R&D leaders announce funding for Euro. industrial projects

Israel, currently rotating chair of Eureka R&D network, last week hosted event in Haifa and Nazareth for member states.

By NADAV SHEMER
April 12, 2011 22:37
3 minute read.
Yona Yahav, Dr. Eli Opper, and Israel Shamay.

yona yahav, eli opper, israel shamay_311. (photo credit: Morag Bitan)

 
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Visiting leaders of Eureka, the Europe-wide network for market-oriented industrial research and development, have agreed to invest 134 million euros in industrial initiatives across Europe.

Assembled in Haifa and Nazareth last week for the third event held in Israel during its yearlong chairmanship of Eureka, delegates from the network’s 39 member states approved 89 new cooperative R&D projects in several areas, including renewable energy, biotechnology, information technology and electronics.

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Fourteen of the 89 approved projects have Israeli partners. Seventy-one of the projects are endorsed through the Eurostars program, a joint initiative of Eureka and the European Commission, which supports small- and medium-sized R&D intensive companies.

Israel has a huge responsibility as the network’s rotating chair and has taken it upon itself to push projects in the fields of clean technology, innovation and financing, Dr. Eli Opper, a former chief scientist of Israel and the current head of the Eureka High Level Group, told The Jerusalem Post Tuesday.

“There are things in Israel that they [the Europeans] take seriously, [such as] the matters of entrepreneurship, risktaking, financing,” he said. “These are things in which Israel is very strong. In the area of clean-tech, Israel is very strong.”

“We must not boast too much, even though we have a tendency to do so, [because] the Germans also know a thing or two about solar energy, for example,” Opper said.

“Israel is strong in ideas and in technology, but I can say that in worrying for the environment, Western Europe is ahead of Israel by a few generations,” he said. “Israel does not excel in reality at preserving the environment. We talk a lot but do only a little. There are countries in Western Europe where it is really in their blood already.”

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Opper, who finished his eight-and-ahalf- year tenure as chief scientist at the end of 2010, said he is often asked what being Eureka’s chair can do for Israel.

“It is clear that I worry for Israel – there is no need to talk about that,” he said. “But they [Eureka member states] chose us for the chairmanship, and chose me to be the chairperson, to promote the whole organization, not [just] to make progress for Israel.”

Nevertheless, Israel has benefited greatly from its role as chair, he added.

Aside from setting the policy direction of Eureka, another aspect of leading the organization for one year is that Israel has been able to showcase its economic accomplishments to member states, including those that have not been supportive of Israel politically, Opper said. This was demonstrated by the event held last week in northern Israel, which followed previous events during Israel’s chairmanship held in Tel Aviv and then Eilat.

In Haifa and Nazareth, “the idea, on top of all the usual work discussions, was to show them the integration of Arabs in the State of Israel in the technology sector,” he said.

About 10 Israeli Arab entrepreneurs made presentations at a dinner held for the Eureka delegates in Nazareth last week, and the response was overwhelmingly “enthusiastic,” Opper said. “They had in their minds that there are mostly problems here [in Israel], and some of them had even told themselves that Arabs were not part of the equation here at all, so they learned something.”

Israel will formally hand over the Eureka chairmanship to Hungary in a special event to be held in Jerusalem in June.

Matimop, the executive agency of the Chief Scientist’s Office, is the organization tasked with implementing Israel’s chairmanship of Eureka. Aside from Opper, Israel Shamay, Matimop’s executive director for European programs, has also been heavily involved as the chairman of Eureka’s National Project Coordinators.

Eureka is composed of 40 members: all 27 European member states, the European Union itself, and 12 non-EU countries, including Israel, even though it is not technically on the European continent. In addition, South Korea was recently accepted as the first associate member, and Israel is pushing for Canada to be included as the second.

Eureka annually supports more than 300 collaborative projects 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.

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