Building at Cambridge University in England..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
As academic boycott proposals pop up at universities around the world, 14 Arab and Israeli researchers from across the Middle East sat down together with eight senior researchers from top global business programs for a two-day conference at the University of Cambridge.
The conference was the first workshop of The Initiative for Academic Collaboration in the Middle East and North Africa, and took place last week at the university’s Judge Business School. The initiative aims to advance the understanding of the business environment and challenges in the Middle East and provide insight on attaining a trajectory of strong and sustainable growth and job creation.
In the welcome letter, conference organizers pointed to the young population and high unemployment rates in the Middle East, and said it is now that “research, education and training are crucial to brighten the region’s future.”
Another motive behind the conference was to promote cooperation between Arab and Israeli researchers.
Hebrew University of Jerusalem Prof. Niron Hashai, one of the four organizers of the conference, said that he wanted, “specifically in the academic field, where there are many attempts to boycott us, to try and promote academic cooperation.”
The group of researchers comprised of seven Israeli researchers, among them one Arab Israeli and one woman researcher, alongside seven researchers from Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, Algeria, Iran and Turkey, among them five women. Despite some worries about possible tension, Hashai said that the conference went smoothly and the researchers got along well.
A big draw for the young researchers, he said, was the opportunity to work alongside a senior researcher in the field.
The conference, dubbed “Master Scholar,” was built in the format of a reality-show competition, which Hashai said kept spirits and motivation high. The researchers broke up into small groups to work on individual projects, interspersed with lectures by the senior scholars.
Some of the issues dealt with by the researchers included a comparison of the obstacles facing women entrepreneurs in Israel and in Arab countries; a look at what affects the forming of joint Arab-Israeli venture capital funds; choosing between venture capital fund managers with experience versus those with local familiarity; and more.
At the end of the conference, scholarships were awarded to some of the research teams to allow them to continue their work. This will lead to a published academic research by Israelis and Arabs from the region.
The conference was sponsored by the Asper Center for Entrepreneurship at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace.