Opinion: Why NJIT’s New Partnership with Israel’s Ben-Gurion University Is a Big Deal

MOU on the Formation of the Institute for Future Technologies Signed Tuesday

On Tuesday, Governor Phil Murphy, President Daniel Chamovitz of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and NJIT President Joel S. Bloom announced the formation of the Institute for Future Technologies, to be housed at NJIT in Newark and its satellite campus in Jersey City.

We think this is a big deal for New Jersey.

Israel’s reputation as “The Startup Nation” and its prowess in future-facing research make the country an ideal partner to propel NJIT, and along with it, New Jersey, into the future.  Israel’s companies, students and researchers have created a body of tech research that is remarkable and competitive with the best of the best the world has to offer.

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev is a fast-growing, relatively new, scrappy university that is committed to pioneering tech and then transferring that tech into commercial enterprises. NJIT is an old, but forward-thinking, scrappy, polytechnic institution that has always had an entrepreneurial bent. Together, they can do great things, and all of those things will accelerate New Jersey’s reputation as a hotbed of innovation.

As Bloom stated, “We look forward to importing some Israeli ‘chutzpah’ and Startup Nation culture to the region as we build our joint Institute together.”

What does that mean for those of us in the New Jersey tech community?

There will be more opportunities for everyone — from developers, designers, project managers and academics to startup CEOs — to become involved in a vibrant, future-oriented tech community. The gravitas of the connection to BGU will make the venture capital community take a second look at companies spun out of the Institute for Future Technologies.  The partnership will also energize the startup space around Newark and Jersey City.

NJIT academics will be able to enhance their research by collaborating closely with BGU Ph.D.s, and BGU Ph.D.s will get the experience of working with some of the finest academic researchers in New Jersey, who happen to reside at NJIT. In addition, NJIT will be better able to compete for government grants, bringing more money into the state.

Academics, tech company execs and entrepreneurs will come to Newark and Jersey City for a chance to work with the researchers and technologies that will be forged there.  Students will have a reason to stay in New Jersey and remain close to the people working here, thus helping to stem the brain drain that has plagued our state in recent years.

And many more entrepreneurs will be bred here. One of the stated goals of the memorandum of understanding that established the partnership is to commercialize the technologies and intellectual property that are developed through joint research by NJIT and BGU students and faculty.

According to a press release, NJIT will be offering dual degree programs in the fields of cybersecurity and environmental engineering, along with many new research opportunities. I expect that this will mean that many more students will cross the Hudson to study these topics, and that the Institute for Future Technologies will draw students that NJIT might never have been able to reach.

As for Bloom, this achievement will crown his final year as president of NJIT. He has announced that he will be retiring in June of 2022. Despite COVID-19’s impact on his school, he will leave it poised to continue to break ground both in academics and commercialization.

On Facebook, someone asked why this collaboration is getting special acknowledgement when there are many such partnerships around New Jersey.

I can answer that in two words: economic impact. High-tech research activity translates into jobs and an enhanced tax base, and that will benefit everyone in the state.

In November 2020, NJTechWeekly.com featured an editorial about Princeton’s efforts to develop a tech hub in that area of the state. We were extremely excited by the faculty’s optimism that the Princeton area could become another Stanford, spinning off great companies. The Institute for Future Technologies can be another very exciting initiative for New Jersey. I can’t wait to see where this all goes.

[ A video of the MOU signing ceremony can be found here.]

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