May 18, 2022

Share this article

Israel conducts a huge amount of research, but often, it takes a long time for it to be applied. Now, Tel Aviv University (TAU) is launching the Center for Innovation Laboratories – the first of its kind in Israel – which will focus on the development of groundbreaking research with potential applicability in the next three to seven years.


The selection of research topics will be carried out in consultation with industry and public bodies such as hospitals who will expose the researchers to their actual needs. For example, if industry needs unique photographic technology for medical diagnosis or to monitor offensive content in information transmitted online, the researchers will try to provide an appropriate solution based on unique artificial intelligence methods.


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


It will even use unconventional thinking when it comes to intellectual property (IP) rights, as under the new model, all donors who support the research will receive the rights to use the fruits of the research. According to the new model, all players, including the university, the researchers and industry partners, will receive the rights to use the research products under a non-exclusive and non-transferable license. This unique model will speed up the application of academic innovation to action and overcome one of the most significant obstacles in commercialization of innovations created from academic research. 


At this stage, the center has six laboratories, and it will have more, as additional labs are under construction. The goal of these labs is adapting the research to the needs of the community and society, industry and public institutions.


The model of this applied research is different from traditional basic research that focuses on the interests of the researcher without necessarily thinking about the immediate needs at the end point. 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. In addition, the new center’s faculty members will continue to be an integral part of their academic faculties.


TAU has defined three main goals – strengthening its international component, encouraging multidisciplinary cooperation 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 that will enrich various dimensions of research from different perspectives including design, branding and accessibility to diverse audiences. These 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 and the relationship between the government and the citizens This lab will bring together people from various disciplines, including legal scholars, psychologists, software engineers, media specialists, political scientists, smart cities researchers and designers. The subject requires a multidisciplinary approach and will have potential applicability within a period of up to seven 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.


TAU president, Prof. Ariel Porat commented that the “vision includes internationality, multidisciplinary and connections with knowledge-intensive industry and society. The Center for Innovation Laboratories will integrate all of these components. 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.”


Center direectorProf. David Mendlovic of the Fleischman Faculty of Engineering added: “This unique center redefines the interface between academia and industry. 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. I am proud to be part of a university that is responsible for such an initiative.”


The six labs that are launching the journey are Genetic Reproduction: Biology, Medicine, Engineering; The Human Robot: Animal, Man, Machine: Urban Science: Sustainability, Environment and Food; Computational Economics: Information, Intelligence and Economics;– Mechanized Justice: Law, Information, Intelligence; and Act-Play-Game.