Israel will this week officially assume the chairmanship of Eureka, the largest industrial research and development program in the world.“In such difficult times of political turmoil, we are not getting free presents,” Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said Monday at a press conference in Tel Aviv. “The chairmanship [of Eureka] is another achievement for Israel’s economy and technology. It will give us an opportunity to showcase Israel in a different light.“Everyone thinks we are dealing with the flotilla incident day and night, but our real strength is R&D. Over the coming year, Europe will see a different Israel – not one of conflicts, but state-of-theart technology.”“Israel will be able to use its tenure as chair to set the agenda for the European program and secure European support for important ventures, such as the strengthening of priority fields including life sciences, energy, water technologies, the environment, medical devices and homeland security,” he said. “Apart from the prestige, the chairmanship will enable us to maximize the country’s technology sector and entrepreneurial spirit.”On Thursday, Ben-Eliezer is to visit Berlin, where Israel will begin its one-year chairmanship of Eureka on July 1.Eureka was created as an intergovernmental initiative in 1985 and is a pan-European network for market-oriented, industrial R&D. It approves projects that total €1.5 billion per year. More than 40 percent of the companies that participate in the Eureka program are small and medium-sized, including start-ups.During its Eureka chairmanship, Israel will host five major events with representatives of the 40 member countries, including the European Commission. They will take place in Tel Aviv, Eilat, Haifa, Jerusalem and Nazareth. Eureka will celebrate its 25th anniversary under Israel’s chairmanship.It will take place in Jerusalem under the auspices of President Shimon Peres.Ben-Eliezer said Israel would work to add Egypt to the Eureka program as a way to advance peace in the Middle East. He said Israel would also support Spain’s initiative to integrate Latin American countries into Eureka, in an effort to expand international cooperation.“We will try to increase sources of funding for Eureka projects from private investors, public funding and European investment institutions,” Ben-Eliezer said.Israel has become one of Eureka’s most active participants, with Israeli R&D companies partnering in 10% of its projects, valued at about €100 million. Among the Israeli companies taking part in the Eureka program are Elbit Systems, Telrad, Elsec and Vim Technologies.