Post-Iron Curtain Innovation

US Ambassador to Hungary and Haas Alumna Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis paid tribute to Hungarian innovations from the Rubik’s Cube to metal foam when she delivered remarks at the recent Berkeley-Haas Symposium on Leading Through Innovation, held in Budapest. Ambassador Kounalakis, MBA 92, praised her two years at Berkeley, not just for the education she received, but for “the way that the education there was delivered.” Something in the Berkeley water, she noted, “opens people’s minds and makes them very interested in breaking down boundaries.”

Kounalakis delivered her remarks at Budapest’s Corvinus University, known as Karl Marx University until 1989. She observed that Hungarian innovation has taken place in what is still a young democracy. As new innovations emerge, from an aerated metal foam to a 4-D virtual dissection tool for medical students, they emerge in an environment where “Many of the institutions that we sometimes take for granted in the US, which allow innovation to flourish, are still taking root.”

Ambassador Kounalakis closed by emphasizing the importance of innovation in both new democracies and mature ones, noting that it has resulted in “improving the health and well-being of millions, and has transformed the way we work, learn and communicate.” She was sworn in to office by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2010. Find the transcript of her remarks on the US Embassy website.

—Valerie Gilbert

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