Britain and Israel have signed a memorandum of understanding to expand their
scientific cooperation – despite calls in Britain for an academic boycott of
this country. It was signed in Jerusalem on Thursday by Science, Technology and
Space Minister Yaakov Peri and British Foreign Secretary William
British Ambassador Matthew Gould and HU president
Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson, along with members of the British-Israeli Life
Sciences Council, were also present at the event at the Hebrew
The two sides agreed that scientific and research projects
will be increased in such a way that by 2018, they will be the leading
participants in joint research in advanced materials, nanotechnology,
agricultural research – especially relating to water resources – neurology and
brain sciences, space research and regenerative medicine, which involves stem
cells to create healthy new human tissue to replace diseases ones. All of these
are fields in which Israel excels.
The countries decided to double the
scope of their joint research in regenerative medicine to become world leaders
in this field. They intend to increase the number of research scholarships in
regenerative medicine to 300 within five years. By the end of 2014, they already
hope to grant 30 more. By 2018 Britain and Israel also want to double the size
of existing budgets for their joint research.
The memorandum of
understanding was signed as part of BIRAX, the British-Israeli Research Academic
Exchange, which supports joint research and arranges for meetings of researchers
from the two countries.
Peri said that even though there are still
British academics who call for the boycott of Israel, the government shows it
recognizes the importance of scientific cooperation with Israel and is
interested in expanding it out of considerations of excellence.
said the two countries are both “scientific powers” and that many British and
Israeli academic institutions already carry out “wonderful research work”
“It was a great pleasure to meet some of the Israeli scientists
who work closely with British colleagues as part of BIRAX to find drugs for
horrible diseases,” the foreign secretary said. “Our memorandum of understanding
signed today will focus on our efforts in five fields and increase
Ben-Sasson said it was symbolic that the British minister
is “continuing and deepening the research connections between the two countries
as did one of his predecessors, Lord Arthur Balfour, at the beginning of the
The HU president presented Hague with a copy of the
historic speech delivered by Lord Balfour when the university was opened in
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