Chief Scientist: Nanotech and biotech will get priority

The decision was influenced in part by Serono's decision to close InterPharm Laboratories.

Biotechnology and nanotechnology projects will get grants for half their costs, while R&D projects in other fields will get grants for 20-50% of their costs. The proportion of a grant will depend on its worthwhileness for the economy and risk.

Sources inform “Globes” that a research committee headed by Chief Scientist Dr. Eli Opper recently decided on the higher level of support, following an earlier decision in late 2004 to give preference to biotechnology and nanotechnology. The decision was influenced in part by Swiss pharmaceutical company Serono's (NYSE:SRA; SWX:SEO) decision to close InterPharm Laboratories, and because of the difficulty of persuading foreign biotechnology companies have in raising capital to set up R&D development centers in Israel.

In addition to a grant for half of an approved plan, projects eligible for increased support will get other benefits, including approval of plans for two years (compared with one year for other R&D projects), subject to meeting certain milestones set by the research committee. Biotechnology and nanotechnology projects will also receive 66% depreciation in the first year of a plan on new equipment costing over NIS 100,000 that is essential for developing the proposed new technology.

In fields classified as national priority, a 20% gap will be kept in the level of support granted for work in Israel, compared with overseas.

Opper told "Globes", "I hope that the committee's decision and other actions will help Israel stay in the race. We concluded that there is room to give priority to the most innovative fields, due to their high risk, and lack of resources. This is precisely the situation that justifies special government internvention."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes.co.il - on March 24, 2005

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