By Sherwin Pomerantz
Academic and educational collaboration between Israel and the United States has been a cornerstone of their close relationship for many years. Israel is a leader in science and technology innovation, and many U.S. higher education institutions have formed partnerships and joint ventures with Israeli universities, companies and organizations.
A 2016 study conducted by the prestigious Samuel Neaman Institute at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, using data retrieved from academic databases, reports that academic collaboration between U.S. and Israeli universities increased by 45 percent in the prior decade —despite aggressive, well-funded campaigns to stifle joint research.
In fact, since 2006, American and Israel academics have published more than 40,000 joint publications.
What this landmark report shows is that the relationship between American and Israeli universities is stronger than ever. At a time when Israel’s detractors are calling for academic boycotts across the nation, American universities and their faculties have been undeterred in their work to solve some of the world’s most intractable problems by working closely with their Israeli counterparts to advance knowledge.
Daphne Getz, the lead researcher for the Samuel Neaman Institute, comments that “this in-depth study shows that the deep bond between American and Israeli academics is vital for the advancement of research in medicine, physics, biochemistry, agriculture, computer science and many other disciplines.” She expects these collaborations to continue to grow at a significant pace in the months and years ahead.
A recent example of that collaboration is the establishment of the Discovery Partners Institute (DPI) in Chicago and its connection with Tel Aviv University.
Led by the University of Illinois system, DPI will be home to more than 100 world-class researchers and thousands of students pursuing economy-building discoveries. It will bring together top faculty from the state university system and partner universities, including Northern Illinois University, the University of Chicago, Northwestern University and Israel’s Tel Aviv University as well. Tel Aviv University is discussing establishing a Midwest center at the DPI.
DPI will be developed on a donated site in Chicago, and researchers will connect with hundreds of businesses, thousands of students, and many entrepreneurs and venture capital firms. DPI’s research and educational collaborations will address real-world challenges, promoting the kind of breakthrough discoveries that create new products and companies.
Most recently, as part of the development of the DPI, an excellent research center targeting food systems, water resources and environmental change is planned for Northern Illinois University as part of this new statewide innovation network led by the University of Illinois system. As the fourth hub of the Illinois Innovation Network — and the first outside of the system’s three universities — the new center will be part of a statewide network aimed at simultaneously driving economic growth in Illinois and addressing critical global issues. The facility is targeted for opening in fall 2021.
The University of Illinois as its first (and so far only) international partner has targeted Israel, the “Startup Nation,” in order to tap into the depth of creative R&D being pursued by Israel’s tech sector. Clearly the university recognizes the world-class R&D work being done in Israel and desires to have this act as a catalyst for local growth.
José Angel Guria, secretary general of the OECD, said: “It takes collaboration across a community to develop better skills for better lives.” U.S.-Israel academic collaboration symbolizes that axiom to a “T”.
Sherwin Pomerantz is a 34-year resident of Jerusalem, president of Atid EDI Ltd., a Jerusalem-based business development consulting group, and past national president of the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel.