate is no counterpart to the canada foundation for innovation.And at least one person we visited with complained that the whole system could sometimes be a bit insular A line Wedding Gowns and immune to crossfertilization from abroad(Despite the large number of international research collaborations), and that pedagogy was too often stuck in a model of informationimparting rather than cultivation of a model of teaching.And, finally, there is lingering concern about industries the invention and startup business occur in israel but then go offshore to other countries(That, however, was mitigated by the number of examples of major global companies that have, in fact, set up plants in israel and by its hugely successful record in attracting foreign venture capital). On the whole however, members of our group were deeply impressed by what has been accomplished economically and scientifically.Canada could profit by the example. As i write this blog it is 830 at night in jerusalem.The sun will be going down shortly and bring an end to the sabbath(Shabbat).Israel work week begins on sunday(Which is like our monday), and runs till Thursday.Friday is like our saturday, and as of sundown much of the city shuts down as families gather for shabbat celebrations. Israel is, however, a complex country and there are plenty of nonreligious people, significant christian and especially muslim populations, and businesses including hotels and restaurants that remain open even on shabbat.One feature of hotels is the shabbat elevator which runs between floors from sundown friday to sundown saturday in such a way that the observant do not have to push buttons, which is prohibited for them. (I am reminded of my late grandfather, an orthodox jew who spent his life in london, england, and on shabbat would neither use the nor drive or even ride on the bus;He would walk to synagogue for services). This is not my first trip to israel.I was first here in 1978, when i was an undergraduate at queen and my family marked a golden wedding anniversary in jerusalem for my grandparents adolph and regina.More recently, i was here 3 years ago on a delegation with then premier dalton mcguinty. Currently i am on another delegation, this time with several other university heads from both aucc and the u15 group of research intensive universities.Aucc vicepresident christine tausig ford is on the trip, as is u15 executive director suzanne corbeil.For Formal Dresses most of the group(The exceptions are myself and st francis xavier university sean riley)It is a firstever visit.I back in large measure to pursue some of the linkages that were made on the 2010 visit and to reconnect with academics, administrators and researchers i met then.On monday i will join with university of calgary president elizabeth cannon in signing on behalf of the aucc a memorandum of understanding with the university of tel aviv.Queen also has a new bilateral mou with the university of tel aviv law school, and i will be spending time there later this week. We arrived via toronto about noon on thursday and met our guide michal(An israeli)And tour coordinator dylan(Who is based in toronto).After a 12 hour flight nobody was especially fresh, so the first afternoon and evening allowed some cleanup time at the hotel and then a walk through the jewIsh quarter of jerusalem before an early(Ish)Dinner. The day began with a briefing on entrepreneurial activity in israel, famously described in a recent book as the nation there is a huge amount of r and d here, and venture capital is quite easy to raise.Over the past 20 years the country has become a leading hightech location, second only in some areas to silicon valley or perhaps boston(Which i recently described in the queen alumni review)In its production of successful necessarily, some failed many foreign companies such as intel have purchased israeli startups and set up plants here. The day included a visit to the downtown market(A sea of people! )At lunch and then a walk through the rest of jerusalem old city, including the church of the holy sepulchre and a visit to the western wall.Our guide, michal, is a fount of historical and local knowledge. The heart of the day was my first visit to yad vashem, the complex devoted to holocaust studies which now includes the relatively new national holocaust museum.Designed by canadian architect moshe safdie, the museum proper begins with a narrative film(Silent)Montage depicting prewar european jewish communities and life, an image that gradually fades from view as the visitor progresses through the various galleries of the triangularshaped building.Among the displays i noted was the carnage wreaked by the nazis on tarnow, a town in galicia(Now part of poland)From which my paternal greatgrandfather emigrated to britain in the 1890s.I have to admit that this visit, perhaps unsurprisingly, overshadowed pretty much everything else i saw that day. And a walk through the masada, both of which i had done on my 1978 visit.The business part of the day included a trip to the west bank, specifically to one of the area a regions(Under palestinian civil and military control)To visit birzeit university. Sighted this ibex on the wall outside the base of masada This was my 2nd visit to birzeit;After the last visit we signed an mou to increase graduate student mobility.Birzeit is widely regarded as one of the best if not the best palestinian university, with an enrolment of about 10, 000 students.The buildings are mainly relatively new and largely privately funded.We were able to meet the dean of engineering, dean of grad studies, the vp academic(Whom i met in 201o)And the president.Birzeit is starting up a new phd program in social sciences and has an interest in developing an entrepreneurship culture among its students.It also has a keen interest in having canadian academics spend some time there offering courses, which can be given in english and over a short period of 12 weeks.Associate viceprincipal(Research)Dr cynthia fekken, who is also on this trip(And is depicted below having a brief ride atop a west bank camel)Will be following up on this mou once we return to canada.