Israel finalizes tough deal with EU to join Horizon Europe

Israel and the European Union (EU) have finalized an agreement for Jerusalem to join the European Union’s largest research and innovation programme, the foreign ministry said on Tuesday.

Official talks on the Horizon Europe programme, which will allocate 95.5 billion euros in grants from 2021 to 2027, ended on 9 October. The deal is expected to be signed in December, after both sides complete their internal ratification process.

The agreement on Israel’s participation in the previous European Research Partnership Program was initially halted by EU directives on funding programs and companies in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The parties eventually agreed to add a clause to the Horizon 2020 treaty, stating that Israel does not accept the EU’s definition of the region beyond the 1967 lines.

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A foreign ministry spokesman said the current Horizon Europe deal would follow the same formula. Times of Israel.

However, the talks, which were due to end several months ago, have been delayed by several other issues.

The fact that the three countries receiving the most research funding under Horizon 2020 – Israel, the United Kingdom and Switzerland – are not part of the European Union, leading to changes in financial agreements with non-member states associated with the EU, such as Israel.

Switzerland Horizon is not participating in Europe at all, and EU negotiators have taken a hard road with the post-Brexit UK, meaning Israel will have to agree to a similar, less favorable deal. One of the conditions is that once an affiliated country receives 8% more funding than its contribution, it must start contributing to the program again, the amount of any additional funding given to its researchers.

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Israel is expected to contribute at least €2.5 billion to the program, according to Maya Sion-Tzidkiyahu, director of the Israel-Europe Relations Program at the Mitvim foreign policy think tank. As part of Horizon 2020, Israel has received 360 million euros more from its contribution, she said, and expects to find itself in a similar situation over the next six years, assuming its researchers continue . Succeeding in obtaining research grants.

From left to right: EU Ambassador to Israel Emanuel Gioufret, ISERD Director General Neil Shalev and Israel Innovation Authority CEO Aharon Aharon at the Horizon Awards ceremony 2020 in Jaffa, June 4, 2019 (Photo Credits: Yossi Zamir; GPO).

However, stressed Sion-Tzidkiyahu, the direct balance between Israel’s investment and monetary returns does not capture the strategic importance of the program for Israel: “The added value of joining the program is vital to Israel’s economy, and quantum In terms of computing, we can also talk about national security. Monetary return is a bonus, not a goal.”

A second complication of the talks relates to quantum computing and access to space projects. The EU’s goal of “strategic autonomy” has made its members reluctant to cooperate with non-member states – including Israel – in sensitive research areas.

After intense negotiations, the European Union allowed Israel to participate in quantum computing research, subject to certain reservations, including intellectual property, but the space agreement has still not been finalized.

New tenders for space research will be launched in 2023, and Israel is expected to be allowed to bid by then.

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Although negotiations continued, Israeli researchers were allowed to respond to research tenders issued this year.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said joining the Horizon program “makes Israel a central player in the world’s largest and most important R&D programme.”

He added that the agreement is “part of a policy of connection, bringing not only the European Union, but also European countries closer, and linking the science and technology sector in Israel with their counterparts on the continent.”

The European Union said in a statement: “In return for Israel’s access to a vast international research network, the European research sector has benefited from Israel’s high level of excellence as well as its remarkable capacity for innovation. Noted that joint projects with Israel have achieved success in the areas of climate change, public health and transport security.

“Israel’s adherence to this program underscores the importance of investment and support for R&D, which is the key to future economic growth,” said Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

Professor Nadav Katz at the Center for Quantum Informatics at the Hebrew University. (Photo Credit: Yitz Woolf/Hebrew University)

Yale Ravia-Zadok, head of the Foreign Ministry’s economic diplomacy division, said the deal was “a testament to the European confidence in the critical nature of Israel’s science, technology and innovation.”

A Mitvim survey conducted this year found that 47% of Israelis oppose participation in EU programs that exclude settlements – such as Horizon Europe – while only 35% are in favour.

The year-long dialogue between Israel and the European Union is led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as the Israel-Europe Research and Development Directorate, Israel Innovation Authority, Ministry of Finance. , Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Science and Technology and Council of Higher Education.

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Israel has been a participant in the EU’s Research and Innovation Framework programs since 1996, when it joined the EU’s fourth research programme, and was the first non-European country to join.

A total of €1.098 billion has been allocated to Israeli projects and companies under Horizon 2020.

The program has enabled Israeli companies, researchers and innovators to reach European partners, integrate into a vast European research infrastructure, and participate in major projects, particularly in the areas of quantum technologies, graphene and brain research.

Shoshanna Solomon contributed to this article.

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