Out of nearly 300 new projects initiated by Eureka.
(photo credit: none)
As evidence of the country's leading role in
research and development, it has been chosen to head the largest
R&D network in the world, the 'Eureka initiative,' a pan-European,
inter-governmental initiative that sees investments of 1.5 billion
euros every year.
Israel belongs to the Asian continent, but when
it comes to research and development, the United States and Europe seem
closer to home. And like most countries operating in today's global
village, it relies on cooperation with industrial partners from the
European Union and the US to propel its high-tech and biotech products
into the world market.
As evidence of its leading role in research and development,
Israel has been chosen to head the largest R&D network in the
world, the "Eureka initiative," a pan-European, inter-governmental
initiative that supports European innovation and sees investments of
1.5 billion euros every year.
Since joining the program in 2000, Israel, the only
non-European member country, has been among the most active of the 40
In 1985, Eureka was set up as a legal framework
within which European companies could collaborate and receive
government funding. Thanks to a political push from France
Israel was granted permission to join Eureka as a full member.
"It's a very unique occasion," Israel Shamay, Israel's national
project coordinator for Eureka, from the Israeli Industry Center for
R&D (MATIMOP), says. However, Shamay believes that the vote that
led to an Israeli representative being chosen to chair the network was
an obvious choice, after Israel proved itself among the member
"In the last three years, Israel became one of
the five most active members in Eureka and had the same number of
projects compared to [EU] countries, which are much bigger. Out of
nearly 300 new projects initiated by Eureka, in 2008, we had 40 with
Israeli companies participating in them."
Some of the more successful pairings since Israel joined Eureka
are between the Israeli agricultural company Veterix, and DeLaval, a
Swedish milk industry giant. Veterix developed a capsule that sits in
the stomach of a cow to monitor the health of the animal from within,
and worked with the Swedish firm to co-develop the idea.
"THIS IS an example that reflects the merits of Eureka," says
Shamay. "The partner is a prospective business partner. In this case
the Swedish government shared the risk."
Elbit Systems, the Israeli Defense Industries high-tech firm,
had several projects in Eureka. One was to take cameras intended for
military purposes and develop them for the auto industry. If the
windshield fogs up or if there is poor visibility, the camera can still
see the road. It's good for truckers, says Shamay.
A third success story is the partnership between Starhome, a
Comverse subsidiary in Israel, and Nokia and Alcatel-Lucent to develop
a smart home system.
Eureka is the largest joint project R&D initiative in the
world. Main objectives are to foster R&D joint ventures between
corporations, with financial support matched by representative
Germany is now entering the chair position, with Israel to
follow. The project maintains a troika system, with three
representatives holding chair positions simultaneously - the past,
present and future chairs. The name of the Israeli chairperson has not
yet been announced.
SHAMAY IS hoping that Israel's upcoming leading role in Eureka
will impact positively on the country's industrial development. "Over
this period of one year, Israel will determine the agenda of Eureka and
can prioritize along with our national interests," he says, pointing
out that Israel could initiate new funding schemes for startups and
companies, bring more EU investment banks and investors to Israel and
expose EU countries to Israel's binational projects like the Red-Dead
canal, proposed between Israel and Jordan.
Chief Scientist Dr. Eli Opper said in an interview with Israel's financial newspaper Globes:
"During its year as president of Eureka, Israel will be able to set its
agenda, which will enable us to promote important initiatives with
European support, such as strengthening R&D in low technology
industries or in other priority fields, such as the life sciences,
water technologies and the environment."
Operating like the Israel-US Binational Industrial Research and
Development Foundation (the BIRD Foundation), Eureka has a legal entity
- the foundation. The task of the foundation is to select projects that
will be eligible for a virtual fund.
"It's not like a common pot of money and then the commission
selects projects for funding," says Shamay. This is how Eureka is
different from BIRD and other joint R&D funds: "Eureka funding
comes from different national programs.
"In our case [funding comes from] the Chief Scientist's Office.
Eureka provides a platform to initiate this cooperation and provides a
legal framework," explains Shamay. "It's important to note it's a
national task, so we are involving the President of Israel (Shimon
Peres), Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Science
and the Israel Venture Association. We invite all of them to take part
in this opportunity," he adds.
Israel has other successful partnerships underway in EU R&D
programs, in the EU Seventh Framework Programme for R&D, and in
Galileo, a global satellite navigation program.
The original version of this article first appeared in Israel21c.