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Higher Education in Israel: Research & Development at Universities

As at universities all over the world, advancement of basic scientific knowledge is the chief objective of researchers in Israel's universities. Publications of books and articles by Israeli authors, encompassing all scientific fields, are a primary expression of the university sector's output; their number, relative to total world publications, is increasing, and they have a high professional impact in the world scientific community as measured by average citations per article. Relative to the size of the labor force, Israel has a significantly larger number of publishing authors in the natural sciences, engineering, agriculture and medicine than any other country, and a higher share of the country's publications are co-authored by Israeli scientists and those of other countries than is the case elsewhere.

To integrate Israeli science into the international scientific community, post-doctoral research positions and sabbaticals abroad as well as attendance at foreign scientific conferences are encouraged, and a wide range of exchange programs and joint projects are maintained at institute, university and government levels with counterpart organizations overseas. Israel is also an important center for international scientific conferences, hosting over 100 such gatherings annually.

Concomitant with their wide-ranging scientific research activities, the universities have played an important and innovative role in Israel's technological advancement. The Weizmann Institute of Science was among the first in the world to set up an organization for the commercial utilization of its research (1958); today similar organizations exist at all Israeli universities. The establishment of science-based industrial parks adjacent to university campuses has been pioneered with great commercial success. Universities have also set up "spin-off" industrial firms for the commercialization of specific products based on their research, often in partnership with local and foreign concerns.

Interdisciplinary research and testing institutes are functioning at universities in diverse scientific and technological fields vital to the country's industry, serving in areas such as construction, transportation and education as national focal points for applied R&D. In addition, a high proportion of faculty serve industry in an advisory capacity on technical, administrative, financial and managerial matters. The share of research grants and contracts of universities funded by local industry is over 9 percent as compared with 6-7 percent in the United States and Canada.

The number of patents taken out by Israel's universities is one measure of the effectiveness of the relationship between the universities and industry. A recent study has shown that the universities are the country's leading patentees both at home and abroad, and that the relative size of their patenting activity far exceeds that of the higher education sectors in other countries. Furthermore, in relation to their expenditures on R&D, Israel's universities were granted more than twice as many patents as American universities and nine times more than those in Canada.

Sources: Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs