EU-Israel Research Projects Flourish


The endless sparring between the European Union and Israel over Yehuda and Shomron tends to obscure the quiet cooperation that goes on all the time in such non-political areas as scientific research and development.

A major example of such cooperation is Israeli participation in the EU’s Framework Program for Research and Technological Development, which has just celebrated its 20th anniversary. The program has promoted some 3,300 joint scientific projects with almost 5,000 Israeli participants.

“EU-Israel scientific cooperation is the jewel in…our relations. It is one that we, the EU, would like to see serve as a model in other areas,” said Robert-Jan Smits, the Dutch-born Director-General of the EU’s directorate for research and innovation.

“The Israeli and EU scientists have built durable partnerships as they worked together on a broad range of challenges including child tumors, smart irrigation, robotics and science education, advancing in this way the frontiers of knowledge and contributing to the well-being of our citizens,” said Smits.

Others underway are a smart, self-regulating, monitoring cardiac patch; a device that detects electronic wallet fraud; and a way to look into brain cells and their ability to change throughout life.

The partnership with Europe has been a boon for Israel: in FP7, the last round of innovation projects, Israel received about 1.6 shekels for every shekel it contributed to the budget.

Smits preferred to avoid discussion of political differences between the EU and Israel, and to focus instead on science, which has the potential for bringing countries together that otherwise would be enemies.

He cited the SESAME Project – Synchrotron Light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East. Based in Jordan, it is an independent laboratory formally created under the auspices of UNESCO nearly 15 years ago. The founding members of SESAME include Israel and countries that do and some that don’t have diplomatic relations with each other, including Iran, Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Pakistan and Turkey, as well as the Palestinian Authority.

“Scientists will work side by side,” said Smits. “Science is a peacemaker.”