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Wharton Launches Site on Israeli Innovations

October 18, 2012 By:
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The award-winning, web-based business journal run by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School is launching its latest spinoff, this one with a focus on innovation in Israel.

Penn marked the launch of Israel Knowledge@Wharton — a companion site to Knowledge@Wharton — with an Oct. 12 program on campus. Lawrence Zicklin, an investment manager, philanthropist and New York University professor offered the keynote address on the impact of Israeli innovation.

Israel’s Consul General Ya­ron Sideman and Hillel director Rabbi Michael Uram also spoke.

The 13-year-old Knowledge@Wharton site concentrates on disseminating business knowledge to a wide audience — it claims 2.1 million subscribers — and making Penn faculty research as accessible as possible.

Knowledge@Wharton has created web portals in Portu­guese, Chinese, Spanish and Arabic, as well as an English-language site that delves into business developments in India.

The Israeli-focused site, kw.wharton.upenn.edu/israel, is written in English. 

Bruce Brownstein, who is overseeing Israel Knowledge@Wharton, said the goal is to let the global community know what’s going on regarding Israeli innovation, rather than educating Israelis about something they already know. In fact, Brownstein said, it would make more sense to translate the site into Portuguese or Chinese than Hebrew.

As an institution, Wharton has long cultivated strong ties with the Jewish state. A number of key faculty members are Israeli, as are a sizable number of students, particularly in the MBA program. 

The leaders behind this site, including several faculty members, view it as a way to fulfill the school’s twin missions of disseminating information about business and highlighting ways that sound business decisions can benefit society. “Wharton wants to be a force for good,” Brownstein said. “We define that in three ways: innovation, globalization and social­ization.”

That means that Israeli firms are coming up with ideas that not only make money but can improve people’s lives — be it in agriculture and food production, biological sciences or information technology, he said. For example, Brownstein said, at a time when drought is leading to hunger in numerous regions around the world, the drip irrigation method honed in Israel could reap untold benefits if it were widely replicated. 

The 2009 book Start-Up Nation by Saul Singer and Dan Senor, an adviser to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, captured the story of Israeli innovation and generated a fair amount of publicity. But Brownstein and others said Israeli innovation is an ongoing, evolving story that can best be covered in real time in an online platform.

Knowledge@Wharton employs a journalistic style and is run by Mukul Pandya, a business journalist who’s written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Economist.

The Israel site will feature several in-depth stories per month. The first major pieces focus on water technology, since the lack of access to pot­able, sanitary water is a major issue in many developing nations and something that the Jewish state has confronted since its founding.

Jerry Wind, a co-founder of Israel Knowledge@Wharton and director of Penn’s Center for Advanced Studies in Management, said that improving Israel’s image is not part of the mission, but it could be a welcome by­product. “People will see the good in Israel and how the world is benefiting from Israel,” he said. “Without Israeli innovation, the quality of life of everyone in the world — our life — would not be as good. There is no cell phone in the world, there is no computer in the world, that does not rely on Israeli technology.”

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