Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner led an academic and trade delegation to Israel last week eager to build connections and lay the groundwork for collaborations with Israeli educational institutions and companies. During the mission, University of Illinois President Tim Killeen signed a Memorandum of Understanding with BGU this past Thursday.
“Education is the most important thing we do as a community," Rauner said at the signing ceremony, “This is an economic opportunity, a safety and security opportunity and a chance to enhance our partnership with the State of Israel."
Rector Prof. Zvi HaCohen signed on behalf of BGU. HaCohen, together with VP and Dean of R&D, Prof. Dan Blumberg, presented an overview of the University and its strengths.
This was Rauner's first formal trip on the topic of education as governor.
Calling himself as a lifelong Zionist, he described himself as a member of Illinois' “strong and vibrant Jewish community." Rauner's wife and children are Jewish.
Rauner said the purpose of the visit to Israel was to help the University of Illinois grow and expand. They have launched a $3 billion capital campaign and are planning a new campus in downtown Chicago.
Rauner said he had created the Illinois Innovation Network and “we want partnerships with Israel and BGU."
Both Rauner and Killeen noted the similarities between the University of Illinois and BGU. Both have a close relationship with industry and are committed to benefitting the communities around them, they said.
This MOU “is the first step in a long-term collaboration," Rauner said.
The MOU with the University of Illinois joins two other active partnerships BGU has with Illinois universities in the field of water research. BGU and the University of Chicago signed an agreement in 2013 and Northwestern University signed an agreement with BGU earlier this year.