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“Startup Nation”: Hof University puts out feelers to Israel

Students at Hof University of Applied Sciences are exploring the country on the eastern Mediterranean on a cross-faculty excursion and immersing themselves in the successful startup scene of the “Startup Nation”. The goal: to broaden their own horizons, look behind the scenes of this so complex country and learn from Israel’s successful innovators.

“Dream Big”, the well-known lettering in front of the Peres Center, an innovation center in Tel Aviv, is representative of the pronounced startup spirit in Israel, which inspired the students of Hof University during the excursion. The study trip was organized by Prof. Dr. Heinz Göhring (4th from left) and Jörg Raithel (7th from left). Image: Hof University of Applied Sciences;

Hof University of Applied Sciences sees itself as a cosmopolitan and internationally oriented educational and research institution. Internationalization plays a central role in the strategic orientation of the university. It maintains partnerships with more than 130 institutions worldwide and a good 20 percent of the total of 4,000 students at Hof come from abroad. Internationalization refers not only to worldwide exchange opportunities for students and faculty or to research collaborations, but also to the range of courses offered. A number of international master’s degree programs are now offered in English. And the network of international cooperations is growing steadily.

Excursion to Israel: A look behind the scenes of the startup nation

At the end of April, a delegation of 12 students and lecturers from Hof University of Applied Sciences visited Israel for the first time. The study trip was organized by Dr. Heinz Göhring, Professor of Economics, and Jörg Raithel, coordinator of the Startuplab, which promotes startups at Hof University.

“Most people in Germany immediately think of the Middle East conflict when they think of Israel. Our history and the news shape our image of Israel a lot. Of course, these are issues we didn’t block out on this trip.” But:

Israel has many faces, and few people know that Israel is one of the most economically innovative countries in the world. To look behind the scenes of this so diverse country, to give our students a formative intercultural experience, to immerse themselves in the highly innovative start-up culture and, above all, to establish personal contacts in order to build long-term collaborations with Israeli partners. These were the goals of our trip”

Jörg Raithel, StartupLab University of Applied Sciences Hof

Israel, the size of the German state of Hesse in terms of area, a good 50 percent of which consists of desert and with a population of just nine million, has managed to establish a highly developed economic and scientific sector within just a few decades and despite extremely adverse circumstances. The “startup nation” invests more money per capita in research and development than any other country in the world. In the region around Tel Aviv, the so-called “Silicon Wadi” has developed, an area with a high concentration of startups and high-tech companies. In international comparison, Israel occupies top positions in startups and innovation.

Visits to universities, companies and cultural sites

The 12-day program of the Hof excursion group included visits to Israeli companies and startups, the German-Israeli Chamber of Foreign Trade, the ARD studio in Tel Aviv, universities and research institutions, such as the Entrepreneurship School of Reichman University in Tel Aviv, which is one of the most successful startup universities in the country, the University of Haifa or the renowned Technion in Haifa, one of the top universities worldwide. Cultural excursions to Jerusalem, the historic sites on the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea were also part of the program.

Caption: Visit to the Entrepreneurship School at Reichman University in Herzliya near Tel Aviv, one of the most renowned start-up universities in Israel; Image: Hof University of Applied Sciences;

In the city of Kiryat Motzkin, the Mashmaut Center, a meeting place for commemoration, remembrance and education around the topic of the Holocaust, was visited. Since the city of Hof has friendly relations with the political leaders of Kiryat Motzkin, Dr. Lea Ganor, the director of the Mashmaut Center, had invited to the site visit. The deputy mayor Adi Sternberg paid his respects and welcomed the excursion participants. As part of the visit, the visitors were able to have a special experience that only a few people have today and left a lasting impression on everyone: At the invitation of Ms. Ganor, the 98-year-old Holocaust survivor Miriam Harel reported on her experiences and in particular about their time in the Auschwitz concentration camp. The subsequent conversations with Ms. Harel expressed great interest in the topic and dismay.

Support by the REHAU Group and the International Office of the university

The trip was supported by the International Office of Hof University and by the two subgroups REHAU Industries and REHAU New Ventures of the REHAU Group. Dr. Ansgar Niehoff, Head of Innovation & Tech Venturing at REHAU New Ventures, the company builder within the REHAU Group, has been building strategic partnerships with Israeli tech startups for many years. He knows the country and the Israeli startup scene and helped the university organize the trip.

“We are very happy as a company to support such an important initiative to promote entrepreneurship and learn about other cultures and ecosystems. Learning from each other and combining the best of different worlds will be key to sustainable innovation.”

Dr. Ansgar Niehoff, REHAU New Ventures

Long-term partnership planned

For the participating students, who all traveled to Israel for the first time, the excursion was an extraordinary experience. “I was very impressed by the doer mentality of the Israelis. This trip was a unique opportunity and I am very grateful that the university offers such opportunities,” says Stefan Karl, who studies business administration in Hof.

The university is aiming for closer cooperation with Israeli partners in the long term. “For us, this was the first step. Ideally, we will be able to integrate this international exchange into teaching formats and work in mixed teams of Hof and Israeli students to develop innovations. I think we can learn a lot from each other,” says Jörg Raithel.

Jörg Raithel

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