Following the success of the first two delegations to Tel Aviv University from the 8-million strong Chinese city of Nanjing, a select group of top government and private sector officials has been immersed in an intensive seminar on Israeli high-tech innovation and entrepreneurship over the past ten days, taught by TAU’s LAHAV Executive Education center at TAU's Faculty of Management—Leon Recanati Graduate School of Business Administration.
The 14-member Chinese delegation has received briefings from academic experts, managers of venture capital funds and government figures, and visited leading Israeli companies such as Iscar, Orbotech and Babylon, and the first Israeli “start-up" kibbutz, Shefayim. Under the agreement signed between the Nanjing city government and TAU earlier this year, 1,000 officials and executives from Nanjing will arrive at the University over the next five years for such high-level training.
By Innovation Only
The President of the Bank of Nanjing and the head of this month’s delegation, Mr. Lin Fu, says “the participants will apply the knowledge they learn here to their respective industries back in China. Many of the participants have positions in government and the business world, including agriculture and manufacturing: Israeli expertise and experience will no doubt help them”.
Mr. Lu Jian Feng, Vice Director of the Science and Research Committee of the People's Government of Nanjing City, enthusiastically remarks that “Israelis are very friendly to Chinese people.” He attributes their technological and business success to the “sense of danger in their lives… which drives their entrepreneurial spirit. They have no choice but to innovate.” For Mr. Lu, his first visit to Israel has been an eye-opening experience: “Israel as a place is just as good, or even better, to learn about entrepreneurship than in Europe and the United States.”
Speaking of the benefits of the trip, Mr. Lu notes that “while Israeli models are not always directly applicable to the Chinese environment, we came to learn the logic and methodology behind Israeli innovation in order to adapt it to our needs.” The highlight of Mr. Lu’s visit so far has been the delegation’s meeting with the Chief Scientist of the Israeli Ministry of Science and Technology, Prof. Ehud Gazit, former TAU Vice President of Research and Development.
The Ripple Effect
Mr. Udi Aharoni, the CEO of LAHAV Executive Education, stresses that both sides feel a strong sense of commonality, sharing a “great relationship based on trust and networking.” He attributes this to a mutual passion for development, and the fact that “Israel and China are home to civilizations that stretch back thousands of years… and both have fast-paced, fast-changing economies and societies.” Speaking of the unique role of TAU in facilitating ever-deepening ties between the two countries, Aharoni sees LAHAV as a “bridge between worlds, and the word is spreading. There’s a ripple effect… and similar agreements with other major Chinese cities are in the pipeline.”
Aharoni also notes that since the best-selling book “Start-Up Nation” was translated into Chinese, it has become “the new bible in China,” and as a consequence, the number of delegations to Israel has tripled. Visibly brimming with excitement about possible future ties with some of China’s countless large cities, Aharoni extolls the virtues of Israeli innovation: “Our model of entrepreneurship is unique… the convergence of high demographic density, knowledge creation and sabra ingenuity creates clusters of innovation that rival Europe and the US, and, because of the small size of the Israeli domestic market, our startups must think global from day one to succeed.”
The Nanjing-LAHAV agreement is just one of the many exciting China-related initiatives at Tel Aviv University. As TAU President Joseph Klafter highlighted earlier this year at an auspicious state ceremony marking 20 years of official Israel-China relations, the University, through its Department of East Asian Studies, has been a leading catalyst for closer relations. TAU hosts Israel’s only Confucius Institute, a special unit within the Jamie and Joan Constantiner School of Education that trains Chinese language teachers for Israel’s state education system, and welcomes increasing numbers of Chinese post-docs and students to its rich selection of international programs. “We are building an interconnected future,” President Klafter remarked, “a future that is full of endless possibilities and that is firmly anchored in shared values.”