Thursday, October 20, 2016

Jerusalem Post article: about De-know-polization by Prof. Yesha Sivan


Let us begin with a fundamental observation of the “de-monopolization” of knowledge, a.k.a. "de-know-polization." Until the end of the 20th century, universities were the societal leaders in the creation, transfer and usage of knowledge. Today, however, this historical role is fundamentally changing.

Most universities are no longer the best place to do research and teach. Their societal service as hubs of knowledge and innovation can be done more effectively elsewhere. What used to be their natural monopoly is currently under attack.

De-know-polization is both a cause for and a response to the disruption of this old monopoly, rising from globalization and digitization. As de-know-polization reveals itself, university leaders will need to take actions, and justify these actions to their public and private funders, including students paying tuition and taxpayers.

Taxpayers will ask how does university research affect our quality of life? Why do we need to fund professors' travel and publishing papers that have little relevance to our society? On the other hand, students, their parents, and other funders of education will ask where is the best place to learn? Who gives the best value for the investment?

Where is the best place to do research in computer science? The answer is probably Google, Facebook, Microsoft or IBM. The livelihood of such firms depends on new products and services that stem from their research. Their researchers do not have to teach; they usually have the needed resources of time, money and equipment – and they have business managers that push for value. Private firms, or dedicated research organizations, seem like a better answer than the usual university faculty-driven research or labs.

Most university teaching is akin to horses in the ages of cars. An extra-terrestrial observer will wonder why we keep putting people into the same lackluster context of ineffectiveness potentially causing torture by boredom. The classical model of several students listening to a lecture in the same room is tired, often resulting in only a quarter of students listening, a quarter spending their time on Facebook or Tinder, a quarter sleeping or dreaming based on the previous apps, and the rest are not even in class. Online education, including massive open online courses, is but a small step in the right direction.

Universities that will continue with “older” teaching methods and not embrace the new tools will not be able to justify their funding.

Moreover, assuming that we need to fund teaching – shouldn’t we fund it in the best place possible? Could not-for-profits provide a better social service than researchers that also need to teach? Why invest in a ‘jack of all trades’ rather than a ‘master of one’?

What about societal service? We cannot anymore justify the public investment in universities in the age of globalization and digitization. Capital and people are flowing to the best place for their goals. There is much less reason to be near a university anymore, and funding a university with the hope of getting good jobs and firms only diverts resources from other, more effective policy actions – like lower tax with direct impact on business, or enhancing quality of life, itself a pull for economic growth.

Our message to university leaders and policy-makers, further elaborated in the recent issue of Coller Venture Review is to be aware of the various threats and opportunities, particularly when it comes to the evolving role of universities within the evolving venture ecosystem. Don't think business is as usual – seek new models for research, teaching and service. A plan of no action will lead to an inevitable demise. Business as usual now means no business at all in the future. Better you lead the change, than let the change lead you.

Prof. Yesha Sivan is an Executive Director, Coller Institute of Venture, Tel Aviv University. Coller Institute is a member of IATI (Israel Advanced Technology Industries)

Monday, October 10, 2016

9..10-Nov-2016: Prof. Sivan talk at the EBRD conference in Budapest: Reinvigorating Growth, Competitiveness and Investment


EBRD conference: Reinvigorating Growth, Competitiveness and Investment - The EU from the Baltics, through Central Europe, to the Mediterranean

When:  09 - 10 Nov 2016
Where: Budapest, Hungary

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is organising a conference in Budapest on 9-10 November 2016 with the support of the Hungarian government on how to reinvigorate growth and investment in the EU member states where the Bank invests.

Opening addresses by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and EBRD President Sir Suma Chakrabarti will be followed by a high-level panel discussion moderated by Simeon Djankov, former Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance. His guest speakers will include Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President of the European Commission, and Rosen Plevneliev, President of Bulgaria. Four separate discussion panels will follow – on finance, infrastructure, innovation and productivity, and the green economy.

Prof. Sivan's talk is on the panel: Innovation and Productivity Growth

Long-term economic growth depends crucially on the innovative capacity of economies. In countries close to the technological frontier, innovation mostly takes the form of firms inventing new products and technologies. In countries further from the frontier, firms can catch up by simply adopting and adapting technologies that have been developed elsewhere. This session will discuss how EU countries can reignite growth by fostering both frontier and adaptive innovation. A special emphasis will be placed on the role that governments should play. Are they passive facilitators or is there room for a more active involvement? And if so, which conditions need for these more pro-active (industrial) policies to pay off?

Panellists


  • Vince Cable, former UK Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills and Member of Parliament
  • Chiara Criscuolo, Head, Structural Policy Division, Science, Technology & Industry Directorate, OECD
  • Prof. Yesha Sivan, Executive Director, The Coller Institute of Venture, Tel Aviv University; founder of Metaverse Labs


The conference will conclude with a joint session on “Growth and Inclusion”, chaired by incoming EBRD Chief Economist Sergei Guriev.

The event will bring together senior representatives from governments, international institutions, the business community and academia from the region and beyond.

The conference will provide important insights into developments in the region as well as opportunities for high-profile meetings and networking.