The Israeli Centers for Research Excellence (I-CORE) is an initiative designed by the Planning and Budgeting Committee (PBC) and the Government of Israel. The initiative is part of the Higher Education multi-year Reform Plan, which gradually establishes leading research centers specializing in a range of disciplines. The Centers of Excellence and the program's vision are aimed at fundamentally strengthening the long term positioning of Israel's academic research and its stature among leading researchers in Israel and abroad.
I-CORE was endorsed by the Government of Israel and adopted by Israel's Council of Higher Education in March 2010 (see The government decision here).
The program is jointly run by the PBC and the Israeli Science Foundation (ISF).
The I-CORE Steering Committee is in charge of designing and approving the program's principles and modus operandi, the selection of research topics, the reviewing of the evaluation committees' reports and declaration of the groups selected to establish the I-COREs.
The International Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) of the program advises to the Steering Committee on the various issues, supplying it with an external professional perspective, and assists the ISF with managing the evaluation process.
The Program's objectives are:
A “Center of excellence” is an association of outstanding researchers in a specific research field, who are current faculty members of different higher education institutions, for the purpose of promoting groundbreaking and innovative research. The center serves as an anchor for shared research infrastructure and research groups in this field, and allows optimal utilization of the scientific potential of Israel.
Apart from the research infrastructure that is being established and upgraded in the framework of the I-CORE, the members of the center benefit from a significant budget for the center's activities, including international activities, scholarships for research students and postdoctoral fellows, usage of equipment and materials, technical HR etc.
In addition to the members of the I-CORE who are current faculty members of Israeli institutions of higher education, new outstanding researchers also join the center during the first three years of activity. The new researchers join the various higher education institutions where they get a regular tenure-track academic appointment, and also receive annual research grants for a period of five years and equipment grants.
In order to encourage research collaborations between the various researchers in the center which come from various institutions, the program encourages joint mentoring of graduate students by researchers who are members of the center, regardless of their institutional affiliation. In addition, the program assists the I-CORE members in organizing workshops and unique programs of advanced teaching, including International Graduate programs, in developing partnerships with industry, and in contributing to the community by holding public lectures or programs for high school students.
The research topics selected for the Centers were selected in a wide bottom-up process of consultation with the Israeli academic community, such that they reflect the genuine priorities and scientific interest of researchers in Israel. Out of the large number of suggestions received by researchers, specific topics were chosen by designated committees. Once the topics were announced, a call for proposal was issued inviting groups of researchers to submit proposals for the establishment of I-COREs in these topics.
The evaluation and assessment processes of the proposals were carried out by the Israeli Science Foundation via international evaluation committees, which examined the proposals on a competitive basis. The evaluation and assessment processes were carried out in two stages - preliminary proposals and full proposals.
The first wave of I-COREs started operating on October 2011.
The second wave 12 I-COREs started operating on May 2013. The new Centers will span a wide array of topics in exact sciences, life sciences, engineering and medicine, as well as in social sciences, humanities, education and law.