Correspondent's Choice

All Change For EUREKA

Germany has hosted the most recent rotating Chair of the EUREKA Network and Berlin has today been the venue of the Ministerial Conference.

This rotating chair moves onwards now to Israel and there is a clear change in the air.

The goals of EU 2020 place innovation and the creation of a true knowledge economy clearly in the centre of European Union policy. It appears that even though Israel is not within the EU, it hopes to bring a level of urgency and real world action to this policy area.

As a small country with a limited range of local trading partners and even more limited natural resources, new technology is vital to their economy. And since the EU is Israel’s largest trading partner, the coming year offers strategic opportunities that they are clearly keen to exploit.

In fact, there are five EUREKA meetings scheduled for the coming year, starting in Tel Aviv in October and finishing with the next Ministerial Conference in Jerusalem in June 2011. These meetings will be used to forge new partnerships for research, funding and trade and showcase the real depth and experience of the Israeli high-tech industry.

Many at this conference view Israel as the kind of innovative and forward looking economy that EU member states should be copying. The EU 2020 goals target annual spending of 3% of GDP for research and development work.

Achieving this clearly requires much infrastructure development (technology areas, better educational levels, more technology at university level and more) but has already been managed in Israel. Currently, 4.9% of GDP is spent on innovation related projects each year there. This level of spending has already helped Israel become the hotbed of ideas that we have all previously seen or heard about.

Understandably, this conference has studiously avoided the wider political discussions that could be aired currently about Israel. Instead, the conference has been noticeable for the level of personal security on show – a clear demostration that while the world of European innovation policy may be avoiding politics at large, those politics have the potential to arrive unannounced within the EU policy world.

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