Two recent grants to local universities encourage scientists to conduct research in the country rather than abroad.
On Sunday, Bar-Ilan University held a special dedication ceremony for a new Life Sciences Faculty in the name of Mina and Everard Goodman of the United Kingdom. The Goodmans' contribution, among the largest received by the university, makes possible the research projects of 24 scientists, most of whom are returning Israelis.
According to Bar-Ilan University President Moshe Kaveh, the contribution will enable the faculty to compete with the best research centers in the world. Researchers at the faculty will train students and conduct research in biology, nanotechnology, and environmental studies.
Another major contribution to Israeli universities was made last week by the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation. The foundation has launched a $30 million initiative to support researchers in the fields of science, engineering, and technology over four to five years.
The foundation recognizes the urgent need to recruit and support both young and senior faculty members in the face of an increase in the number of researchers who move abroad to pursue academic careers or abondon research for work in business and the high-tech industry. The Safra Foundation's program also aspires to advance students and supply scientific equipment.
According to a statement released by the Safra Foundation, $7.5m. has already been allocated to the Technion, the Hebrew University, and Tel Aviv University. Each institution will provide funds to match the grant of $2.5m. The Hebrew University plans to use the funds to encourage research in the fields of nanoscience, cognitive science, bio-science, and information science. The Technion will expand the faculty of mechanical engineering to fund teaching about micro-scale and nano-scale systems and enable multidisciplinary research. Tel Aviv University aims to establish a graduate program in bio-informatics.
"It is essential that Israeli research universities have the resources to attract, develop, and retain faculty of the very highest caliber in the fields where they already enjoy exceptional strengths," said Dr. Neil Rudenstine, adviser to the program and former president of Harvard University. "Israel must continue to be an international leader in a number of critical fields and this program is intended to help accomplish this goal."
Discussions with additional universities are currently under way for the 2007-2008 academic year.