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NOFO: Middle East Regional Cooperation Program


Applications are now open for the Middle East Regional Cooperation (MERC) Program to enhance research and development cooperation between Israel and its regional neighbours – in support of achieving a comprehensive and lasting Middle East peace.

The MERC Program is funded as assistance to promote scientific cooperation, technology-led development, and capacity building between partners in Israel and eligible countries/territories in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Subject to change based on U.S. federal law and country-specific restrictions on funding, those countries include: Algeria, Bahrain, Kuwait, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and the West Bank and Gaza (hereinafter “eligible MENA partners”). Emphasis is given to research and technology subjects of regional importance and relevance to the development in the MENA. Moreover, benefits should target developing, USAID-presence countries in the MENA and resource-limited populations.

Achievable Objectives 
  • Support applied, actionable research that generates results relevant to regional development and  empowers communities, organizations, and governments to make evidence-based decisions.

  • Foster the implementation and uptake of research results and innovations, by conducting targeted  outreach to public and private sector stakeholders, to improve quality of life, support economic  growth, and achieve development impact in the MENA region.

  • Build the science and technology capacity of institutions and the next generation of researchers and  leaders in developing countries in the MENA region.

  • Promote direct cooperation between Israel and the MENA region and establish strong working  relationships that last beyond the life of the project.

Special Call: Proposals Supporting Negev Forum Priorities
  • Applicants who wish to respond to this special call may apply for an applied research grant, continuation  grant, or travel and workshop grant, should address one of the following thematic  areas, and consider the priority topics listed:

    • Water and food security: Proposals focused on water treatment, reuse, management, quality, and  affordability; sustainable agriculture and fisheries; plant and animal protection; and food storage  and supply chain continuity. 

    • Clean energy: Proposals that would accelerate the clean energy transition in the region with a  specific focus on smart grids and regionally interconnectivity. 

    • Tourism: Proposals to build tourism operator capacity and/or to support sustainable eco-tourism. 

    • Health: Proposals focused on the prevention, treatment, and management of diabetes.

    • Education and coexistence: Proposals with special attention to bolstering academic collaboration and/or meaningfully engaging regional populations from different backgrounds.

Funding Opportunities

MERC is seeking to fund proposals in the following categories:

  • Applied Research Grants

    • The MERC Program seeks pre-proposals pertaining to applied research and technology development within  the broad areas of the natural, physical, and social sciences and engineering. Pre-proposals under this  category should present collaborative applied research projects on topics of development relevance to the  MENA region. Pre-proposals should relate to regional problems that benefit from cross-border cooperation.  Examples of the types of development impacts MERC aims to achieve include but are not limited to:  economic growth that increases incomes of the disadvantaged, improved environmental management,  increased sustainable food production, improved water conservation and efficient use, and enhanced  delivery of health services through better treatments or health management strategies.

    • The following activities and costs are not allowed under this announcement category:

      • Basic research

      • Activities that appear partisan or that support individual or party electoral campaigns

      • Projects which solely or predominantly represent the development of physical infrastructures, core support for organizations, or delivery of services, including:

        • Construction of laboratories or clinics

        • Delivery of health services

        • Delivery of educational services

        • Social development programs

        • Establishment of private enterprises and projects of a commercial or profit-making nature

      • Projects lacking an innovative approach, or primarily constitute:

        • Planning studies or case studies

        • Operations research, surveys, evaluations, and baseline data collection

        • Routine geographical mapping

        • Literature reviews

        • Social welfare projects

    • Estimated Award Ceiling: $1,000,000

    • Estimated Length of Project: 2 to 5 years

  • Continuation Grants

    • Applicants with current or recently ended MERC awards may submit proposals to be evaluated as  “continuation grants,” skipping the scientific peer review process. Continuation grants provide support for  the implementation, commercialization, broader dissemination, or uptake of project results from MERC- supported research. Depending on the type of project and results obtained, MERC would favor the integration of private sector partnerships, a focus on end-user adoption of technology, or tailoring outcomes to be useful to regulators in government agencies.

    • Estimated Award Ceiling: $500,000

    • Estimated Length of Project: 1 to 3 years

  • Travel and Workshop Grants

    • Proposals to support joint cooperative workshops, meetings, or exchange of researchers may be considered  under this category. MERC acknowledges the relatively limited opportunities for scientific exchange  between scientists from Israel and the MENA region and seeks to support forums that advance dialogue on  regional scientific issues, develop new partnerships, or deliver training on a topic relevant to regional  development. Preference will be given to proposals that cite the development of new pre-proposals to the  MERC program as a key outcome, engage students and early career researchers, meaningfully engage  policymakers and stakeholders, and are organized in the Middle East region.

    • Examples of potential activities that would be considered under this category include:

      • A multi-day training program focused on bringing together early career researchers to develop  specific skills or know-how related to a regional development priority

      • A meeting of stakeholders to discuss research gaps in a particular sector with relevance to regional  development

      • A workshop of researchers and stakeholders, including private sector partners, with shared interests  to identify potential areas for cross-border scientific cooperation

      • An Israeli institution hosting a visiting researcher from an eligible MENA partner (or vice versa) for a couple of months to learn a new technique and develop a research partnership

    • Estimated Award Ceiling: $100,000

    • Estimated Length of Project: One activity, event, or exchange to be completed within one year of the award.

Eligibility :

  • Subject to change based on U.S. federal law and country-specific restrictions on funding, in addition to Israel the following countries/territories are eligible to apply as MENA partners: Algeria, Bahrain, Kuwait, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and the West Bank and Gaza. Partners may come from academic, private sector, non-governmental, or governmental institutions eligible to receive U.S. foreign assistance.

  • Applied Research Grants and Continuation Grants

    • All proposals must include at least one Israeli partner and one eligible MENA partner. Only proposals developed jointly by investigators from the partner institutions are accepted. Proposals involving three or more partners are also allowed and encouraged. The proposal may be submitted by any party in the collaboration.

    • MERC projects involving Israel and another relatively affluent MENA country (i.e., Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, or the United Arab Emirates) must include a developing country from the eligible MENA countries/territories (i.e., Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia, and the West Bank and Gaza) in the region as a partner and/or a beneficiary of the research outcomes. Affluent countries must adhere to budgetary restrictions, such as cost-sharing salaries, maintain the spirit of regional cooperation opposed to primarily engaging foreign expatriates, and target benefits and outcomes of the project to developing, USAID-presence countries in the MENA region and resource-limited populations. Satellite or portal campuses of foreign (e.g., U.S., Indian) institutions are not considered eligible MENA partners.

    • Participation of partners from outside the MENA, including the United States, is not a key feature of the MERC Program, but they may be considered for modest roles in exceptional cases to meet an essential technical need that is not otherwise available among the partners. Applicants must be prepared to provide a well justified case for participation of partners from outside the MENA and accept that MERC may not support their participation. The use of non-regional partners to lead or administer the overall project is discouraged.

  • Travel and Workshop Grants

    • To simplify the award management, it is strongly preferred that applicants to the Travel and Workshop  Grants category propose one prime recipient/grantee from Israel or one of the eligible MENA partners, and  no sub-recipients. The prime must propose an activity involving participants from Israel and one or more  of the eligible MENA partners.

Post Date: August 14, 2023

Location :
Saudi Arabia
Sudan (the)
United Arab Emirates (the)

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