When the Azrieli Fellows Program was established in 2007, one of the goals was to help Israeli universities develop stronger connections to the international research community.

These cross-border academic relationships help scholars innovative, share ideas and contribute to societal improvements — and they have flourished as the program has become increasingly global during the past 15 years.

At first, the Azrieli Fellows Program accepted PhD-level candidates from Canadian or Israeli universities. New tracks for early-career faculty and postdocs were added, and the numbers of countries that Fellows come from has expanded to 32, including all European Union and European Free Trade Association nations.

There’s a desire within the program to start drawing applicants from other excellent academic countries. Starting in 2023-2024, the international fellowship will be open to all PhD graduates, regardless of country.

“The goal was always to develop into a worldwide program,” says Global Director Aviad Stollman, who says the mix of personalities among Fellows from different countries is important. “We’ve been taking baby steps to get there.”

Since the 2010-11 cohort, when there were four International Postdoctoral Fellows, the number of postdocs coming to Israel has grown to 19 in 2021-22 and 22 in 2022-23. There are also Early Career Faculty Fellows from abroad, including Benjamin Palmer, a chemistry researcher at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev who came to Israel from Wales to conduct research in the best possible academic and geographic environment for his work.

Incoming Fellows receive the “VIP treatment,” from being greeted at the airport to assistance with logistics, such as finding an apartment or opening a bank account. This support is in addition to the networking and professional development opportunities that are a hallmark of the program.

When scholars come to Israel from overseas, they bring new perspectives to the country’s successful but small community of universities. For a lab or small research group, which might typically be comprised of a principal investigator and a handful of PhD students, this can be a game-changer.

Says Aviad: “The Azrieli Fellows Program helps Israeli universities attract the best scholars in the world.”