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The government will significantly increase university funding to $82 million over the next five years to bolster their advanced research centers in nanoscience and nanotechnology.
National Nanotechnology Initiative (INNI) director Dan Vilenski announced the funding increase at the Journey 2006 technology conference this week in Tel Aviv, noting that the increase resulted in large part from the success of a similar matching fund model developed for the Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute at Haifa's Technion-Institute of Technology last year.
"We found that multiple donation matching can work very well for an Israeli nanotechnology center," Vilenski said. "By extending this model to the nanotech centers at other Israeli universities, we see the possibility of maintaining our recognized leadership in advanced nanotech research."
The new program provides three-to-one matching funds for all private donations to nanotech centers, effectively producing over $230 million in new funding for nanotech research through 2011. The program creates a "funding triangle" consisting of the source donor, the university and the government, where each contributor has explicit input over how matched funding will be used. In addition to matching funds, the government will also provide over $8 million for nanotech-related equipment purchases and for advanced research projects in water treatment using nanotechnology.
Dr. Eli Opper, the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor's chief scientist and a strong proponent of the nanotechnology initiative, commended the many government and university representatives who have brought the triangle concept through a year-long process of approval.
"This is a very significant amount of money for Israeli nanotech research," Opper said. "It's especially effective because we're taking a very innovative approach that encourages collaboration and focuses on our most outstanding researchers. It's an excellent fit for Israel."
The triangle donation matching program will give preference to funding research in areas considered to have the strongest potential for Israeli breakthroughs - nanomaterials, nanobiotechnology, nanoelectronics, and nanotech for applications in water treatment and alternative energy. Matching funds will be granted primarily for research projects and personnel, but not for construction. All universities are eligible for program funding, though a five-year ceiling amount has been set for each university, based on its existing and planned nanotech capabilities.
With the $55.5 million increase in matching funds to become available this year, Israel's nanotech centers stand to be among the world's best funded, as well as the most respected.
"Worldwide, nanotech research will be more and more competitive in the next 10 years," Opper said. "We believe that this new funding model will make the critical difference for Israel. It will help us to retain and attract the most outstanding researchers and produce the most valuable research."