BRUSSELS – With a success rate in previous EU research programs better than the European average, Israeli institutions remain vital candidates for the new Horizon 2020 program, an EU official told journalists.

“Science diplomacy supports the broader foreign policy of the EU,” Angela Liberatore, deputy head of unit for the southern neighborhood in the European Commission’s Directorate General for Research and Innovation, told Israeli journalists at her Brussels office on Monday.

Science and innovation are areas “in which the EU benefits from cooperating with Israeli entities, and Israeli entities benefit from strong cooperation with the EU,” she stressed.

As the European Commission kicks off its latest rounds of research project funding for EU member states and associated countries, Liberatore emphasized how critical Israel’s participation has been in such programs in the past. In the commission’s previous round of project funding, the Seventh Framework Program for Research and Technological Development (FP-7), Israel participated in 1,536 projects and benefited from €782 million in funding from the EU, Liberatore said. While 21.1% of Israeli institutions applying were accepted, the average application success rate for those in EU member states was 20.9%, she added.

“Israel’s success rate has been higher than average success by EU member states,” she said.

“Israel has been a net beneficiary of the framework program. It received more than what it contributed.”

The only countries in which entities partook in more projects than did those in Israel during FP-7 were the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Belgium, according to data from the European Commission’s website.

More than 90 countries participated in the program.

Israel officially became a participant in the European Commission’s €77b. Horizon 2020 program in February, following several obstacles associated with EU guidelines published in July.

These guidelines stipulated that no funding would go to Israeli projects located beyond the pre- 1967 armistice lines, including in east Jerusalem and on the Golan Heights. Ultimately, the two sides “agreed to disagree,” with Israel publishing its reservations in an appendix.

“In the EU, we consider that research and innovation is not just a luxury that we can only afford during times of economic growth,” Liberatore said.

Although acknowledging that according to the Horizon 2020 guidelines, Israeli projects operating over the Green Line are not eligible for participation, Liberatore pointed out that companies with offices both inside and outside the pre-1967 lines are in fact able to join – as long as the projects receiving funding occur within the Green Line. During the FP-7 program, Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories fit this description, with offices in both locations, with a research project taking place within the 1967 lines, she explained.

Asked by The Jerusalem Post whether her directorate saw Israeli institutions as attractive contenders for specific categories in the program, Liberatore said she could not specify particular fields out of fairness to all of the competitors. She mentioned, however, that during FP-7 Israel excelled in areas of water management and ICT, among others.

Niv Elis contributed to this report. The author was a guest in Brussels of the European Union.

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