Gov't Launches New I-CORE Centers

The government is set to launch four new I-CORE centers -- its new strategy for stemming the tide of Israeli academic "brain drain."

Chana Ya'ar,

Tel Aviv University
Tel Aviv University
Israel news photo: Tel Aviv U

Israel has launched a new initiative to fight the "brain drain" syndrome in which droves of bright, talented academics are leaving the country.

It's called I-CORE.

The new project, "Israeli Centers of Research Excellence," is described as the government's effort to "reinforce the country's leading edge in scientific research and keep top academic talent in the country."

An unprecedented allocation of funds has been committed to the creation of the I-CORE centers, according to a media statement released Thursday.

The first four I-COREs are to be inaugurated next Tuesday at Jerusalem's Binyanei Ha'Uma convention center in the presence of the country's top officials, academics and Nobel Laureates. A total of 20 such centers are planned for completion by the end of the next five years.

The budget totals US$360 million, or NIS1.35 billion, of which one-third will be funded directly by the government, one-third by participating research institutions and one-third is expected from philanthropic funds. 

The resources are to be used by the centers to recruit top researchers, including Israelis currently affiliated with overseas institutions, with each researcher receiving a start-up grant and an annual research grant for five years.

Selected after a highly competitive international process, the first four I-COREs to be inaugurated next week will research

Renewable and Sustainable Energy (focusing on solar fuels); Molecular Medicine (focusing on genetic regulation of complex human diseases); Advanced Approaches to Cognitive Science (focusing on retrieved understanding) and Advanced Topics in Computer Science (focusing on algorithms).

“Israeli researchers have been subject to severe budgetary constraints over the past decade. The I-CORE centers will fortify Israel’s capacity for innovation and multi-disciplinary synergy and serve as catalysts for scientific and intellectual progress the world over,” says Prof. Benjamin Geiger of The Weizmann Institute of Science and Chairman of the Israel Science Foundation Academic Board.

Future I-COREs will cover a range of disciplines in the exact sciences, life sciences and medicine, social sciences and humanities. The evaluation process is conducted by the Israeli Science Foundation (ISF), with the participation of international evaluation committees.