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Tampa real estate developer sparks USF, FIBA, Tel Aviv University collaboration

Margie Manning

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Judy Genshaft, USF president, signs the MOU between USF, Tel Aviv University and the Florida-Israel Business Accelerator

Backers of a collaboration between University of South Florida, the Florida-Israel Business Accelerator and Tel Aviv University expect it to lead to an improved quality of life for an aging population.

USF, FIBA and TAU signed a memorandum of understanding Wednesday. The MOU is designed to ensure the communication and coordination needed to implement so the three organizations can work together on research and development of technologies, analytically-based solutions and companies focused on major problems of aging.

David Scher

The MOU is not a commitment to specific projects or partnerships or a commitment of funds, but David Scher, the Tampa real estate developer who was a key force behind the collaboration, hopes to see results.

“In my remarks, I said on my watch it’s going to be something real and not just a paper signing, which these things often are. We need to take it to the next steps, by developing common research and interchanges of professors and students and that’s already happening,” Scher said.

Scher, co-owner of Stuart S. Golding Co., has deep connections to all the institutions. He’s past president of the Tampa Jewish Federation and helped launch FIBA. He’s on the board of governors of Tel Aviv University and he’s a donor and supporter of USF.

The universities have a lot in common. Both were founded in 1956, are preeminent institutions with large student bodies and a heavy focus on research.

“I thought, wouldn’t it be wonderful to have the two universities research something they have in common and for FIBA to be the conduit to bring that to market,” Scher said.

Scher approached Michael Bloom, assistant vice president of USF’s Office of Corporate Partnerships, who discovered both schools have been cited for their work in neurosciences, gerontology and engineering, among other fields. In addition, both Florida and Israel have a population that’s growing older. By 2030, nearly one quarter of the population of Florida will be over the age of 65, while the elderly population in Israel will increase by 70 percent between 2015 and 20135, Bloom said.

Bloom talked to Raanan Rein, vice president at Tel Aviv University, and they agreed they could work together on innovative technology applications to solve problems affecting the health, mobility and well-being of the aging population.

FIBA, a Tampa technology accelerator, is “the perfect partner” to commercialize technologies that come out of the collaboration, Bloom said.

“FIBA is a critical nexus between Tampa Bay and Tel Aviv, not just USF and TAU,” said Rachel Feinman, executive director of FIBA.“As innovations develop, entrepreneurs emerge and opportunities materialize, FIBA has the experience and knowledge that is needed to assist in the commercialization of new technologies.  We can assist with identifying investors, solidifying market strategies and matching new technologies with early adopting customers.”

The MOU was signed during a ceremony that took place just after the USF Office of Corporate Partnership’s Corporate Forum on Aging and Technology. The program focused on innovations in four areas: aging in place, cardiovascular patient self-management, virtual reality in health and hearing, and speech technology. Researchers from USF and from several companies presented their latest findings.

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