Visiting British FM boosts science cooperation with Israel
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Visiting British FM boosts science cooperation with Israel

Days after UK scientist Stephen Hawking announces boycott, William Hague hails ‘tremendous’ joint work by Israeli and British universities

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office in Jerusalem, in May 2013 (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90/File)
British Foreign Secretary William Hague at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office in Jerusalem, in May 2013 (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90/File)

British Foreign Secretary William Hague and Israel’s Minister for Science, Technology and Space Yaakov Peri signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on science cooperation between the UK and Israel.

In a ceremony at the Hebrew University on Thursday, attended by British Ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould, the ministers inked the document that sets out five priority areas of science cooperation between the UK and Israel: advanced materials and nano-technology; agri-sciences with a focus on water; neuroscience; space research; technology; and regenerative medicine.

“Both the UK and Israel are scientific superpowers, and many of our universities and academics are already doing tremendous work together,” Hague said.

“Despite the fact that there are people in British academia who call to boycott Israel, the British government shows that it acknowledges the importance of scientific collaboration with Israel and is interested in expanding our co-operation on our path to excellence,” Peri said.

Peri was presumably alluding in part to British physicist Stephen Hawking, who earlier this month withdrew from Shimon Peres’s Presidential Conference in ostensible solidarity with the Palestinians.

The ceremony also marked achievements of the BIRAX Regenerative Medicine programme and confirmed that the UK and Israel will award 30 new fellowships in 2013-14.

Britain Israel Research Academic Exchange (BIRAX), an innovative program launched jointly in 2008 by the prime mnisters of the United Kingdom and Israel, aims to develop the enormous potential in scientific collaboration between the UK and Israel. The program, officially called the BIRAX Regenerative Medicine Initiative, includes projects such as developing stem cell treatments for multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease, looking for a regenerative therapy for Type 1 diabetes, and finding ways to persuade the immune system not to attack stem cells.

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