Visit to ORT Uruguay University focuses on biotechnology and entrepreneurship
Professor Shechtman, who is also Chair of World ORT’s Academic Advisory Council, spent one day of his five-day stay in Montevideo at the university meeting students and faculty and delivering a lecture on Current Challenges in Materials Science and Engineering.
He was shown the university’s biotechnology laboratory and its Centro de Innovacion y Emprendimientos (Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship) – both of them groundbreaking contributions to the country’s socio-economic development.
“As a scientist who initiated the teaching of technological entrepreneurship at the Technion we thought Professor Shechtman would be particularly interested in these two areas of our operations,” said ORT Uruguay Rector Dr Jorge Grunberg. “He is an incredible asset for ORT, not only because he is an accomplished scientist and educator but because he is a wonderful, very nice person – very open and frank in his conversations with students and faculty.”
The inauguration of the university’s state of the art biotech laboratory in 2010 marked the start of the country’s first undergraduate four-year BSc program in the field. There are currently 200 students on the course which fosters R&D collaboration with industry and entrepreneurial skills in its graduates.
The Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship has also been operating for five years fostering entrepreneurial attitudes and promoting the launch of innovative high tech business ventures by students and graduates.
“It is essentially an incubator for start-ups,” said Dr Grunberg. “Advanced students and graduates come to us with their ideas and we select the best ones and help them launch a company. Of the 100 ideas we receive each year we launch about six sustainable companies, on average.”
Professor Shechtman was brought to Uruguay by ORT Uruguay University together with Keren Kayemet LeIsrael and the Embassy of Israel. During his visit he met President Tabare Vazquez and Education and Culture Minister Maria Julia Muñoz, and was presented with an honour by the Mayor of Montevideo, Daniel Martinez.
Everyone deserves a second chance
Professor Shechtman concluded his public lecture at ORT Uruguay by recounting the story of Soviet scientist Nikolai Fedyakin and the ‘discovery’ of polywater. It remind us of the importance of giving people a second chance, itself a corollary of accepting and overcoming failure on the path to success.