Mayor boosts research ties during Israel visit

Councillor Hackett reacquaints himself with the dairy barn at Kibbutz Gaash, where he volunteered  30 years ago

Councillor Hackett reacquaints himself with the dairy barn at Kibbutz Gaash, where he volunteered 30 years ago

New scientific research partnerships between Israel and Manchester are on the horizon, as are expanded business and transport talks between city planners.

Manchester University vice-chancellor Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell and the city's Lord Mayor, Councillor Mark Hackett, have returned from separate trips to the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, near Tel Aviv, to forge stronger ties on advanced research and development projects. Sustainable energy and cancer research are among potential areas of co-operation.

Professor Rothwell said the university was "in discussions with the Weizmann about collaborations, exchanges and joint funding. Weizmann is one of the leading scientific institutes in the world and was founded by Chaim Weizmann, who was a member of staff in chemistry here at Manchester."

Councillor Hackett met the mayors of Rehovot, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Consulted on major transport issues, he offered to share knowledge of Manchester's tram system with Jerusalem, where the heavily delayed light railway is due to open in summer.

He also joined meetings of Rehovot's council, which has a formal link with the Manchester local authority.

Visiting Rehovot's Clore Garden of Science for children, he said Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry - which recently opened a children's learning suite - could learn from the Israeli park. He also hopes to forge links between Tel Aviv and Manchester law societies.

But following discussions with Weizmann senior researcher Professor Benjamin Geiger, Councillor Hackett, a biochemistry graduate, said science was the key area he would like to see progress in. "I think it could lead to exciting developments in cancer and cell biology research." The Lord Mayor said academic boycotts of Israel were unfair and would stymie important research. "There is no boycott of North Korea and Israel is an open society.

"The council's policy believes in there being a two-state solution and we would like open channels of communication with Israel to ensure the friendship and contact of well over 100 years since Chaim Weizmann was in Manchester is kept up. We are all going to benefit from it," he added.

"Communal, social and business links and trade in ideas and services is the stuff of what makes humans' capacity to share special. If we maximise our efforts to do something about cancer, who can argue with that?"

Councillor Hackett also returned to Kibbutz Gaash, where he volunteered 30 years ago. He had an emotional reunion with Yael, daughter of his "adopted kibbutz parents" Avital and Ilan Karon.

    Last updated: 10:03am, February 25 2011