Twenty-four Israelis are recipients this year of the European Research Council's prestigious Starting Grants for young researchers.
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When Israel's relatively small population is factored in, Israel places first among countries receiving the grants. And in absolute terms, Israel ranks sixth. Britain tops the list at 48 recipients, followed by 47 from Germany.
For the second year running, at eight recipients, Tel Aviv University had the third largest number grantees of any institution. It was bested only by the 12 awarded to the French National Center for Scientific Research, which is comprised of ten major research institutes, and the Max Planck network of institutes in Germany, which received 10.
Hebrew University of Jerusalem had five recipients while the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot and the Technion Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa each had four. Researchers from three other Israeli universities each received a grant: the University of Haifa, Bar-Ilan University and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
A total of 291 grants were awarded this year through its Horizon 2020 program by the council, an agency established by the European Commission of the European Union. The Horizon 2020 program research and development program, of which the Starting Grants program is a part, is funded by European Union members and to a smaller extent by Israel.
Most of the Starting Grants awarded at Israeli institutions this year went to fund research in the fields of life sciences, physics, engineering and medicine, although a grant to University of Haifa sociology academic Tali Kristal went to fund her study of income inequality and changes in technology while Shira Dvir Gvirsman of the social sciences department at Tel Aviv University received a political communications grant for a study of how Internet-based social networks are changing news organizations and the political behavior of individual citizens.
"Israel is again proving its major contribution to research, the capacity for innovation and greshing thought of [its] young researchers and thinking out of the box," Science, Technology and Space Minister Ophir Akunis said this past week when the grant recipients were announced.