(photo credit: Courtesy Sheba Medical Center)
Thirty-two of the 287 major five-year scientific grants by the European Research
Council (ERC) to young scientists around the world this year were awarded to
Israeli researchers, according to Prof. Shy Arkin, vice president for research
and development at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
shows the scientific power of Israel in general and the Hebrew University in
particular” Arkin told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday, highlighting the fact
that 8 of the 32 researchers work at his institution. “Israelis are leading in
Europe in such a competition. Our status is high internationally.”
ERC grants range in size from 1.5 million to 2m. euros per
Arkin added that “Young Israeli researchers are leading in
Europe when considered on a per-capita basis. The Europeans aren’t doing Israeli
researchers any favor.
They judge the research proposals
They invest in the best.
We should be proud of this
achievement.” He noted that England, Germany, France and Switzerland boast the
largest numbers of ERC grants.
Arkin said that while the number of Hebrew
University students and researchers in the humanities and social sciences is
lower than a decade ago, the school excels in those fields as well.
are able to give our students the broadest and best training,” he said. “It must
be broad, because we can’t teach only the subjects that are in
These will change. University comes from the word ‘universe,’ so
we can’t teach only fields that are popular because it can lead to well-paid
jobs.“ The Israeli researchers who applied for ERC funds “had to write excellent
grant proposals. They had to explain not only what they did but what they were
aiming for in the future.”
Arkin said that about 40 or 50 of those
selected in the preliminary stage flew to Brussels for half-hour personal
“In the end,” said Arkin, “about half of them won the grants.
About a third are women.” All the grantees will conduct their research in
Israeli institutions of higher learning.
Asked to explain why young
Israeli researchers do so well in such competitions, Arkin said “We have a
culture in which learning, daring and innovation are important.
also military service, which encourages them. Many Israelis know how to get
information and access it.”
But when asked why the level of Israeli
elementary and high schools and their international test scores have dropped
significantly in the past decades, the professor said that “These are
When it comes to research, these are the best of the best. The
grants are different measures, not averages. They are won by people with the
best education and personal excellence.”
Meanwhile, the National Council
for Research and Development has reported an 11 percent increase in requests for
patents from Israeli university researchers in 2010-2011 compared to
The survey included the seven universities (Ariel University
was only recently recognized, so it was not included) and the research and
development branches of major medical centers.
Every year, Israeli
university researchers apply for more and more patents through their R&D
companies – 430 in 2010-2011 and 395 in the previous two years. Hospital
researchers applied for 200 patents in 2010-2011.
In his first visit to
the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology as science, technology and space
minister on Wednesday, Yaakov Peri said that he will promote the government’s
recent decision to expand state R&D budgets.
He heard from Technion
president Prof. Peretz Lavie about the ongoing struggle to get enough donations
and grants to attract new young researchers and faculty and the fight to cope