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The Eureka project: 30 years of research and innovation across borders

The Eureka project: 30 years of research and innovation across borders
By Euronews
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The Eureka project has just celebrated its 30th anniversary in Lugano. This marks decades of innovation across borders thanks to a French and a German leader.

With innovation I always believe we have a three year lead

“In 1985, it was French President Francois Mitterand and German Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl who embraced the idea of founding Eureka and went on to realise this organisation,” confirmed the outgoing Eureka Chairman Bruno Moor.

The Eureka project is a Europe-wide network for industrial research and development. It works to raise productivity and competitiveness through technology.

In the past three decades it has spent 30 billion euros of private and public money and has helped nearly 2,000 projects get off the ground. They range from engine-powered surf boards to developing elastic optical networks.

Germany is one of the many countries backing Eureka as a key to future development.

“It is about giving seed money because industry has to bring in the same amount of money for the Eureka projects so it triggers additional cooperation and exchange,” said Cornelia Quennet-Thielen, the State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research. ‘‘Without research and innovation we will not be able to survive in a very competitive global environment. We have to really base our success and well being on bright ideas and developing new and innovative technologies and services.”

But for Portugal Eureka has meant a boost for the country’s top agricultural crop.

“It is one of the most popular foods in the world and is believed to have great health benefits as well,” explained Paul McDowell, our euronews correspondent. ‘‘That’s because of something in the tomato called lycopene. The problem is finding the high concentrate of lycopene in different tomatoes because there is not just one variety, not two, not three, not four but quite literally thousands of varieties of tomatoes.”

It’s lycopene which gives tomatoes their colour. Some studies have claimed it has anti-cancer properties. Portugal, with the US state of California is one of the top tomato producers in the world.

At the Fomento de Industria do Tomato (FIT) plant near Setubal, a laser camera ensures their tomatoes and products are high in lycopene.

It was developed at a cost of nearly 700,000 euros over 39 months with Danish research SME, RSP Systems, as well as research institutions in both countries.

“We have been working trying to enhance the levels of lycopene in tomatoes for many years,” said Dr Martin Stilwell, the Chief Executive Officer at the Portuguese tomato processing HIT Group. ‘‘This is a major step forward in the sense that we can actually measure during the process the content of lycepone. Previously we had to stop, analyse and go back. With innovation I always believe we have a three year lead. We start. We find something and we have three, four, maybe five years before somebody catches up. If you constantly innovate this is part of an extensive process which then becomes much more difficult to copy.”

In toasting the past, Eureka is also preparing to face the future. For the next year Sweden will hold the rotating chairmanship.

“In Europe we face a lot of challenges when it comes to unemployment and the stalling growth,” explained Oscar Stenström, the State Secretary to the Swedish Minister for Enterprise and Innovation. ‘‘We hope now that more youngsters will have the opportunity to find their first job in a Small Medium Enterprise which has access to funding through Eureka.”