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Strengthening UK-Israel Ties: British Council Regional leadership visit

Last month, the British Council Israel team hosted the incoming British Council’s Wider Europe Regional Director, Adrian Chadwick OBE, and the Regional Head of Higher Education and Science, Nicola Norton.

Their visit allowed us to meet and speak with partners, funders and grantees of our hallmark programmes, highlighing the strength and depth of the UK-Israel partnership in research, higher education, and innovation.

The British Council seeks to foster trust and positive relations between people. This is why the visit’s itinerary also focused on understanding current Israeli society through the people. We have met civil society leaders that help cope with challenges of trauma, displacement, and recovery and heard from philanthropy representatives about their challenges and perspectives.

As the UK’s international organization for cultural and education relations, we made sure to visit the new outstanding building of the National Library of Israel with the British Ambassador to Israel Simon Walters. The incredible multi use facility, the rich collections, state of the art technology and design are all closely related to the vision of late UK philanthropist Lord Jacob Rothchild z”l who recently passed away. We heard about this vision and the many British partners and experts who made it all possible.

The visit reinforced the unique synergy between British and Israeli cultures and reinforced our commitment to fostering stronger ties and advancing our bilateral relations.

In reflection on his first visit to Israel, British Council’s Regioanl Direcror Adrian Chadwick summed it up: 'I saw incredible resilience and innovation, both in our British Council team and our partners and grantees, I was inspired to see Israelis dealing with challenging circumstances, and still focus on finding solutions to challenges and global issues. Our work matters – it builds trust and lasting relations between Israel and the UK, and even more so – it helps people around the globe. I look forward to see what more can we do together.'

Discover more about each visit and the impactful meetings that took place:

Touring BIRAX grantees labs

We met prominent BIRAX grantees at Tel Aviv University: Prof. Yaniv Assaf, Prof. Inna Slutsky and Prof. Dinah Zur

The inspiring conversations touched upon the value add of the British Israeli collaborations – connecting agile innovative thinking with solid, thought through structures. The results are indeed synergetic – creating break throughs and impact.

All researchers highlighted British Council’s BIRAX programme crucial role in advancing their research and fostering collaborations with UK researchers, and the lasting impact it had over thr course of their careers – and their students’ careers as well. researcher or example, Dr. Ido Tavor, was a student in Prof Assaf’s lab. Thanks to the work and connections made under BIRAX he went on to pursue a post doctoral training in Oxford. He returned to Israel and now leads his own lab, exploring brain structure, function, and human behaviour using MRI.

Read more about Prof. Slutsky's BIRAX project with Prof. Tara Keck from University College London / Prof. Assaf's BIRAX project with Prof. Heidi Johansen-Berg from the University of Oxford 

Exploring Brilliant BIRAX Research Breakthrough at Sourasky Medical Center

The visit was led by BIRAX grantee Prof. Dinah Zur and joined by her interdisciplinary team professionals from Data and Analytics,; and the Israel Innovation Center at Notal Vision; who provided an in deep- overview of their R&D. A tour of the ophthalmology department, the most crowded department at the medical center, highlighted the need and vast populations that will benefit from their innovative research.

The discussions underscored the significant impact of BIRAX's collaboration with Prof. Tunde Peto from Belfast University, and the unique skills it requires and combines - machine learning, data science, and ophthalmology. The project  creates a database for diagnosing patients, improving rapid and specific solutions for vision loss among the ageing populations of the UK and Israel, and addressing the critical shortage of ophthalmology experts in the UK.

Read more about the project here.


Roundtable discussions with Wohl Clean Growth Alliance Grantees

We sat with leading WCGA grants recipients from three Israeli universities, a clean growth tech entrepreneur and  Ms. Jo Cohen, the Israel Director of Wohl Legacy to hear about

about their experiences with the programme, the impact of the Wohl Clean Growth Alliance on collaborations between UK and Israel, and the added value of UK-Israel research collaboration programmes in advancing clean growth and sustainability initiatives.

The discussions underscored the timly importance of the programme in addressing global environmental challenges, emphasising the critical role of bi-national research collaborations like the Wohl Clean Growth Alliance.

Inna Braverman, Co-founder & CEO of Eco Wave Power Ltd shared how the programme helped her start up gain access and grow rapidly, wining a few follow up investments (the recent one is of 1.5 million) and testing their technology in Britian, Israel, Los Angeles and Gibraltar. All participants agreed that the mere process of shared applications, regardless of the sum granted, was instrumental to moving conversations forward – and into action.

Our new programme manager for WCGA, Ms. Rawan Abulafi introduced herself and shared the good news of the programme’s renewal and forthcoming new calls (stay tuned to July news!)

Additional participants at the session, hosted by the Porter School of the Environment and Earth Sciences at Tel Aviv University, includedProf. Nir Ohad, Chair of the TAU/TiET Food Security Center of Excellence at TIET Patiala India, Tel Aviv University; Dr. Orr Karassin, Chair of the Environment and Sustainability Research Center at the Open University of Israel; Dr. Shula Goulden, PlanNet Zero Academic Manager, Tel Aviv University Climate Crises Initiative; and Prof. Yael Parag Cohen Mintz, Head of the Energy Track at Reichman University School of Sustainability.

 Read more bout the programme here

A Day at the National Library and Key Civil Society Meetings

At the Taub Center – an independent nonpartisan research think tank – director general Nir Kaidar and his team walked us through their recently published comprehensive report focusing on Israeli domestic status “A Picture of the Nation 2024”. The briefing covered key topics such as the economy, labor market, health, demographics, welfare, education, early childhood, and environmental concerns and helped us gain clear insights into the core needs and challenges ahead.

Together with his excellency Ambassador Simon Walters, we held a special personalised tour of the National Library of Israel, joined by Ambassador Sallai Meridor, CEO Oren Winberg, and former British Council Israel Deputy Director Caron Sethill. Dr Raquel Ukeles, Head of Collections, shared her expertise on Islam and Middle East collections, and we viewed rare documents related to the UK and Israel. We concluded the tour by discussing the library's role in preserving ‘living’ heritage.

Our visit also included in-depth discussions with Israeli civil society leaders and social entrepreneurs, including NATAL-Israel Trauma and Resiliency Centre, AJEEC-NISPED (Arab-Jewish Centre for Empowerment, Equality, and Cooperation – Negev Institute for Strategies of Peace and Economic Development), IsraAid, and Tel Chai College, about current challenges and solutions. Additionally, we met with representatives from leading British philanthropic foundations to understand their perspectives and discuss their bilateral work and experiences with grantees.

We also set with representatives of leading British philanthropic foundations – friends and partners – to learn from their perspectives. In an open conversation we heard about urgent needs as they see them on the ground, discussed the bilateral aspect of their work and heard stories from their visits with their grantees.

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