Israel invests more than US $ 10 billion per year in scientific research. Meet the Hebrew University, which creates 170 inventions every year.

Rodrigo Alvarez, Jerusalem, Israel

The Jornal da Globo visited one of the largest universities in Israel, the world leader in support of science, to show how investment in research is essential for the growth of a country.

A university where everything is done to pay off. A campus that resembles, in many respects, the major universities in the United States, with doors always open for students and appropriate environments for them to study and, most of all, think and invent.

The Hebrew University is older than the State of Israel. Close to completing 100 years, [it] had Albert Einstein among its founders and continues today with the vigor of a young man full of dreams, like all those who fill the computer lab even when they have classes, trying to create technologies for perhaps revolutionize everything in the world.

Israel invests more than US $10 billion per year in scientific research, and the Hebrew University, with its 23,000 students, concentrates 30% of this in research. There are already almost 9000 patents out of there, with an average of 170 inventions of worldwide interest every year.

Of course, the numbers need to be put into perspective; one has to take into account, for example, the size of the country and the size of the economy, but that is a figure [whose value] no one can dispute: Israel’s Hebrew University has received eight Nobel Prizes.

Out [of the University] came, for example, the project that founded the Mobileye, an Israeli company that last year received nearly $1 billion in investment on the New York Stock Exchange and is preparing to launch what will possibly be the first autonomous commercial vehicle, i.e., one that replaces the driver most of the time.

There are obviously many reasons for the success of this university, but one of them curiously ended up being revealed by a technology they invented there. It was after a teacher and some students put a camera in an environment to monitor the behavior of those who move there.

The system condenses the hours and hours of footage recorded by security cameras and turns everything into a video a few minutes, says Shmuel Peleg, a professor of Computer Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. It can tell, for example, who was red shirt or who was committing a certain crime. In a very short time the police get to know all this and more.

The Government of Massachusetts reported that the technology created by Professor Shmuel and through his students helped analyze the images of the Boston Marathon bombing. And the technology will also be used in the Rio Olympics in 2016. But Professor warns that everything is secret, precisely so that criminals do not know and may be arrested soon.

But this is just another idea that has emerged from within the university. If they are on vacation yet still working, it is because the environment is inviting, the teachers are good and well paid and, most of all, the students are determined to create technologies that will start companies and, ultimately, boost the country’s economy.

“Perhaps the difference between Brazil and here is the level of education,” says Professor Shmuel. “In Israel all have education, we do not have extreme poverty; we also have very rich people as in Brazil. Education here is the same for everyone. The percentage of intelligent people is the same in any country, but in Israel all are well educated, and 1% of them will create business. In Brazil, this is just a small group. How many people are really well prepared?” the teacher asks.

Just to spend a day at the university is to realize that the public-private investment, proper university environment and the preparation of the students make all the difference.