In 1959, a delegation of the Max Planck Society, headed by its president Otto Hahn, visited the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel. The background was that after a long time of silence scientific contacts between researchers of these institutions were coming to life. Following this meeting, the German government provided DM 3 million start-up capital for research projects and the exchange of scientists and researchers with the Weizmann Institute.
In 1964, the Minerva GmbH, now the Minerva Foundation GmbH, was established as a subsidiary of the Max Planck Society. Minerva concluded an agreement with the Weizmann Institute, thus forming the legal basis for the funding of research projects. Since then, the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) provides the Minerva Foundation with funding for this program in the amount of € 3.65 million per year.
The year 1973 marked another milestone in the exchange between German and Israeli scientists and researchers, as the Fellowship Program (exchange of scientists and researchers between Germany and Israel) was extended to cover all research institutions in Israel. Since then, roughly fifty -seventy German and Israeli scientists and researchers have been awarded a funded research residency every year.
In 1977, BMBF funds were used for the first time to establish a Minerva Center at an Israeli university. This initiative was based on the wish to introduce new instruments of funding for excellent scientists and at the same time for cooperative research. Presently 28 Minerva Centers are funded in the natural sciences, humanities, and social sciences in Israel. Meanwhile Minerva publishes calls for proposals for new Minerva centers and strives to establish one or two new Centers every year.
The Gentner Symposia and Minerva Schools, both aiming at exploring new paths of cooperation, were initiated in 1973 and 1997 respectively. They facilitate initial contacts between scientists in Germany and Israel in special fields of research.
Since 1964, the BMBF has provided the Minerva Foundation with a total of approximately € 270 million to support cooperative efforts between Germany and Israel.
The successful reform of the Minerva Centers program stimulated the Federal German Ministry for education and research in 2012 to endow another € 10 Million to Minerva, raising the capital to € 72million. The Minerva Centers are financed out of the returns. The capital management is under reform, part of is being managed now by Minerva and most of it will be gradually taken over from the Israeli universities.