Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Taoufik Jelassi and U.S. Ambassador Jake Walles signed an Agreement on Science and Technology Cooperation today to strengthen bilateral scientific, technological and educational cooperation.  To support further exchange in the domain of science and technology pursuant to the new agreement, Ambassador Walles also announced two new programs. The first is the new $4.75 million Fulbright Tunisia Tech+ Scholars program that will send approximately 40 Tunisian graduate students to the U.S. to obtain master’s degrees in science, technology and business fields.  The second will make available $800,000 to establish three new linkages between U.S. and Tunisian educational institutions in the fields of technological innovation and business development.  The $5.5 million in funding for the two new educational programs has been approved by the Department of State and both programs will be officially launched following final approval from the U.S. Congress. The signing of this agreement and the announcement of these two new programs represent the joint commitment to promote close cooperation between the two countries in science and technology and to foster future research and economic innovation.

These announcements are a direct result of discussions between U.S. and Tunisian officials during the visit to the U.S. in April by Prime Minister Joma’a and the concurrent meeting of the U.S.-Tunisia Strategic Dialogue.  While in Washington, DC and New York City, Prime Minister Joma’a and Minister Jelassi visited a number of leading U.S. companies and educational institutions that have used investments in science and technology to spur innovation and job creation.

The United States recognizes the important role of education in Tunisia’s democratic transition and long-term future. With a focus on science, technology and business the $4.75 million Fulbright Tunisia Tech+ Scholars program underscores the U.S. commitment to educational exchange and will fund 40 new graduate level scholarships to prepare Tunisia’s future innovators for the crucial roles they will play ensuring Tunisia’s economic growth and development.

With the signing of today’s Agreement on Science and Technology Cooperation, we will launch discussions to establish new partnerships between three prominent American educational institutions and their counterparts in Tunisia.  Following the U.S.-Tunisian Strategic Dialogue in April, the U.S. Embassy in Tunis sponsored a visit to the U.S. by a delegation of 11 representatives of Tunisia’s Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research to learn about technology programs at engineering schools, research centers, incubators, and Research and Development (R&D) centers in the United States. Through meetings with researchers, administrators, and business managers, the delegation learned about the essential functions and structures required to support university research and the commercialization of technology, which we hope to replicate in Tunisia through these new partnerships.

In addition to the scholarships and university linkages announced, the Science and Technology Agreement provides a framework to facilitate and expand science and technology cooperation between our two countries.  The agreement provides a mechanism for critical research and development efforts that facilitate the exchange of scientific data and results, protect intellectual property rights, and establish partnerships between official U.S. technical agencies and their counterpart institutions internationally, as well as U.S. educational and research institutions. Expanded cooperation in science and technology will allow us to forge relationships between universities, researchers, business leaders and citizens.

The signing of this agreement and the launch of these new educational initiatives underscores the United States’ commitment to the people of Tunisia and their democratic transition.  It is one of a number of initiatives implemented following the U.S.-Tunisian Strategic Dialogue, including an agreement to provide a $500 million loan guarantee, the recent meeting in Tunis of the United States-Tunisia Trade and Investment Council, and the expansion of the $20 million Thomas Jefferson Undergraduate Scholars program.