TAU to launch Center for Innovation Laboratories

Dr. Goren Gordon (right) with a student in the Human Robot: Animal, Man, Machine Lab. Photo credit: Tel Aviv University.

Labs will focus on the development of groundbreaking research with potential applicability in the next 3-7 years

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Ahead of the opening of the 2021-2022 academic year, Tel Aviv University (TAU) is launching the Center for Innovation Laboratories. The center will join forces with industry along the goal of advancing groundbreaking research with potential applicability within a period of 3-7 years from the moment the research begins. At this stage, the center has six laboratories, as elaborated below, along with additional laboratories under construction. The goal of these labs is adapting the research to the needs of the community and society, industry, and public institutions.

In this framework, and for the first time in Israeli academia, the choice of research topics will be made in consultation with industry and public bodies (such as hospitals) that will present the needs on the ground to the heads of the laboratories, who will try to provide a comprehensive scientific and innovative solution within a few years’ time. For example, if the industry describes a demand for the development of unique photographic technology for medical diagnosis purposes, or a need to monitor offensive content in information transmitted online, the researchers will try to provide an appropriate solution based on unique artificial intelligence methods.

The model of this applied research is different from traditional basic research, which focuses on the interests of the researcher, without necessarily thinking about immediate needs. At the same time, however, while the center will focus on the applicable aspect of the research, this will not detract from the outstanding basic research that is taking place at the university. This fundamental research has been and will remain the bulk of the university’s scientific research. Furthermore, faculty members at the new center will continue to be an integral part of their “mother” faculties.

It is worth noting that in its multi-year vision, TAU has defined three main elements: strengthening its international component, encouraging multidisciplinary, and bolstering its relationships with knowledge-intensive industry and society. In this context, the new center will promote the university’s vision and act as a channel through which these three tracks will flow.

Unlike basic research, which traditionally focuses on one discipline, research at the new center will bring together experts from a wide range of disciplines who will enrich various dimensions of research from different perspectives, including design, branding, and accessibility to diverse audiences (aspects that have been less commonly addressed in academic research in the past).

For example, the Automated Justice Laboratory will deal with areas in which the market and academia rarely engage, such as systems for improving democracy – handling fake news, the relationship between the government and the citizens, and so on. This lab will house people from various disciplines, including legal scholars, psychologists, software engineers, media specialists, political scientists, smart cities researchers, and designers. The subject necessitates a multidisciplinary approach and, as stated, will have potential applicability within a period of 3-7 years.

The center’s financial approach is based on the industry taking on a significant part of the funding of the research, out of foresight and in a format that involves “club membership” that confers product development rights.

The center also applies unconventional thinking when it comes to property rights. According to the new model, all players, including the university, the researchers, and industry partners, will receive the rights to use the research products; these rights will be under a non-exclusive and non-transferable license. This unique model will accelerate the application of academic innovation to the sphere of action and will overcome one of the most significant obstacles in commercialization of worth academic innovations.

“TAU’s vision includes internationality, multidisciplinary work, and connections with knowledge-intensive industry and society,” said TAU President Professor Ariel Porat. “The Center for Innovation Laboratories will integrate all of the components of this vision. As the largest and most diverse research university in Israel, we strive for the groundbreaking research innovation of the university’s researchers to benefit society in Israel and around the world. The new center is an important engine that will translate research at the highest level into practical action. I am glad that leading companies have decided to put their trust in our new model and join the center as partner-members.”

“This unique center redefines the interface between academia and industry,” added Director of the Center Professor David Mendlovic of the Fleischman Faculty of Engineering.The academic freedom to create and innovate on the one hand, and the desire for research that has practical applicability on the other, has led to a center that brings together innovation labs dealing with a variety of topics and actors such as industry, hospitals, and government agencies. Our unique commercial and funding model and our selection of unconventional innovation labs is leading to the close engagement of the center’s partners that will relay the academic innovation to those who will implement it. I am proud to be part of a university that is responsible for such an initiative.”

Six labs that are kicking off the center:

  • Professor Noam Shomron – Genetic Reproduction: Biology, Medicine, Engineering
  • Dr. Goren Gordon – The Human Robot: Animal, Man, Machine
  • Professor Tali Hatuka – Urban Science: Sustainability, Environment, Food
  • Professor Michal Feldman – Computational Economics: Information, Intelligence, Economics
  • Professor Omri Yadlin – Mechanized Justice: Law, Information, Intelligence
  • Dr. Sharon Aronson-Lehavi – Act-Play-Game
"The new center is an important engine that will translate research at the highest level into practical action."