Science Technology and Space Minister Yaakov Peri and EU Delegation to Israel Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen signed an agreement on Sunday in Jerusalem, officially associating Israel with the European Commission’s €77 billion Horizon 2020 research and innovation program.

The agreement, once ratified by Israel, will allow eligible Israeli researchers to actively participate in all of the new program’s activities, alongside EU and international partners, a statement from the European Commission said on Monday. As a full participant in the program, Israel will also be contributing to the Horizon 2020 budget, the EU statement said.

“Israel is a strong player in research and innovation and for this reason an important partner for the EU to address societal challenges of common concern, such as aging, food safety, environment protection or cleaner energy, and to strengthen the competitiveness of our industries,” said European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, who attended the signing alongside Peri, Faaborg-Andersen and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

“I am pleased that we are signing the agreement today since it reflects the mutual importance we attach to cooperation and partnership in research and innovation,” Barroso continued.

Israel first announced its intentions to become an official participant in the program in February, following several obstacles associated with EU guidelines 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 qualms in an appendix.

Israel is a strong partner for the EU, with the highest proportion of researchers in the business sector in the world and one of the highest investments in civilian research and development – more than 4 percent of the country’s GDP, the European Commission said. Continued cooperation with Israeli researchers also enables the address of cross-border challenges in economic and social spheres, according to the commission.

In a meeting with Israeli journalists in Brussels in March, Angela Liberatore – deputy head of unit for the southern neighborhood in the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Research and Innovation – emphasized the critical nature of Israel’s participation in the Horizon 2020 program.

In the commission’s previous round of research 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 EU funding from the EU, she said. While 21.1% of Israeli institutions applying were accepted, the average application success rate for those in EU member states was a slightly lower 20.9%, Liberatore added.

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

Niv Elis contributed to this report.

Please LIKE our Facebook page - it makes us stronger