REHOVOT, ISRAELDecember 18, 2008Top-level research institutions in the UK and Israel will collaborate, thanks to a bold new initiative of Weizmann UK.

The program—entitled "Making Connections"—will bring together scientists from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel with their UK counterparts from the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London (ICL), and University College London (UCL).

The timing of the project's launch is significant, as it comes amid continuing attempts to impose an academic boycott on Israeli institutions. The UK University and College Union (UCU) has just announced that it is ending its academic boycott of Israel.

Since its inception in 1950, this is the first time that Weizmann UK has provided grants for such an initiative, which is funded entirely by UK philanthropists.

As soon as the program was launched, it received 29 applications from the Weizmann Institute—far more than had been anticipated. Of these, 10 projects were shortlisted and, with the help of Professors Benjamin Chain (UCL), David Klug (ICL), and Haim Garty (Weizmann Institute), five were selected for funding by Weizmann UK.

The five winning research programs will focus on brain processes involved in learning and memory; understanding the nature of dark energy in the universe; the physical principles that govern the basic processes of living cells; deciphering the molecular events that take place in living cells; and the self-assembly of advanced materials.

Lord Mitchell, Chairman of Weizmann UK, said: "This is a very important development in international scientific collaboration. Our first five projects deal with some of the most challenging areas at the forefront of modern scientific investigation and we are proud to be leading the way.

Weizmann Institute President Prof. Daniel Zajfman concurs: "Science knows no borders. Scientific ideas and discoveries, whether it be in the short- or long-term, benefit all humankind. Thus, it seems only natural that scientists worldwide should focus their efforts collectively in broadening the boundaries of human knowledge. Our vision is that this pioneering program will develop into a broad, prestigious, bi-national project, akin to existing programs that Israel has developed with the U.S. and Germany. It will be initiated on a competitive basis of quality assessment and will serve scientists from all universities and research institutions in the two countries."

Originally planned as two programs over a five-year period, initial response suggests a swift increase may be possible.

The Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, is one of the world's top-ranking multidisciplinary research institutions. Noted for its wide-ranging exploration of the natural and exact sciences, the Institute is home to 2,600 scientists, students, technicians, and supporting staff. Institute research efforts include the search for new ways of fighting disease and hunger, examining leading questions in mathematics and computer science, probing the physics of matter and the universe, creating novel materials, and developing new strategies for protecting the environment.