University officials, elected leaders and community members celebrate burgeoning ‘Silicon Heights’ in Upper Manhattan, welcome vital partnership between U.S. and State of Israel
Marking a bold new partnership between New York and the State of Israel, Yeshiva University (YU) announced the grand opening of the YU Innovation Lab, a collaborative learning space focused on creating a hands-on entrepreneurial environment in which Israeli-based startups can grow their U.S. market potential while leveraging YU’s community of students and faculty experts. The event, held on Thursday, May 16 at the University’s Wilf campus, featured a ribbon-cutting ceremony that brought together dozens from the University and the surrounding community to celebrate a new chapter in the prestigious institution’s more than one-hundred year history.
In attendance were University leadership, students, faculty, and elected officials from New York State and City. The Lab has been largely funded by a grant received from the New York State legislature, secured by State Senator Todd Kaminsky, representing the 9th district (D-Five Towns).
Yissum, the technology transfer company of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is a strategic partner in this new university-led initiative, and four of its startups are currently participating in the YU Innovation Lab.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony is the realization of a dream for a New York/Israel innovation lab at the Washington Heights campus of YU, a physical manifestation of the bond shared by YU, the State of Israel, and the communities of Washington Heights, New York City and New York State.
The YU Innovation Lab provides Israeli-based entrepreneurs with access to New York City’s business ecosystem and to YU’s cadre of talented students and renowned faculty. Israeli entrepreneurs from the original “Start-up Nation” will have a space in New York City, a world center for innovation, where they can create the next new technologies that may cure illnesses, change how the world is seen and better connect us all.
By building upon networks of like-minded individuals, the YU Innovation Lab will become an incubator for student entrepreneurs and an innovation hub for Israeli startups ready to explore new markets in the United States. It will deepen the vital relationship existing between New York State and the State of Israel and further YU’s commitment to providing innovative education to its students.
The opening of the YU Innovation Lab has generated much excitement across YU. Its creation has even been incorporated into the curriculum, with initial courses offered this past school year, one on the Israel Henry Beren campus called “Marketing Capstone,” which culminated in end-of-semester presentations by student teams on how to market the YU Innovation Lab, and a class on the Wilf campus called “Topics-Innovation,” where students worked with Israeli startups to design successful business and marketing strategies.
Elected officials attending the opening ceremony included: Hon. Ydanis Rodriguez, New York City Council Member; Hon. Al Taylor, New York State Assemblymember; former New York City Council Member Rosie Mendez (representing the Hon. Gale Brewer, Manhattan Borough President); Laurie Tobias-Cohen, Community Affairs Representative and Constituent Liaison (representing the Hon. Adriano Espaillat, Congressman, 13th District); and Johanna Garcia, Chief of Staff (representing the Hon. Robert Jackson, New York State Senator, 31st District).
“Supporting our students by investing in the creation of a first-class link to Israel’s vibrant economy is a win-win,” said State Senator Todd Kaminsky. “I was pleased to secure this grant for Yeshiva University, which is an essential tool to prepare our students for the world of tomorrow, while also strengthening New York’s integral alliance with Israel. I look forward to seeing the multi-faceted fruits of Yeshiva University’s Innovation Lab prosper, both here in our local community and in the international community.”
“Today we can all take pride in the fact that we have worked together to deliver on a dream and make it a reality,” said Andrew Lauer, vice president for legal affairs, secretary and general counsel at Yeshiva University. “Our deepest thanks go to New York State Senator Todd Kaminsky, who secured the state funding that supported the majority of this project. Senator Kaminsky is a true friend to Yeshiva University and an example of the tremendous possibilities that enduring partnerships between government and academia can bring.”
“Technology has become a fundamental part of our economy, providing new ways to educate, employ, entertain and deliver services,” noted New York State Assemblymember Al Taylor. “Now it is more important than ever that our students are equipped with the skills they need to enter the job market and become the leaders of tomorrow. That’s why I am thrilled Yeshiva University’s new Innovation Lab will provide a place in New York City for Israeli and local startups to connect, train and launch exciting ventures in our increasingly tech-driven world.”
“We welcome the opening of this new program. We know that with the network that Yeshiva University has been able to establish, it will not only help the University but also the community,” remarked New York City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez. “This opening will help northern Manhattan further develop in STEM and tech fields. I am also hopeful that the Latino food destinations will be ready to help this initiative.”
“Yeshiva University has long distinguished itself as an institution of unparalleled excellence and a steadfast supporter of the State of Israel,” said former New York State Assemblymember Phil Goldfeder. “To see these two strengths come together in the new YU Innovation Lab is a truly amazing achievement. The Innovation Lab will help attract top talent in tech from Israel and America while boosting our city’s economy and building on YU’s already strong legacy. I’m proud to join the University in celebrating the start of this exciting project and look forward to all the great innovations that it’s sure to bring us.”
“In addition to gaining access to our terrific pool of student talent, the Innovation Lab will offer participating startups access to NYC-based business and marketing experts, funding opportunities, advice from expert lawyers and significant connections to New York City’s tech community,” said Dr. Maria Blekher, founder and director of Yeshiva University’s Innovation Lab and clinical associate professor of digital studies at the Katz School of Science and Health. “Down the road, we expect the Lab to help launch Israeli startups into the NYC business ecosystem, lead experiential learning at YU and drive entrepreneurship among students.”
The four Israeli startups currently involved in YU’s Innovation Lab include the following Yissum spinoffs: AquiNovo, Betalin Therapeutics, NewStem, and Pepticom. Healnavigator, a New York City-based Israeli startup, is the fifth participating company.
“Startup creation and support is fundamental to the mission of Yissum to bring Hebrew University’s transformational research to commercial fruition. This collaboration with YU provides strategic market access for our companies as well as for the University’s highly motivated students,” said Dr. Itzik Goldwaser, senior vice president of alliances and contract management at Yissum.
“Creating initiatives like YU’s Innovation Lab fosters a dynamic collaboration among globally focused businesses, our University’s exceptional faculty, which is noted for its internationally-recognized research, and our highly motivated students. In the long run, we expect the Lab’s presence in New York to reinforce the city’s position as a center of world-class innovation,” said Dr. Selma Botman, provost of Yeshiva University. “By leveraging YU’s iconic connection to Israel, the Lab will serve as an intellectual portal for Israeli startups in the U.S. The synergy created among its key participants will help shape a generation of future YU entrepreneurs and business leaders who align with Jewish values.”