Israel’s Council for Higher Education (CHE) has earmarked some $56 million to the NSF-BSF, a prestigious joint U.S.-Israel program made up of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S.-Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF). The funds, which will be allocated over a period of five years, will facilitate dozens of research programs each year in a variety of fields, expanding on the handful of research programs currently being carried out.

The NSF-BSF program was launched in 2013 to encourage collaboration between American and Israeli researchers. Through this program, researchers from both countries jointly submit proposals to the NSF-BSF, which reviews submissions and selects the winning proposals.

The prestigious program distributes grants in a variety of fields, including exact sciences, engineering, computer science, natural and life sciences, earth and environmental sciences, economics and psychology.

The NSF-BSF program enables American academics to collaborate with Israeli researchers, for whom this significantly increases research opportunities with U.S.-based scientific establishments. At the same time, the program contributes to improving the reputation of science in Israel and reinforcing internationalization in the higher education system.

Israel is among the few countries to have joint research programs with the NSF.

“The expansion of the NSF-BSF program is an achievement for the Israeli higher education system,” said Professor Yaffa Zilbershats, chairman of the CHE’s Planning and Budgeting Committee (PBC).

“The United States is the world’s research superpower and its willingness, through the NSF, to significantly expand American investment in, and collaboration with, Israeli researchers and institutions demonstrates the strength and quality of Israeli research,” said Zilbershats. “The PBC has set the advancement of internationalization as a central goal in its multiyear plan and allocates hundreds of millions of shekels per year to strengthen scientific ties with the United States, Europe and Asia.”

In addition to the increased funding for NSF-BSF and as part of efforts to increase the scope of support of collaboration between Israeli researchers and institutions and American researchers, the PBC approved two additional initiatives: The first will see an increase in the number of postdoctoral scholarships for individuals studying in Israel, with an emphasis on outstanding postdoctoral students from leading universities in the United States and Canada.

The program, in collaboration with the Zuckerman Institute, will enable admission of dozens of outstanding postdoctoral students in STEM subjects over the next several years at all Israeli research universities. The amount of the scholarship for each postdoctoral student is $100,000 over two years, with the possibility of extending the scholarship for an additional two years. The total budget will be approximately $11 million over the course of four years—distributed equally between the PBC and the Zuckerman Institute.

The second plan will see the CHE increase its support of postdoctoral scholarships granted to Israeli and American scientists in the framework of the Fulbright Israel United States-Israel Education Fund (USIEF) from $20,000 a year to $35,000 a year for American postdoctoral students studying in Israel, and from $37,500 a year for Israeli postdoctoral students studying in the United States to $47,500.

The CHE is the official authority for higher education in Israel, determining policy for universities and colleges and introducing programs to improve the overall quality of education in Israel. It supports innovation and excellence in teaching and works to make higher education accessible to the entire Israeli population while strengthening the internationalization of the higher education system.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.