Photo: Yair Aronshtam, Weizmann Institute of Science (CC BY-SA 2.0)


Data science in Tel Aviv and Rehovot

There’s a lot happening in Israel when it comes to data science. Greater Tel Aviv in particular has a lot to offer

Photo: Danielle Bengsch
Weizmann Institute of Science. Photo: Danielle Bengsch

Data science is quite literally on Israel’s agenda.

The country’s council of higher education has brought a program on its way that supports the foundation of umbrella research centers, encourages collaboration between these centers and industry, supports PhDs and postdocs financially and wants them to use public data and create value for public institutions from it.
Whether due to this program or other for other reasons like its thriving tech industry, there’s a lot happening in Israel when it comes to data science. Greater Tel Aviv in particular has a lot to offer, with its university, many startups and the Weizmann Institute close by in Rehovot.

There, the Weizmann Artificial Intelligence Center, a 100-million flagship initiative, is pursuing core research in the methods of computer vision, deep learning, machine learning, robotics and signal sampling, processing and learning. Ultimately, says Shai Bagon, one of the 10 presently affiliated senior researchers at the center, it wants to support the entire institute as a central hub for data science competence.

The Center, not unlike the Helmholtz Information and Data Science Academy, is still in its early days. First, the scientists wants to focus on building this competency and conduct core research and methods development, but it also wants to foster collaborations. And, Banon and I agree, collaborations start with scientists meeting one on one and sharing excitement about each other’s work. We also agree that the HIDA Datathon for Grand Challenges on Climate Change may be a good place for such meetings to happen. Save the date (April 2–3, 2020, more details soon), and see you there!

Some tech companies have their own data science research and training programs in Tel Aviv, too. One of them is Yandex, the Russian search engine. I visit Y-Data, a one year intensive training program by Yandex, where Kostya Kilimnik heads the school. He has scheduled interviews with prospective students for the class of 2020 that day, and together with his team will pick 75 students to start the popular program in October. Students will take classes, participate in journal clubs and work on hands-on projects that are supplied by Yandex and other external partners, working under the supervision of experienced members of the Yandex team.

At NVIDIA, the GPU producer, I meet Gal Chechik. He wears many hats. He’s part of the data science institute at Bar Ilan, and has worked on the data science program with the council of higher education. Apart from that, Chechik is building up one NVIDIA’s research units, and also has an interview for another researcher to join his team scheduled right after our appointment. He wants to hire around 15 people to conduct cutting-edge research, leading the field and by doing so, informing the company about “what’s next.” For him, funnily enough, what’s next is a trip to Berlin, where he’ll be speaking at an event our steering board member Uwe Ohler from the Max Dellbrück Center for Molecular Medicine is organizing later in the week. For me, it’s DLD, a German-Israeli tech conference and a trip to Haifa, to explore the country’s fascinating data science scene more in-depth.


Author: Danielle Bengsch