Grants for joint UK-Israel scientific research announced

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Ten joint British-Israeli research projects which tackle global challenges in Energy and the Environment have been selected to receive funding through the Britain Israel Research and Academic Exchange Partnership, BIRAX.

The announcement was made last night by British Foreign Secretary William Hague at an event hosted by Britain’s ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould celebrating scientific collaboration between the UK and Israel.

The Foreign Secretary emphasised the importance of science in the relationship between the two countries. He hailed science as “one of the cornerstones of the relationship between Britain and Israel” and added “both are countries that have built up our economies and our identity through being leaders in science and technology”

Israel’s Minister of Science and Technology, Professor Daniel Hershkowitz said:

“The scientific cooperation agreement with Britain, like similar agreements with other countries, is additional proof of Israel’s status as a world scientific power. I place very great importance on international scientific cooperation in general and cooperation with Britain in particular. The language of science bridges differences and gaps between peoples and different world societies and cooperation between Israel and Britain will advance not only these two countries, but the entire world.”

The ten chosen projects address a wide range of topics within the field of the environment covering conservation of the coral reef in the Red Sea, the development of bio-renewable resources to replace non-degradable petroleum-based plastics and crop productivity to safeguard sustainable agriculture. The projects were selected for their innovation, the strength of the collaboration and the long term prospects for continuing the project and its potential impact.

David Willetts, Britain’s Minister for Universities and Science voiced his support for the scheme:

“I am keen to maximise the contribution that science and research can make to the UK’s economic recovery,” he said. “Developing co-authored research of the highest quality is one way to do that, so I welcome initiatives such the Britain-Israel Research and Academic Exchange programme. The appetite for collaboration that exists between the higher education institutions in our countries is clearly very healthy. I hope to see even more high-quality joint-research between the UK and Israel in the future.”

British Council Israel Director Dr. Simon Kay emphasised the importance of the relationships being built between Israeli and British academics as a result of BIRAX:

“We deliberately designed a scheme which promotes dialogue by awarding grants for visits between research groups in the UK and Israel. Science is the heart of the BIRAX but building relationships between academics is what gives the scheme life. We thank our partners in particular Pears Foundation, UJIA as well as government and academics from the UK and Israel who enable BIRAX to happen.”

Trevor Pears, Executive Chair of Pears Foundation said:

“We are delighted to see our partnership with the British Council continue to deepen academic cooperation and research between Britain and Israel. We hope that these links will continue to grow and flourish for many years to come for the benefit of Britain, Israel and the world.”

Previous BIRAX recipients have lauded the scheme which funds visits between institutions in the UK and Israel and enables the building of deeper, lasting relationships between scientists with similar interests. Dr Maya Schuldiner from the Weizmann Institute whose grant has enabled joint research with colleagues from the University of Manchester into the genes that are responsible for maintaining the appropriate level of acidity essential for the vitality of yeast cells says “BIRAX has allowed us to think better and to work better … but I think maybe the most important gift of all is the gift of friendship”.

The ten selected projects involve a total of nine British Universities in partnership with seven Israeli counterparts. The British Universities include the Universities of Bangor, Bath, Brunel, Cambridge, Glasgow, Leeds, Oxford, Southampton and Imperial College and the Israeli Universities include Ben Gurion, Haifa University, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, Tel Aviv University and the Weizmann Institute.

BIRAX was created by the British Council in collaboration with Pears Foundation and academic leaders from Britain and Israel with the aim of strengthening academic collaboration between the two countries. BIRAX was launched in 2008 by the Israeli and British Prime Ministers and enjoys continued support from both governments. The scheme is managed by the British Council in Israel. Among the funders are Pears Foundation, UJIA, Britain’s Department for Business Innovation and Skills and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Science and Technology in Israel. The British Council also manages a separate but complementary programme with Tel Hai Academic College in northern Israel involving research collaborations with UK universities, supported by UJIA.

List of the successful projects:

**Using advanced microchemical methods to explore connections between deep reef fish populations
**Dr. David Bailey, University of Glasgow and Dr. Moshe Kiflawi, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

**Functionalized Polyphenylselenophenes for Plastic Photovoltaic Cells Applications
**Dr. Michael Bendikov, Weizmann Institute of Science and Prof. Igor F. Perepichka, Bangor University

**Improved performance Li-ion batteries through micro-structural optimisation
**Prof. Nigel Brandon, Imperial College and Prof. Emanuel Peled, Tel Aviv University

**Understanding Semiconductor-Sensitized Solar Cells by Studying Charge Transfer Kinetics
**Prof. Gary Hodes, Weizmann Institute of Science and Prof. James Durrant, Imperial College

**Resolving the deposition pattern of the Dead Sea laminae and its implication for understanding hydro-climatic short-term variations in the Levant
**Prof. Suzanne Leroy, Brunel University and Dr. Revital Bookman, Haifa University

**Polymers from Biorenewable Resources: Catalysts, Architectures, and Properties
**Prof. Moshe Kol, Tel Aviv University and Prof. Matthew G. Davidson, University of Bath

**Bacterially mediated removal of phosphorus in a non-polluting intensive mariculture system
**Prof. Jaap van Rijn, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Prof. Michael D. Krom, The University of Leeds

**Interpolating the quality of jeopardized agricultural soils
**Dr. Tal Svoray, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Prof. Peter M. Atkinson, University of Southampton

**Exploring the natural sink of the greenhouse gas methane via sulphate reduction using carbon, sulphur and oxygen isotopes
**Dr. Alexandra Turchyn, Cambridge University and Dr. Orit Sivan, Ben Gurion University of the Negev

**The use of state-of-the-art models by policy makers to address global energy and environment challenges: the case of transport policy
**Dr. Moshe Givoni, Oxford University and Prof. Yoram Shiftan, Technion - Israel Institute of Technology

Fuller descriptions are available on the British Council Israel website.