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Tel Aviv and Tsinghua Universities Launch $300M Research Center

Unprecedented collaboration will initially focus on nanotechnology.

by Tel Aviv University
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From left: TAU President Prof. Joseph Klafter, Chinese Vice Premier Madame Liu Yandong, and Tsinghua University President Prof. Chen Jining.Photo courtesy of Tel Aviv UniversityXIN, the new joint research center of Tel Aviv University and Beijing's Tsinghua University, was officially opened at a ceremony held at Tel Aviv University on Tuesday, May 20th. The agreement to launch the $300 million center for graduate students of both universities was signed by Tsinghua University President Prof. Chen Jining and Tel Aviv University President Prof. Joseph Klafter. Vice Premier of the People's Republic of China Madame Liu Yandong, XIN founding directors Tsinghua Prof. Zheng Quanshui and Prof. Yael Hanein, head of TAU's Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, as well as leading business figures and scientists from both countries, were present at the ceremony. 

Based at both universities, the XIN ("new" in Mandarin Chinese) program will initially focus on nanotechnology cooperation, particularly with medical and optics applications, but will later expand to other areas, such as raw materials, water treatment, and environmental issues. A third of the total funding for the project has already been raised from private and government sources. 

"It's an unprecedented agreement in size and scope," Prof. Klafter noted. "It was built from the bottom up because it started with our scientists meeting and falling in love with each other." 

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"We have collaborations with many other universities around the world, but this is the first that is so in-depth and innovative," Prof. Chen commented. 

Expanding an international partnership

Seven graduate students from TAU and 14 graduate students from Tsinghua have been recruited for the initial year of studies. Part of the XIN budget will be used to design prototypes, connect academics to the business world, and commercialize products of joint research. 

"TAU's ties with China began in 1995, during the early days of official relations between our two countries," Prof. Klafter told guests at the inauguration. "We opened a Department of East Asian Studies, Israel's first Confucius Institute, and exchange programs in the Chinese language, Jewish Studies, Middle Eastern studies, and architecture. Since then, connections have expanded and flourished, and today Tel Aviv University has agreements with 30 Chinese institutions across the spectrum of sciences and humanities. But the jewel in the crown is the agreement we are signing today with the prestigious Tsinghua University, in the presence of Vice Premier Liu and senior dignitaries." 

"Higher education across the globe is changing rapidly, and universities are exerting a new impact on the economy and society," Prof. Chen later said at the launch. "The aim of the XIN center is to cultivate the innovators and entrepreneurs of the future." 

Before the official signing of the agreement, a letter from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was read aloud. "The establishment of the XIN center is a major milestone in the cooperative relationship between China and Israel, which continues to expand to our mutual benefit," he wrote. "I wish you great success, and I look forward to seeing the fruit of the XIN center, and its scientific and cultural impact on both countries." 

Trade between Israel and China has been steadily growing, reaching $8.4 billion last year, compared with $6.7 billion in 2010, according to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics. 

This news was originally reported by the American Friends of Tel Aviv University.