Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and the University of Michigan have signed a $2 million partnership to forge ahead on developing renewable energy technologies, the institutions announced on Monday.

Executives from the two universities signed a memorandum of understanding in Michigan on Thursday, with each side pledging $1 million to finance a three-year collaborative research program.

Signing the agreement were University of Michigan vicepresident for Research Stephen Forrest and Ben-Gurion University vice-president and Dean for Research and Development Moti Herskowitz, accompanied by the presidents of both universities – Rivka Carmi and Mary Sue Coleman respectively.

“We live in a global economy,” Forrest said. “Universities need to globalize their activities because we need to solve problems that are larger than one country can manage alone. When faculty at universities from across the world come together, they bring different cultures and different objectives, and when you mix them, you get a lot more than just the sum of the parts.”

The project was a result of Forrest’s repeated visits to Israel in the past five years, during which he explored the country’s innovative expertise, according to the institutions. Specifically, the collaborations aim to tackle challenges in the fields of vehicle fuels, solar energy and thermoelectric materials, information from Ben- Gurion University said. This month, faculty teams will be able to apply for grants in all of these areas, with up to six projects receiving funding in the first year. At an annual technical workshop, research teams will be able to showcase developments from their collaborative work, the universities said.

“We look forward to collaborating with the University of Michigan researchers on the challenging issues related to renewable energy and trust that the agreed model of collaboration has the potential of generating novel scientific and technological information with potential applications,” Herskowitz said.

Stressing the advantage of working with colleagues at Ben-Gurion University, Forrest said he felt that the Israeli partners would have a particular advantage in solar energy research, as they would be able to take a more applied approach as their work moves forward. Meanwhile, he expressed admiration for the entrepreneurial culture that exists throughout the Jewish State.

“There’s an enormous number of startups that come out of Israel,” he said. “We have a lot to learn from them.”

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