European lawmakers adopt resolution on R&D cooperation

Group of parliamentarians gather at Knesset for 17th biennial Eureka inter-parliamentary conference to foster "European culture of innovation."

By NADAV SHEMER
June 1, 2011 03:22
3 minute read.
European scientists meet at the Knesset

European scientists meet at the Knesset 311. (photo credit: Marc Sellem Israel/The Jerusalem Post)

 
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A group of European parliamentarians gathered at the Knesset on Tuesday for the 17th biennial Eureka inter-parliamentary conference adopted a resolution committing themselves to expanding market-oriented R&D projects and to fostering a “European culture of innovation.”

This was the first time Israel hosted the conference, which brought together lawmakers from around half of Eureka’s members states. Eureka, the pan-European network for market- oriented industrial research & development and innovation, is composed of 40 members – all 27 European Union states, the European Commission itself, and 12 non-EU countries in the wider region, including Israel.

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At the end of the conference, which was chaired by Knesset Science and Technology Committee head Meir Sheetrit, the participants adopted their resolution unanimously and set five main goals:

• To expand the network’s services to support market-oriented RD&I projects through all phases of the innovation chain.

• To become an investment promotion center that interacts with financial stakeholders from the public and private sector.

• To tackle grand challenges for Europe by leveraging the multi-disciplinary and flexible approach of the Eureka network.

• To enrich European society by fostering a European culture of innovation and entrepreneurship.

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• To broaden the participation of non-European countries.

The resolution recognized Israel’s role as the organization’s chair for the year ending June 30, noting, “Under the Israeli Eureka chairmanship, Eureka has furthermore sought to create new opportunities for innovative companies and support them throughout the innovation chain,” and referring to specific Israeli initiatives such as the launch of Eureka Clean-Tech action “to encourage the generation of Eureka projects focused on R&D cooperation in the cleantech sector.”

Eureka Secretariat chief Luuk Borg, from the Netherlands, praised Israel’s chairmanship, saying, “One of the main things that the Israeli chairmanship brought to Eureka this year is tremendous dynamism. They refer to themselves as the start-up nation, they are very ambitious and they’re not afraid of anything, and that is a very important thing for Eureka.”

Innovation was a central theme of the conference, and one that was addressed by Israeli-American 2005 Nobel Prize laureate in Economics Prof. Robert Yisrael Aumann, in his keynote address. Aumann, who turns 81 next week, spoke about three main elements of innovation – incentives, education and basic research, the last of which he said was disregarded too much by policy- planners.

“I don’t expect private entrepreneurs in any way to fund basic research, but the government should, because it is essential.

Because when you are financing something applied, then it’s not innovation anymore, it’s already there. It’s like becoming pregnant. If you are financing applied researchers, it’s like financing a woman who is already pregnant; the financing should be used to make her pregnant,” he said. “Real innovation comes out of stuff that is not yet applied.”

Dr. Eli Opper, former chief scientist of Israel and head of the Eureka High Level Group under Israel’s chairmanship, said that in an era of rapid technological advancement, the global economy is also changing rapidly and Eureka must move with the times.

Citing data that show that 25 percent of Israel’s best scientific minds have taken their skills to Boston, the Silicon Valley and other foreign destinations, Opper said that “people go to live where it is best for them,” and that the world is interconnected to such an extent today that it is in everybody’s interest to encourage cross-border R&D projects.

“On the topic of innovation, we need to speed things up in an orderly fashion. We have to understand how knowledge spreads throughout the world. Everybody needs to worry about every link in the chain,” he said. “We have to understand how the chain works, and that it’s not just about one region.”

Eureka supports more than 300 collaborative projects annually in a variety of industries, valued at more than 1.5 billion euros. These projects match up partners from two or more member countries – including small and medium-sized enterprises, large industry, and research institutes.

Matimop, the executive agency of the Office of the Chief Scientist of the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry, is in charge of Israel’s chairmanship of Eureka. Israel will hand over the chairmanship to Hungary at the end of the month.

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