Minerva

The Minerva Foundation is a subsidiary of the Max Planck Foundation. It has supported German-Israeli cooperation for more than 50 years. Over the decades, several programme lines have emerged, comprising individual and institutional funding activities.

A meeting between scientists of the Max-Planck Society (MPG) and the Weizman Institute (WIS) already led to a scientific exchange between Germany and Israel in 1959. Subsequent to this meeting, chancellor Konrad Adenauer, after a talk with the Israeli premier David Ben-Gurion in New York, donated DM 3 million (EUR 1.53 million) to the WIS on 14 March 1960. This marked the beginning of extensive support for science in Israel.

Minerva-Weizmann project support
A further agreement in 1963 provided support for scientific projects, initially through the Volkswagen Foundation’s contribution of DM 2 million (EUR 1.02 million). In 1964, within the framework of the first Minerva agreement with the WIS, the then federal research ministry took over the financing of 19 physics and biology projects amounting to DM 3 million annually. Currently, the Minerva-Weizmann programme, which has an annual budget of more than EUR 3.5 million, supports projects in all areas of the natural sciences.

The Minerva-Weizmann committee, which is equally composed of scientists from Germany and the WIS, assesses project proposals. Its specific programme objectives include cooperation with German research partners and the promotion of junior scientists. Junior scientists from Germany have been able to directly apply for a short stay to work on ongoing projects since 2008.

Minerva science centres
Since 1975, Minerva research centres, which conduct top level research in cooperation with German scientists, have been funded at Israeli universities and WIS. These centres have become an important part of the Israeli researchscape and cover bio- and geosciences, chemistry, information technology, computer science, environmental studies, law, literature, as well as religious and historical studies. In February 2015, on her travel to Israel on the occasion of the celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of German-Israeli diplomatic relations German minister of Education and Research Johanna Wanka opened the two latest Minerva research centres.

The research centres are equally financed by revenue from the long-term endowment (EUR 72 million in 2014) that the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research provided and applies in Israel, and an own contribution by the recipient Israeli research institution amounting to the annual investment capital (matching funds).

The Minerva Foundation has appointed a central committee for the coordination and overall supervision of the centres. This committee comprises internationally renowned scientists of all subject areas, as well as with external experts responsible for the selection and evaluation of potentially new centres and for the regular evaluation of existing ones. Since a 2011 reform, the centre programmes are geared even stronger towards competitive processes.

Minerva Fellowships
The Minerva Fellowship programme is the oldest existing programme promoting German-Israeli cooperation. It started in the winter of 1961/62, with the first German guest scientists resident at the Weizmann Institute. Between 1964 and 1973, it was extended with the aid of the Volkswagen Foundation, allowing the first Israeli postdoctoral students to attend the German Max Planck Institute. The Federal Research Ministry’s financing of the programme allowed Israeli universities to be included in the exchange programme.

Up to 2010, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) had supported long-term research stays of approximately 1,000 Israeli and as many German scientists at a cost of EUR 40 million. The Fellowship programme currently provides EUR 1.2 million annually for 50 junior scientist fellowships from both countries. Minerva fellowships are open to all subject areas. Doctoral and postdoctoral candidates are preferred. The duration of the funding is normally six month to two years and up to a maximum of three years for doctoral candidates. Short-term Minerva fellowships of one week up to eight weeks provide junior German and Israeli scientists with an opportunity to make their first contact with partners in the host country. They also allow for participation in seminars and workshops.

Minerva Schools
1997 saw the introduction of Minerva Schools with the numbers increasing to 30 by 2010. The Schools aim at enabling advanced students in all science areas to make their first contact with the partner country while still studying. Promising students are brought together with outstanding Israeli and German representatives of their disciplines for meetings lasting several days.

Further information can be found on the programme’s web pages.

Gentner Symposia
The Gentner symposia, supported since 1972, are named after Wolfgang Gentner, a German initiator of scientific cooperation with Israel. These larger conferences are held in all areas of research and are financed with up to EUR 30,000 from the Minerva Fellowship programme funds. Highly qualified junior scientists also participate in these symposia. The Minerva Fellowship Committee, represented equally by German and Israeli scientists, allocates fellowships.

ARCHES prize
The BMBF has awarded the ARCHES prize (Award for Research Cooperation and Highest Excellence in Science) since 2008. The Minerva Stiftung GmbH. administers the specification and selection process. The prize of EUR 400,000 is awarded annually to two German-Israeli teams of junior scientists (no older than 40). The prize is alternately awarded for research in the areas of natural science, engineering, life sciences, and the humanities.
Inclusion in the selection process is dependent on being nominated by a renowned expert in the respective field. The Fellowship Committee is responsible for the selection.