A new partnership to foster academic cooperation through joint research programs and academic exchange between the UK and Israel was announced by Minister of State for Higher Education Bill Rammell.
The "Britain-Israel Research and Academic Exchange Partnership" (BIRAX) will build on the strong links that already exist between universities in the UK and Israel. It will contribute towards the wider goal to support the development of Britain and Israel's knowledge economies through the awarding of grants for scientific research.
The scheme is managed by the British Council, and funded by the Pears Foundation and the United Jewish Israel Appeal with contributions from the Department of Innovation, Universities (DIUS) and Skills and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and Israel's Ministry of Science.
The British Council is also working on proposals to support academic links between Britain and Palestine, which the UK government will offer equal funding to support. A separate announcement is expected to be made in due course.
Minister for Higher Education Bill Rammell said:
"There is a long history of cooperation between Israel and the UK and BIRAX will help further cement this relationship and create new partnerships. It will help strengthen academic links between individual researchers and between universities in both countries.
"There have been calls in the past for a boycott of Israeli academics but I strongly believe that we have much to learn from each other and our researchers have much to gain from working together. Education should be a bridge between nations not a barrier.
"We are determined to support BIRAX, and I very much welcome the substantial financial contributions made by the Pears Foundation and the United Jewish Israel Appeal. I would encourage others to follow their example so that this valuable scheme can expand even further."
Executive Chair of The Pears Foundation Trevor Pears said:
"We are delighted to work with the British Council in support of this exciting and important program. The new scheme increases academic collaboration in science and technology with potentially lasting benefits for Britain, Israel and, hopefully, the world."
UJIA Chairman Mick Davis said:
"UJIA is proud and delighted to support this program which will strengthen the living bridge that draws on the great history of academic cooperation that has benefited Israel and the UK so greatly over the years."
BIRAX will be targeted at junior academics from postdoctoral students to mid-career researchers and lecturers who have far fewer international opportunities.
The scheme will last for five years in the first instance, although it is anticipated that it will develop over time into a longer-term partnership. It is hoped that the program will engage talented academics from minority communities, in particular Arab citizens of Israel and under-represented groups in the UK.
Notes to editors :
1. BIRAX has been designed by The British Council in collaboration with The Pears Foundation. It is an imaginative and flexible program with support from academic, business and philanthropic leaders and in partnership with the two umbrella bodies representing the UK and Israel's universities, Universities UK and Israel's University President's Association. The British Council will administer the program whilst a high-level steering committee made up of senior British and Israeli representatives will be established to ensure strategic direction and high academic standards.
2. The program will be targeted at junior academics by providing research and exchange opportunities for early to mid-career researchers and lecturers, with the dual aim of supporting quality research collaborations and strengthening institutional links for the future.
3. The Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced the partnership during his recent visit to Israel, when he signed a joint statement with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
4. The Pears Foundation is investing $1 million over five years in the Britain-Israel Research and Academic Exchange Program.
5. The United Jewish Israel Appeal is putting in funding of $400,000 over five years.
6. UK government funding of $40,000 (Department for Innovation universities and Skills $30,000 and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office $10,000) is being matched by the government of Israel (Ministry of Science) taking total committed funding to $1.5 million over the five year period.