State Secretary Martina Hirayama visits Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory

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Martina Hirayama, State Secretary for Education, Research and Innovation, will visit Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory accompanied by a high-level delegation from 5 to 7 April. The mission will focus on strengthening bilateral research and innovation cooperation as a follow-up to the visit made by Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin in October 2021, in his capacity as President of the Swiss Confederation.

During her visit to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, State Secretary Martina Hirayama will be accompanied by a delegation including Matthias Egger, president of the Swiss National Science Foundation, André Kudelski, president of Innosuisse and Yves Flückiger, president of swissuniversities. One of the key objectives of this scientific mission is to deepen bilateral research and innovation cooperation through direct exchanges with local scientific stakeholders and institutions.

In Tel Aviv, the Swiss delegation will visit the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation and the Weizmann Institute of Science and will meet with representatives of the Israel Innovation Authority (IIA). Switzerland and Israel are two innovation hubs that share the distinction of fostering dynamic ecosystems for start-ups. Following the signing of a Joint Declaration between Innosuisse and the IIA in 2018, direct collaborations between Switzerland and Israel have emerged in this area. The launch of the ’Lean Launch Programme’ for Swiss start-ups is an excellent example of this collaboration.

In Jerusalem, the State Secretary and her delegation will hold talks with members of the Israeli government, including the Minister of Innovation, Science and Technology, Ms Orit Farkash-Hacohen, with whom a draft Memorandum of Understanding on scientific and technological cooperation will be discussed and the director general of the Ministry of Education, Ms Dalit Stauber. Discussions with representatives of the Israel Science Foundation and the Council of Higher Education as well as a visit to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem will provide an opportunity to discuss cooperation in areas such as quantum technology, artificial intelligence and environmental sciences.

Israel has been an important partner for Switzerland in the area of education, research and innovation for many years. Scientific cooperation between Swiss and Israeli researchers is substantial. It is mainly based on the EU Framework Programmes for Research and Innovation. Between 2014 and 2020, under Horizon 2020, over 230 research projects involving Swiss and Israeli researchers received EU funding, which amounted to around CHF 220 million on the Swiss side. Since 2011, the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) has funded over 400 projects that included cooperation with Israeli researchers.

In the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the State Secretary will meet the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Mr Mahmoud Abu Mwais and Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh. Several visits to representatives of the scientific and innovation communities will provide an opportunity for direct exchanges and an assessment of further cooperation potential through existing mechanisms.

Research cooperation between Switzerland and the Occupied Palestinian Territory generally takes place through Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships for Foreign Scholars and Artists (ESKAS) as well as through the pilot projects run by the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Western Switzerland (HES-SO) which has been confirmed as the Leading House for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region for the period 2021-2024. Between 2017 and 2020, four cooperation projects between Swiss researchers and researchers from the OPT were supported as part of the Leading House’s activities. Since 2003, twenty researchers from the OPT have been able to benefit from Swiss Excellence Scholarships for research stays at Swiss universities.