The Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry has signed an industrial research and development deal with Sun Microsystems, helping to ensure that Israeli manufacturers retain their competitive edge in the global marketplace. "The cooperation with Sun Microsystems will have a noticeable affect on the expected output of Israeli exports," said Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai. "Even more importantly, we expect the number of employees in the country to substantially increase." According to the agreement, signed by Dr. Eli Opper, chief scientist in the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry, and Sun representatives, the network computing solutions company will provide Israeli manufacturers with marketing, sales and business development resources and will also help to construct business plans, provide advice, assistance and technical support in technological fields relating to Sun group infrastructures. Additionally, the R&D agreement will assist small business in constructing global collaboration plans and provide access to Sun databases. Projects that are carried out in cooperation with Sun Microsystems and which meet criteria defined by the Chief Scientist will be provided with financial assistance to cover part of the R&D costs. "This unique agreement will allow our country's start-ups to benefit from the advice and guidance of one of the world's leading companies and will help our smaller companies successfully enter the global market," Opper said at the signing. Sun Microsystems, one of the world's leading network solutions companies, and the fourth company to sign a R&D deal with Israel, established operations here more than a decade ago, and today employs more than 120 workers in its Herzliya headquarters. "Since the time that Sun has set up its Israeli office, it has invested an incredible amount of time and money to assist Israeli companies and we see in this agreement the ability to further strengthen our ties to advancing industry in Israel - both on the local and global level," said Boaz Yehuda, director-general of Sun-Israel.