AI Center at TAU Receives Boost from Blavatnik Family Foundation

TAU offers minors in AI to students of economics, law, biology, and psychology
01 August 2022
Len Blavatnik (second from right) on a visit to TAU this summer. Photo: Chen Galili

Starting this coming school year, TAU will offer minors in AI & data science to students in economics, law, psychology and biology – part of a campus-wide thrust in the AI field facilitated by a new donation from the Blavatnik Foundation.


TAU benefactor Sir Leonard Blavatnik, a British-American industrialist and philanthropist, pledged a large gift to TAU’s Center for AI and Data Science to dramatically augment the scope and impact of its work in the next few years. At the same time, Blavatnik also extended support for the Blavatnik Initiative at TAU, which has been running since 2014 in the areas of computer science, cyber, drug development, student film production, and faculty recruitment.


“Once again Len has demonstrated both his generosity in advancing science at TAU and in Israel, and his vision in identifying and supporting cutting edge areas with far-reaching impact on our lives,” said Prof. Ariel Porat, TAU President.


In 2021, Tel Aviv University launched the Center for AI and Data Science. It promotes basic science, encourages cross-disciplinary research, and is training a new generation of researchers and innovators who will take Israel to the forefront of the global AI revolution in the coming years. It is also fostering collaborations with the defense and other industries, the public sector, and leading universities and research institutions around the world. A recent grant from Google highlights AI projects geared to “the social good.”


“Len’s first-time gift to our AI Center will accelerate the integration of AI methods into diverse research fields and study programs and provide a major boost to Israel’s global contribution in this field,” said Prof. Porat. “For example, we are the first university in the world to offer AI tracks to students in the social sciences and law.”


Blavatnik Initiative

A sizeable portion of the Blavatnik Family Foundation’s new pledge will continue the important work of current Blavatnik projects on campus. These include:


• BLAVATNIK CENTER for Drug Discovery – Launched in 2016, the Center is the first of its kind at an Israeli university to equip, staff and operate a state-of-the-art laboratory suite for advancing biomedical breakthroughs to the stage where they are ripe for clinical application and commercialization. The Center serves faculty members in Life Sciences, Medicine and Biomedical Engineering, as well as at TAU’s 17 affiliated hospitals. Additionally, the Center collaborates with industry partners and other research institutions, both in Israel and abroad.


Last year, a new Metabolite Medicine Division opened, doubling the size of lab facilities and expanding robotic testing of compounds that could redefine predictive, diagnostic and treatment options for physicians. 


• Blavatnik Interdisciplinary Cyber Research Center – Established in 2014 in partnership with the Israel National Cyber Directorate, the Center advances awareness and activities in the cybersecurity arena to address challenges posed by the digital age to individuals, commercial enterprises, and sovereign states worldwide. The Center, which supports 30 to 40 research projects every year, is a founding host of the world-renowned Cyber Week conference at TAU.


• Blavatnik Computer Science Research Fund – Established in 2014 at the Blavatnik School of Computer Science, the Fund supports advanced research in high-impact areas that contribute to Israel’s economic prosperity. These areas include algorithmic and computational processes, computer systems and networks, information security, bioinformatics, computer programming, and software engineering among others. The Fund also supports outstanding graduate students who will become the leaders and innovators in academia and industry in the future.


• Blavatnik Student Film Production Fund – The Fund at TAU’s Steve Tisch School of Film and Television provides vital financial support to upcoming Israeli filmmakers as they create high-quality, thought-provoking productions. Undergraduate and graduate students are awarded grants of between $2,000 and $5,000 per film, enabling them to transfer their ideas from the storyboard to cinematic work. The funding helps to reinforce TAU and Israel’s high standing in the global film community.


• Blavatnik President's Faculty Recruitment Discretionary Fund – The Fund helps the University compete for top talent in the global academic arena and raises the quality of TAU’s research. With the Fund's assistance, TAU has been developing its research capabilities in nanoscience, neuroscience, cyber, environmental studies, computational linguistics, tissue engineering, imaging, and more. “Thanks to the Fund, TAU has been able to recruit 19 leading scholars to Israel in the last decade,” said President Porat.


Mr. Blavatnik visited TAU in June 2022 to attend the second annual ceremony for the Blavatnik Prizes at the Blavatnik School of Computer Science. A TAU Governor and Honorary Doctor, he has had a transformative legacy of giving at TAU, which the University calls “The Len Effect.” The Blavatnik Family Foundation also supports the Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists in Israel, which recognizes rising academic stars in the life sciences, physical sciences, engineering and chemistry.


“We are honored to call Len Blavatnik one of the closest friends and champions of the University,” said President Porat. “We aim to bring excellent results in this new phase of enhanced resources for our AI Center and long-running Blavatnik projects.”   



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