Fourteen months after normalising their relations, the United Arab Emirates and Israel recently agreed new steps to develop cooperation in higher education and scientific research.
A memorandum of understanding signed on November 18 calls for “encouraging coordination between educational institutions in both countries” through joint activities like training courses and conferences, as well as student-exchange programmes and related activities, the Emirates News Agency said.
The Emirates’ minister of education, Hussain bin Ibrahim Al Hammadi, travelled to Tel Aviv to sign the accord with his Israeli counterpart, Yifat Shasha-Biton.
In a statement on Twitter, the U.A.E. ministry described the memorandum as “an extension of the Abrahamic Peace Agreement” signed last year. (See a related article, “Despite Controversy, Emirati-Israeli Research Cooperation Has Kicked Off”.)
It comes four months after the U.A.E. opened an embassy in Tel Aviv on July 14 this year.
According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, in 2019 Israel spent 4.9 percent of its gross domestic product on research and development, a higher proportion than any other country. The Emirates’ spending on research is around 1.3 percent of gross domestic product, the highest share among Arab nations, according to 2018 figures from the World Bank.
In November last year, a study by the Emirati Trends Research and Advisory Center noted that Israel ranks as one of the most innovative countries in the world, with more per capita start-ups, patents, technology companies, and scientific advancements than any other country.
A project with Israel “comes among our main goals to increase our understanding of the Houbara environment, and to work with international partners to promote the conservation of this species.”Majed Ali Al-Mansoori
Managing director of the International Fund for Houbara Conservation, in Abu Dhabi
The study said that Dubai focuses similarly on innovation-led growth and “efforts to develop a knowledge economy through digital transformation and the promotion of entrepreneurship”.
More Than 9,000 Technology Start-Ups
The same study adds that, despite its small population relative to other industrial nations, Israel has more than 9,000 active start-up technology companies.
“This start-up landscape encompasses key areas for Gulf investors, ranging from the medical and agricultural sectors to renewables, biotech, and artificial intelligence,” it says.
Those factors explain, from the study’s point of view, the increasing Emirati interest in bilateral agreements with Israel in education and research.
During his visit to Israel, Al Hammadi discussed ways of coordinating student and academic exchanges between Emirati universities and Israeli universities and institutes specialized in research and pioneering technologies, the Emirates News Agency said.
The memorandum also envisages the “exchange of information on equivalency of qualifications, information technology and educational solutions, and social integration programs that support children with learning difficulties and people with special needs,” it added.
Tackling Covid-19 and Climate Change
The first step towards institutional cooperation between the U.A.E. and Israel in higher education was between Mohammed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence, in Abu Dhabi, and the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.
At the time, Sultan Al Jaber, chairman of the Board of Trustees of Mohamed bin Zayed University, welcomed the accord as an opportunity to “employ the expertise of both institutions towards the use of artificial intelligence to confront some of the most pressing challenges in the world, such as the emerging coronavirus, and the issue of climate change.”
In November, Zayed University, also in Abu Dhabi, signed an agreement with the University of Haifa with the aim of “exchanging knowledge and best academic practices, in addition to establishing joint research projects, and organizing events, seminars and conferences for the exchange of benefit.”
The new accord provides an opportunity to “employ the expertise of both institutions towards the use of artificial intelligence to confront some of the most pressing challenges in the world, such as the emerging coronavirus, and the issue of climate change.”Sultan Al Jaber
Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence
Noura Al Kaabi, president of Zayed University, said in a statement that the new partnership “will provide opportunities for students, faculty, staff and the community and will enhance benefits that transcend borders.” She stressed that her “aspiration through this cooperation to import best practices in the areas of technological advancement, resource management, water and food security, and marine sciences.”
Protecting Endangered Birds
During the past year, several joint research projects were launched between Emirati and Israeli universities, including one for the study and protection of the Houbara bustard, an endangered species of bird that lives in both countries.
The agreement between the International Fund for Houbara Conservation, in Abu Dhabi, and the Israel Foundation for Nature and Heritage has been described as one of the 22 most interesting results of the peace agreement.
The project will survey and study the remaining population of Houbara bustards in Israel, their condition, environment and behaviour, in addition to their reproduction and survival rates, and their genetic makeup.
Majed Ali Al-Mansoori, managing director of the conservation fund, said the project “comes among our main goals to increase our understanding of the Houbara environment, and to work with international partners to promote the conservation of this species.”
Another partnership, between New York University, Abu Dhabi, and researchers from Israel and France, is sequencing the genome of a 2,000-year-old palm tree at NYU–Abu Dhabi’s Center for Genomics and Systems Biology.
[Enjoying this article? Subscribe to our free newsletter.]
Prior to the announcement of the latest educational partnership, the most recent joint research agreement was a pact signed in October between the Israel Space Agency and the U.A.E. Space Agency. The agreement calls for cooperation on several projects, including Emirati participation in the Beresheet-2 moon mission, which Israel intends to launch by 2024, and in analyzing data from a weather-monitoring satellite launched by Israel and France in 2017.