USA partners with Israel to fund nanotech

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Aug.30, 2004 — Israel’s scientific community is hard at work to become a world-class nano research center. And the United States government, mainly through the U.S. Israel Science and Technology Foundation (USISTF), has joined the effort to bring nanotech to Israel.

The USISTF is a scientific organization that promotes technological cooperation between the two countries by financing joint research projects.

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Mark Segal, USISTF program director, explained that the purpose of the foundation is to promote research in Israel. He said that since April of this year, the group has targeted nano as one of the technology sectors meriting special attention.

“Israel has proven its scientific capabilities in the past. We believe that she will continue to do so in the future. Nanotechnology is a promising new field, and despite its size, Israel has created a substantial nano-research infrastructure, which if nurtured can be of benefit to both Israel and the USA,” said Segal.

The USISTF is indeed a suitable medium to promote research projects between the U.S. and Israel. The foundation was set up in 1994 by former President Bill Clinton and the late Yitzhak Rabin, former prime minister of Israel. It started with a budget of $30 million, divided evenly between each government.

David Miron-Wapner, Israeli director of the USISTF, said that nanotechnology was one of “the most promising areas of research at these times. We also believe that some of the research projects in IT, biology and homeland security will have substantial elements of micro technologies.”

While the USISTF is an important medium to promote research programs between the two countries, critics say its shortfall is its inability to allow individual initiatives.

According to Arnold Brenner, the U.S. director of the USISTF, the organization does not accept unsolicited requests for any research project.

The U.S. and Israel governments want to make use of USISTF resources for future industry. Consequently, the two governments must decide on projects they feel will be the most beneficial and helpful, and that have strong infrastructure elements that are not usually financed by the private sector.

“It is we who decide what particular project we want to promote and what offers we want to solicit from potential participants. We screen these offers and then select four or five who will do the research work as a team, and give them a monetary grant to help them along,” said Brenner.

The USISTF is now soliciting offers for the development of an integrated management system for the homeland security market. The goal of the system is to take over management of any disaster scenario. It must be based on micro technologies and can include nanotechnology. The system must be small, portable and sensitive to environmental issues.

If successful, this homeland security system would have global implications. As Brenner explained, “We want it to be of such a high technical and applicative quality so as to create a global standard in disaster management situations.”

The USISTF is an important organ in creating and fostering scientific cooperation in nanotechnology. Despite the fact that this fund has been around for 10 years, some say it does not appear to have been very active.

Eli Opper the chief scientist at the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor, and joint chairman of the USISTF with U.S. Undersecretary of Commerce for Technology Phillip Bond, explained, “I do not wish to comment on activities in the past, but since I took office some two years ago the foundation has been very active. I am confident that it will remain so in the future.”

The USISTF is an important element of promoting joint nanotech research, said Opper.

“I believe that in the very near future nanotechnology will be of prime importance. Scientific and R&D cooperation will help Israel create a strong world-class research center,” he continued.

Opper pointed out that nano research was only pinpointed in April of this year and for that reason, the USISTF have not yet solicitated offers for research on nano projects.

The USISTF is not the only medium of U.S. and Israel cooperation in nano research.

The Office of the Chief Scientist has developed an excellent working relationship with the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office, which operates within the National Science Foundation (NSF).

These cooperative programs are obviously very beneficial for Israel. Tali Rozenbaum, director general of the Ministry of Science, said the program is also beneficial to the U.S.

“American and Israeli scientists work well together, and there is a good chance that together they may develop some revolutionary technologies which will have a positive impact on both parties,” said Rozenbaum.


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