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Israel: First three centres of research excellence announced

On 21 May 2011, the Israeli government announced the first three recipients of the Israeli Centers of Research Excellence (I-CORE) initiative, an effort to bolster the country’s academic research system and combat brain drain of its top scholars. I-CORE, much akin to the excellence initiatives in France and Germany, seeks to create 30 research centres across Israel over the next five years (2011-2015). Currently, the Israeli government – under the direction of the Council of Higher Education and Planning and Budgeting Committee (PBC) –  has allocated ILS 1.2 billion (approximately EUR 246 million) to the programme, with the goal of attracting 300 researchers back to Israel.

In this pilot phase of the programme, three out of the first four grants have been awarded to the Hebrew University (in the field of molecular science), Tel Aviv University (for computer science) and the Weizmann Institute of Science (focusing on cognitive science). The fourth research excellence centre, which has yet to be chosen, will be in the field of renewable, sustainable and alternative sources of energy.

As of now, the average budget (from public expenditures) per research centre is ILS 15 million (around EUR 3 million), but should not exceed ILS 25 million (EUR 5.1 million). More news on this initiative should be forthcoming; although no firm date has yet been set, I-CORE’s call for proposals for its second round (2012/13) is expected to be announced in the near future.

Council for Higher Education

I-CORE - Description of pilot research areas