British ambassador to Israel H.E. Neil Wigan visited Ben-Gurion University yesterday (Tuesday) for a series of discussions about expanding collaboration between BGU researchers and universities in the United Kingdom. Wigan met with Vice President for Global Engagement Prof. Limor Aharonson-Daniel and National Institute for Biotechnology in the Negev (NIBN) CEO Dr. Osnat Ohne before concluding the visit with a tour of the Marcus Family Campus and a meeting with President Prof. Daniel Chamovitz.
Above: BGU President Prof. Danny Chamovitz welcomes Ambassador Wigan
Wigan said he chose BGU for his first university visit, since replacing David Quarrey as ambassador last month, in order to see firsthand the University's "extraordinary transformation" and emergence as a global center of science and technology research.
Above: Ambassador Wigan with Prof. Varda Shoshan-Barmatz
"I served a previous stint at the British embassy here from 2002 – 2006, and the development since then has been stunning. From cyber research to life sciences the research happening at BGU and around the city of Beer-Sheva is having an impact around the world," Wigan said. "We really want to build stronger ties between Ben-Gurion University and British universities through joint collaboration programs in many fields - digital, cyber, digital health and more. Environmental technology (we call it 'clean growth' in England) is a big focus of our industrial strategy.
"British universities really want to work much more closely with Israeli universities - they see Israeli universities as cutting edge. They want to do really good science and Israel is a terrific place to come and do it. So it's an excellent match for us," he added.
Above: Ambassador Wigan tours the Marcus Family Campus
Prof. Chamovitz welcomed Wigan to campus, saying that strengthening ties with British academia is an important part of BGU's strategic plan for internationalization. The president explained that Beer-Sheva was recently chosen to host Israel's first Innovation District, to be centered around Ben-Gurion University, and added that the District would facilitate "synergistic connections" between BGU and universities in the United Kingdom and farther afield.
"Beer-Sheva won the tender because our University, Soroka University Medical Center and the BGU Advanced Technologies Park (ATP) are all within walking distance of one-another and feeding off each other in three main areas: digital/cyber security, digital health and envirotech. The development will multiply the number of start-ups here by five and triple the number of companies operating here. That will mean more jobs, more affordable spaces for startups, and ultimately it will create new ways for us to leverage the University and to think about the academic interactions we can have with the UK," Prof. Chamovitz said.