Israel holds the rotating presidency of EUREKA, a pan-European industrial R&D network, and has some specific areas it would like to promote, Israel Shamay told The Jerusalem Post recently.Shamay is executive director of the Israeli Eureka Chairmanship Program and works out of Matimop – the Israeli Industry Center for R&D in the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry. EUREKA is comprised of 40 European governments, including the EU, and companies within those countries. Israel is the only non-European member.EUREKA works on the partnership principle to advance civilian industrial research and development. The idea is to promote marketable technologies, but without military applications. The program supports research in a range of fields including telecommunications, water, and energy and more, through its clusters. Israel joined EUREKA in 2000 and was voted three years ago to assume the presidency this year.EUREKA brings together at least four partners for every project to which it grants funds, Shamay explained; private companies in the two members’ countries and their respective governments.“The partnership reduces the time to market by utilizing existing knowledge and laboratories. It also eases the risk by sharing it around,” he told the Post.As the president of EUREKA, Israel is in a position to shape its agenda, Shamay noted. Shamay manages European research programs at Matimop, of which EUREKA is the biggest. “Israel has done extremely well through EUREKA. Almost 15 percent of all funded projects feature an Israeli participant,” he said.Israel’s agenda includes a number of related items, Shamay said.First, “when a project completes its research and development phase, it still needs a lot of money. We’d like to extend EUREKA from the R&D phase and create a mechanism to mobilize funds from the private sector and create deal flow,” he said.The mechanism would introduce EUREKA to investors who perhaps hadn’t heard of it, he added.The EUREKA label has become synonymous with cutting edge quality, according to Shamay. Israel is already working on one way to extend the reach of the program.“We are in discussions with the European Investment Bank to grant loans at special rates to those who have achieved the EUREKA label,” he said.Another element Israel would like to push up the agenda is investment in cleantech.“Right now, investment is 40% in ICT [information and communications technology] 30% in biotech and medical technology, but the other areas have very little investment,” he said. European members look to Israel as a model for encouraging hi-tech R&D and so are keenly interested in our ideas, Shamay said.Another advantage of holding the presidency is that all of the meetings are held in Israel this year. A couple of weeks ago, members of the Acqueau water technology cluster visited Mekorot’s Eshkol site for a workshop.The upshot of that meeting was twofold.First, Mekorot was elected to the advisory board of the cluster. Second, EUREKA decided to partner with the Eilat-Eilot International Renewable Energy Conference to be held in February.Government and company representatives from all 40 countries have been invited to showcase their wares and propose projects. Moreover, the boards of the EUREKA clusters will have their meetings in Eilat as well.David Schwartz, coordinator for i-Consortium, which has been heavily involved in planning the conference since its inception three years ago, reflected on its explosive growth.“Important in any national initiative or project is a nerve center or hub and that hub would have to demonstrate an holistic solution. The Eilat Region was the ideal setting and we have spent three years on a mission of persuading, and even perhaps doing some moralsuading [sic] to leaders in the energy field around Israel and around the world to make Eilat that nerve center,” Schwartz wrote in an email to the Post.“We added the energy savings component and are working hard to introduce a smart grid which would complete the whole energy model. We believed in the idea of ‘build and they will come’ and we have been seeing this happen.This year the conference will be augmented by groups of European energy leaders through EUREKA’s partnering with the Eilat-Eilot Conference. IConsortium has also worked very hard on bringing Israeli energy companies together to integrate their technologies and services in order to be able to provide full energy solutions tailored to any given infrastructure,” he wrote.“The Eilat-Eilot Conference has grown.Its first year was just over 300 participants, its second year, which had its energy efficiency component, was standing room only and had over 800 attendees, last year we reached almost 2000.“The quality of the attendees is very high because coming to Eilat is an investment in time and money and therefore those who arrive, are among the most committed in the Industry and real business can occur because these people have either the technologies and products or the resources to buy and deploy them,” he added.Israel has had marked success with its EUREKA projects. Innovative telecommunications projects like a system to control home networks and electronics have been brought to fruition. Biological pesticides and dehydration resistant corn have also been developed through the project.Even an emergency locator beacon in a lightweight watch that uses GPS and satellites to pinpoint the wearer to within 15 meters is in the process of expanding its global coverage and response capability.