Italian Prime Minister Renzi Attends Innovation Conference at TAU
Matteo Renzi, the Prime Minister of Italy, visited Tel Aviv University to attend a bilateral conference on innovation organized by the Italian Embassy in Israel and TAU. Renzi made it a point to make the University his first stop on his inaugural visit to Israel as prime minister.
“This conference symbolizes the close partnership between Israel and Italy and the building of bridges between the two countries,” said Renzi. “I chose to start my visit here at Tel Aviv University, the center of the Israeli start-up nation, which has become for us Italians a model and a close partner.
“Israel is a country of growth and opportunity – filled with incredible success stories and great dreamers,” said Renzi. “This is a great message for our country. We can share the dream with Israel.”
The Prime Minister stressed the importance of a recently signed agreement for a joint cyber lab between TAU and the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia in the area of cyber security. “Cooperation with Israel in the cyber area is a key factor in Italy’s security and future,” Renzi said.
Deep-rooted academic ties
In his greetings, TAU President Josef Klafter spoke about Italy and Israel as two innovation powerhouses, noting that Tel Aviv University has a long history of cooperation with Italian institutions. These include a multi-year project, now completed, between the Porter School of Environmental Studies and the Italian Ministry of the Environment; the ongoing, joint Italian-Israeli Laboratory on Neuroscience centered at TAU’s Sagol School of Neuroscience and sponsored by the Italian Foreign Ministry; joint conferences funded by the Italian Embassy; participation by Tel Aviv University and Italian counterparts in 12 major research consortia under the EU’s 7th Framework; and decades-long research collaborations in the fields of Italian history, Italian Jewry, Italian art, Classics, Mediterranean studies and many other fields.
The Italy-Israel innovation conference was hosted at TAU's Raya and Josef Jaglom Auditorium. Photo: Koby Kantor
Dr. Alessandro Torcini, Italian Principal Investigator at the Italian-Israeli Laboratory on Neuroscience, gave a presentation on achievements at the lab, which has been running for five years. These included the publication of 40 scientific articles and an innovative graphic interface for monitoring neuronal activity. Prof. Uri Ashery, Head of the Sagol School, noted that the lab was part of the Sagol Neuroscience Network and Sagol International Network.
Prof. Yeshayahu Talmon, a member of the Planning and Budgeting Committee of Israel’s Council for Higher Education, noted that substantial funding for Italian-Israeli collaborations came from the Israeli government’s Centers for Research Excellence (I-Cores). He presented plans for new joint centers of excellence as well as an MOU for the exchange of researchers and scientists between Israel and Italy.
The Scientific Attaché at the Italian Embassy in Israel, Prof. Stefano Boccaletti, elaborated on 14 years of science and technology agreements between Israel and Italy.
Representing a delegation of Italian university rectors at the conference was Prof. Marco Gilli, Rector of the Polytechnic University of Turin, who said that “universities today must change their structure and the way they operate in order to advance research and development.” He went on to praise universities in Israel as models for multidisciplinary cooperation and strong connections between academia and industry.
During the conference, presentations were given on several innovative Israeli high-tech companies. The most well-known is WAZE, a navigational app co-founded by TAU graduate Uri Levine and sold to Google for over $1 billion.
An overview of the Israeli high-tech ecosystem was given by Yahal Zilka, Managing Partner and Co-Founder, Magma Venture Partners.
The conference was held at Tel Aviv University’s new Raya and Josef Jaglom Auditorium to a packed audience that included Ambassador of Italy to Israel Francesco Maria Talò and Israeli Ambassador to Italy Naor Gilon, TAU leaders and governors, and members of the Italian and Israeli scientific communities.
TAU governors at the event included Sami Sagol, founder of the Sagol School of Neuroscience, TAU Honorary Doctor, and a recent recipient of the Commander of the Order of the Star of Italy; Ariel David, board member of the Dan David Prize and Dan David Foundation, and his mother, TAU Honorary Fellow Gabriela David; international businessman Eduardo S. Elsztain of Argentina; and active TAU supporter Selina Goren-Komeran. The conference was moderated by Dr. Yael Sternhell, Assistant Professor of History and American Studies at the Lester and Sally Entin Faculty of Humanities.