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Built on Trust: German-Israeli Cooperation in Science and Research

Scientific cooperation plays a special role in German-Israeli relations - it helped pave the way toward diplomatic relations between the two countries and, with its diversity and vitality, it has become a important pillar of the cooperation between the two states. Comprehensive networks are active at the bilateral level; professional cooperation also extends to the EU's Framework Research Programmes, to which Israel has belonged since 1996.

Scientific and research cooperation strengthened: German-Israeli Intergovernmental Consultations 2014

During the fifth German-Israeli intergovernmental consultations, Federal Minister Johanna Wanka met with her Israeli counterpart Yaakov Perry, the Minister of Science, Technology and Space, in Jerusalem on 25 February 2014. Their discussions focussed on the successful cooperation in research between the two ministries and the planning of joint projects to celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations with Israel in 2015. The Ministers underlined the significance of the existing cooperation in research and development as important cornerstones of the bilateral relations between the two countries. The anniversary year will provide the context for excellent bilateral research initiatives. The decision was taken to expand the long-standing cooperation on cancer research. The Ministers signed a joint declaration on this and on other topics.

Enhanced cooperation on industry-relevant research and development was agreed with the Israeli Minister of the Economy, Naftali Bennett. A joint call for proposals is to be published in the fields of civil security research and IT security. The signing of a joint declaration underlined the importance of the cooperation in these areas as well as in vocational education and training. New fields of cooperation were also initiated in talks between Minister Wanka and Israel's Minister of Education, Rabbi Shai Piron. The ministers signed a declaration in the area of "educational technology".

Political framework for scientific and technological cooperation

The pillars of German-Israeli cooperation are the Minerva Foundation, the interministerial research cooperation between the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and Israel's Ministry of Science, Technology and Space (MOST) and Ministry of Economy, the German-Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research and Development (GIF), the German-Israeli Project Cooperation (DIP), and the Martin Buber Society of Fellows in the Humanities.

The establishment of the Minerva-Stiftung more than 50 years ago marked the beginning of scientific cooperation between Germany and Israel. Bilateral research projects have been supported for many years under relevant programmes of the BMBF and Israel's Ministry of Science, Technology and Space (MOST) (since 1973) and Ministry of Economy (since 2000) within the framework of interministerial cooperation with the two Israeli ministries. Former ministers Annette Schavan and her Israeli counterpart Shalom Simhon signed an intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in private sector industrial research and development and initial and continuing vocational training on 19 June 2011. The agreement strengthens cooperation between the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the Israeli Ministry of Economy and put it on a new footing. The agreement provided the basis to establish the Joint Committee for Industrial Research and Development, which first met on 4 July 2012.

The winners of the call for proposals for the new Minerva research centres were presented during the German-Israeli Science Festival at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on 16 and 17 November 2012. One of the winners was Professor Oded Aharonson of the Weizmann Institute of Science and his team for the topic "The emergence and evolution of early life under extreme planetary conditions". The other successful topic was the "Study of the Rule of Law under Extreme conditions": In its research, the new Minerva Center focusses on the topic of basic democratic values and plans to investigate the question of how robust the law is under extreme conditions. Professor Eli Salzberger of the University of Haifa and his team, together with research colleagues from the University of Hamburg, will carry out comparative research into the provisions contained in codified law for use in times of crisis. At the same time, they will also perform empirical studies of how such provisions are actually implemented in situations of crisis and upheaval.

The Minerva-Stiftung GmbH is a subsidiary of the Max Planck Society and promotes German-Israeli cooperation in science and research. It has established Minerva Centers at Israeli universities and the Weizmann Institute where German and Israeli scientists and scholars cooperate in all the academic disciplines. There are currently 27 such centres. The Minerva Foundation also funds scientific symposiums and projects at the Weizmann Institute and awards fellowships to scientists and scholars from both countries. It also provides funding for research symposiums and Minerva Schools. The Minerva Foundation administers the ARCHES award ("Award for Research Cooperation and Highest Excellence"), which has been presented by the BMBF every year since 2008. On 15 June 2011, the then Federal Minister Annette Schavan opened the new "Minerva Center for Interdisciplinary Studies of the End of Life" at the University of Tel Aviv.

A further key element of cooperation is the German-Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research and Development (GIF), which was established in 1986. The BMBF has been supporting larger interdisciplinary German-Israeli projects as part of German-Israeli Project Cooperation (DIP). Since 1996, more than 50 cutting-edge projects from every subject area have received funding. The Martin Buber Society of Fellows in the Humanities was established in late 2009. The first fellows started research work at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in September 2010.

Up-to-date information in relation to bilateral projects in education and research is available here.

In an effort to advance the peace process in the Middle East, the BMBF is also involved in multilateral collaborative projects with Israel and its Arab neighbours, mainly in the fields of marine research, environmental technologies and water technologies.

Current priorities of cooperation

Interministerial cooperation

Interministerial cooperation between the BMBF and the Israeli Ministry of Science, Technology and Space (MOST) and the Ministry of Economy today focuses on scientific and technological fields such as the marine and geosciences, biotechnology, environmental research, materials research and nanoscience, information and communications technology, cancer research, and water technologies. Civil security research was added as a new field of cooperation in 2009. The funding of German-Israeli collaborative projects between science and industry in recent years has focused on application-oriented, industry-related research. Since 2011, the basis of this has been the intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in private sector industrial research and development and initial and continuing vocational training. A declaration of intent on collaboration in battery research and electrochemistry was signed during the intergovernmental consultations held in 2012. Planned measures include the establishment of summer and winter schools to interest young scientists from both countries in this field of research.

German-Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research and Development (GIF)

In its regular funding programme, the GIF supports approximately 30 civilian German-Israeli research projects each year in all the scientific disciplines (natural sciences, life sciences, medicine, the social sciences, and also the humanities). So far the foundation has approved over 1,000 bilateral projects from across all disciplines. Funding is provided for periods of three years. Under the "Young Scientists" Programme, the foundation also supports young German and Israeli scientists and scholars aged up to 40 and within seven years of obtaining their doctorates who want to present their research activities in Israel or in Germany. The endowment capital provided for the GIF by the BMBF and the MOST currently amounts to 211 million euros.

German-Israeli project funding programme (DIP)

The DIP is mainly aimed at teams of researchers who cooperate in innovative areas. The priority areas are physics, life sciences, and chemistry. Application consists of a two-step procedure which is administered by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG). Only the six Israeli universities and the Weizmann Institute are eligible for funding. Each institution can submit two proposals for joint research projects by 31 March of each year. Cooperation partners on the German side may be researchers who work in the German science system. Three or four projects are selected for funding each year. Over 50 projects have received funding from the BMBF since 1996.

Martin Buber Society of Fellows in the Humanities

The Martin Buber Society of Fellows in the Humanities was established in 2009. It is a foundation under civil law for which the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has made available €20 million. The purpose of the Foundation is to foster the interdisciplinary and intercultural academic dialogue between outstanding young researchers in all fields of the humanities and social sciences (with the exception of law and economics) from Germany and Israel. Each year, up to ten young researchers are chosen to receive such support (five from Germany and five from Israel). The first German and Israeli fellows started their research at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in the 2010/11 academic year. Each year up to 2020, ten young researchers from all the humanities and social science disciplines will be funded as well as several one-year fellowships for doctoral students. At the start of 2014, 29 fellows were working on research at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

German-Israeli programme in vocational training

The aim of the German-Israeli Cooperation Programme in Vocational Education and Training is to develop vocational training in both countries. For more than 40 years, this programme has been giving vocational training experts from both countries the opportunity to exchange experience as well as to develop innovative approaches and put them to the test in their practical work. In 2012 this was expanded to include trainees. Jointly developed teaching materials for training in the automotive and IT sectors as well as in microsystems technology are used in both countries. This enables the vocational education and training sector to respond to new technological, economic and demographic challenges. In July 2012 the then Israeli Minister of Industry, Trade and Labour, Shalom Simhon, visited Germany to learn about its dual system of vocational education and training as part of preparations to reform Israel's vocational training legislation.

Highlights of bilateral cooperation

ARCHES (Award for Research Cooperation and Highest Excellence in Science)

Since 2008, the BMBF has presented the ARCHES award to Israeli-German teams of young researchers on an annual basis, rotating between the natural and engineering sciences, the life sciences, and the humanities and cultural sciences. The total amount awarded each year is €400,000, each team receiving €200,000. The nomination and selection procedure is administered by the Minerva Foundation.

German-Israeli Year of Science and Technology

Former Minister Annette Schavan and her Israeli counterpart Galeb Majadle declared 2008 the "German-Israeli Year of Science and Technology" and officially opened it in Berlin on 8 April of that year. The aim of the Year was to draw attention to the diversity and excellence of German-Israeli bilateral science cooperation and to raise awareness in Israel of Germany’s attractiveness as a research location.

Special activities of funding and intermediary organizations

German funding and intermediary organizations are involved in numerous activities with Israel. The most important of these are listed below. Further information is available on the BMBF-funded information platform

German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD)

The DAAD awarded the first one-year scholarship to an Israeli in 1960. In the meantime, the DAAD has become one of the most important promoters of exchanges of students and researchers between the two countries. The funding offered to Israelis mainly includes research scholarships for doctoral students and young researchers, grants for research periods, and funding for participation in summer schools and summer language courses. In addition, the DAAD offers study tours and scholarships for German students, graduates and post-docs as well as studies in Israel for German researchers, and it helps arrange teaching assignments for German language instructors and guest lecturers. Currently, the DAAD is establishing an alumni system in Israel in order to support lasting contact with the German science system. In 2012 the DAAD provided 367 Germans with a scholarship for Israel and 215 Israelis with a scholarship for Germany.

Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (AvH)

Through the award of Humboldt Research Fellowships, the Humboldt Foundation has already enabled numerous researchers from Israel to spend longer periods conducting research in Germany. Young German researchers on the other hand can apply for Feodor Lynen Research Fellowships, which enable them to spend longer research periods in Israel. Furthermore, the Humboldt Foundation administers the Bert-Sakmann-Stiftung, which was established by the German Nobel Prize winner in medicine, Bert Sakmann. Its funds are used to support a series of lectures held by young German and Israeli researchers in the partner country.

Under its Frontiers of Research programme, the Humboldt Foundation has been holding the German-Israeli Frontiers of Humanities symposiums since 2009. The interdisciplinary meetings for young Israeli and German humanities scholars are organized once a year together with the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities and are hosted alternately by Germany and Israel. The fifth symposium was held in Kibbutz Tzuba, Israel, in October 2013.

The Humboldt Foundation provides financial support for initiatives of Humboldt associations and individual Humboldtians to organise what are known as Humboldt Kolleg conferences in order to strengthen regional and disciplinary networking.

Max Planck Society

In 1959, the first contacts between researchers of the Max Planck Society (MPG) and researchers of the Weizmann Institute of Science laid the foundation for close cooperation between the two institutions which has lasted to the present day. Under joint research initiatives, the Max Planck institutes and researchers of the Weizmann Institute establish networks and provide joint training for young researchers; an example of this is the collaboration between the International Max Planck Research Schools (IMPRS) and the Feinberg Graduate School at the Weizmann Institute.
The MPG also maintains relations with the six universities in Israel via its institutes. Cooperation with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem is an outstanding example of multidisciplinary relations. The most recent collaboration is on the Max Planck-Hebrew University Center for Sensory Processing of the Brain in Action which was established in 2013. The close scientific relations have also resulted in joint projects which receive European funding. The Max Planck institutes also use the funding possibilities of the GIF and DIP very successfully. In addition, the Max Planck Society is the sole shareholder of the Minerva Stiftung GmbH.



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    Opening of the exhibition Jewish Mathematics in German Speaking Academic Culture in Tel Aviv

    Welcome Address by the State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Cornelia Quennet-Thielen at the opening of the exhibition Jewish Mathematics in German Speaking Academic Culture in Tel Aviv on 14 November 2011


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