Russian-born Israeli billionaire Yuri Milner says he made some “lucky” investments on the way to amassing his fortune of approximately $3.7 billion.Recognizing that his success was likely more than luck alone, Milner was named as one of the world’s 100 “greatest living business minds” by Forbes last year. Through his investment fund DST Global, Milner has become known for his successful late-stage technology investments, including backing Facebook, Twitter and Airbnb and other fast-growing Internet companies.“I was interested in science and space from the time I was very small, but it turned out I was not a good scientist,” Milner told The Jerusalem Post in jest.After dropping out of doctoral studies in particle physics at Moscow State University in 1989, Milner took a scholarship to study business at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. He became the first non-immigrant Soviet citizen to attend the prestigious college’s business studies program.“I always wanted to give back to science,” Milner, who was named after Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, said.He has done just that, co-founding the most lucrative prize in science – the Breakthrough Prize – in 2012. Sponsors include Sergey Brin, Anne Wojcicki, Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Ma and Ma Huateng.“From investment in social media I realized that if you look at the top 200 celebrities on Twitter, for example, you will not see any single scientists. It’s a bit out of balance,” Milner said. “Everything we see around us was conceived by scientists but this is not being celebrated.”Awarded to leading scientists in the fields of life sciences, fundamental physics and mathematics, Breakthrough Prize laureates benefit from $3 million each in prize money - three times more lucrative than the Nobel Prize cash award. Recipients are honored at an annual televised award ceremony known as the “Oscars of Science.”“The idea is to focus attention on scientists,” Milner said. Earlier this month, the winners of the 2019 Breakthrough Prize were announced, honoring those behind breakthroughs in super-resolution imaging, treatment for the genetic cause of infant death, and the discovery of new electronic material.In honor of Israel’s 70th anniversary, Milner decided to celebrate the special occasion in the way he knows best – by celebrating scientific achievement.Milner’s first project was called “70 for 70 Scientists,” a list recognizing 70 Israeli scientific scholars who have made groundbreaking contributions to their respective fields of research. The list includes eight Nobel Prize winners and five Turing Award winners.Milner has now established the “70 for 70 Fellowships” program – an NIS 25m. ($7m.) fellowship fund that will benefit 70 outstanding PhD candidates at Tel Aviv University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.Launched last week, the fellowship program will be managed by Tel Aviv University and, in a similar vein to the Breakthrough Prize, will benefit students in the fields of life sciences, fundamental physics and mathematics. Each fellow will receive $25,000 annually for four years.“I hope they will have the freedom to pursue their dreams, to do whatever they interested in pursuing,” Milner said. “Universities are providing infrastructure, mentorship and physical space. The Milner Global Foundation is providing financial resources.”Emphasizing that scientific education in Israel has been historically strong, mirrored by the disproportionately large number of Israeli scientists winning Nobel Prizes and other global scientific awards, Milner expressed that it is no surprise Israel is one of the world’s leading technology hubs today.“Science & technology go side by side. I started as a scientist and became a technology investor and founder. I think it is strongly logical that Israel’s combination of science and technology has global significance,” Milner said.