MBZUAI signs first higher education co-operation plan between UAE and Israel

Agreement to collaborate includes student exchanges and setting up a joint online institute for AI

The new agreement, a first for the two countries, was signed by Dr Sultan Al Jaber, MBZUAI chairman and UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, and Alon Chen, president and professor of the Weizmann Institute of Science. Courtesy MBZUAI
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Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence and Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science signed a preliminary agreement on Sunday to collaborate on the development of AI.

The agreement, the first of its kind to be signed between higher education institutes from the UAE and Israel, includes plans for student exchange programmes, conferences, and the sharing of research and computing.

It will also set up a joint online institute for AI.

The agreement was held remotely and was signed by Dr Sultan Al Jaber, MBZUAI chairman and UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, and Alon Chen, president and professor of the Weizmann Institute of Science.

“I welcome the opportunity to collaborate with such a renowned establishment as the Weizmann Institute of Science," Dr Al Jaber said.

He said the co-operation will aim to use AI to address some of the world’s most pressing challenges, "from Covid-19 to climate change”.

The deal comes a month after the historic Abraham Accord, which established full normalisation of relations between the UAE and Israel. The diplomatic pact opens up the nations to co-operation in areas of mutual interest such as tourism, security, technology and energy, and one of the fastest growing disciplines in the world: AI.

Both countries are rapidly expanding their investments and development of AI. The UAE is one of only a handful of countries to have an overarching AI strategy supported by the government. Israeli AI start-ups raised $3.7 billion in 2019, more than double the figure for 2017, according to the IVC Research Centre, a data provider on the country's high-tech industry.

Last week, Abu Dhabi's AI company Group 42 said it would open a wholly owned subsidiary in Israel.

The company will use its new office to focus on areas including Covid-19 diagnostic solutions, smart cities, renewable energies and water supply solutions.

Group 42 plans to access technologies and expertise available in Israel and assist Israeli companies to expand their operations in the Middle East, it said.

Abu Dhabi's MBZUAI is the world’s first graduate-level, research-based AI university.

It plans to welcome its first 100 students from 31 countries in January 2021. The students will pursue master's and doctoral degrees in computer vision, machine learning and natural language processing.

The Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, is one of the world’s top-ranking multidisciplinary research institutions. It offers master’s and doctoral-level degrees.

The institute's scientists study the human brain and carry out extensive research in artificial intelligence, computer science and encryption, astrophysics and particle physics.

The tie-up with MBZUAI will advance Weizmann’s flagship project, the Artificial Intelligence Enterprise for Scientific Discovery.

This $100 million project will use AI tools to further research in areas like drug discovery and climate protection.

"It is said that science knows no borders," said professor Chen. "I have every hope this collaboration between scientists in the same region will be a shining example of this expression, and will extend the boundaries of human knowledge.”