Chief Scientist Eli Ofer gave Israel's research and development activities a boost this week, signing separate partnership agreements with Slovenia and Italy, the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor said Monday. In his agreement to administer joint projects between in Israeli and Italian companies, Ofer approved a budget allocation of NIS 5.5 million to Israeli companies' participating in five projects. During the Italian leg of his trip, Ofer also signed a R&D partnership agreement between Matimop - the Israeli Industry Center for R&D - and the Italian province of Lazio. Ofer subsequently signed a similar agreement for a working relationship in R&D between Israel and Slovenia, after which he said that initiating international cooperation was a strategy the government has embarked on for furthering economic activity. Israeli and Slovenian companies are expected to work together on communications and chemicals projects. Meanwhile, as the government looks to increase its investment in R&D, research company Gartner Group said companies are not investing in IT (information technologies) in proportion to their growth. The results of a survey aimed at showing how IT decision makers anticipate and plan for fluctuations in IT investment, Gartner said that even in organizations that experienced 10% in revenue growth, most did not show IT budget growth beyond 5%. The study found that IT spending in some organizations, such as IT companies, react more quickly and align closer to changes in their revenue while others, such as government agencies, show far less fluctuation in IT budget despite changing organizational conditions. Expanding its IT solutions on offer, Ra'anana-based Nice Systems unveiled its new range of capabilities, including advancements speech analysis, VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) technologies and a regulatory compliance and risk management suite for corporate and investment banking. Nice said the expanded speech facility includes a variety of voice recognition methods, as well as talk analysis and emotion detection. In an attempt to streamline its business activity, the Rimon Hotel Group has deployed Lod-based Match Data Intelligence to conduct tests on its business operations on a daily basis in order to better respond to required changes. Rimon said the choice to implement the systems assimilation response for businesses was a strategic one resulting from its investments in the last three years in systems development that would provide information to its management on a higher level. IT architecture provider db@net said it plans to increase its work force by 20 percent by the end of the year. The Tel Aviv-based company is looking to employ people trained in MS-SQL servers, Java and C++ technicians and experts in Oracle's DBA. Finally, Migdal Ha'emekbased Tower Semiconductor has teamed up with Waves Audio and VLSI Solution to improve the sound quality on JVC products. Tower said it has started production on the MaxxBass ASIC product, which will improve the sound quality of small speakers applicable to various products including LCD TVs, notebook computers, portable loudspeakers and car audio.