Brussels, 19th July 2007
The European Commission has authorised, under EC Treaty State aid rules aid worth €120 million that Germany intends to grant to start THESEUS, a research project for developing and testing new search technologies for the next generation Internet. THESEUS would involve both large companies and SMEs. The Commission found the aid to be in line with the criteria laid down in its Framework for Research and Development and Innovation (R&D&I, see IP/06/1600 and MEMO/06/441).
Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said: "I am pleased that Germany intends to promote additional research and innovation for the next generation of the internet and has taken care to do so in a way that will minimise any distortions of competition."
THESEUS – named after the character in Greek mythology who uses Ariadne's thread to navigate King Minos' maze – aims to foster the innovative potential of multimedia technologies and services. The objective is to develop and test new search technologies and integrated information and communications technology services for the next-generation internet. THESEUS will also deal with structured online access to cultural information for the general public, for example to digital libraries and other cultural facilities. The project therefore pursues the EU objective of promoting the diversity of its cultures (Article 151(4) of the EC Treaty).
Research will focus on semantic technologies which try to recognise the meaning of content and place it in its proper context, helping computer programs to understand the context in which data is stored.
In a first phase, several large companies, EMPOLIS GmbH, SAP AG, Siemens AG and Deutsche Thomson oHG, are to receive grants to act as icebreakers, opening up the potential for new R&D. In later phases, SMEs would receive aid to build on the results. There would also be collaboration between science and industry. Until 2011, approximately €120 million will be allocated to the measure.
THESEUS promotes R&D&I-activities, a key objective of common interest. The project is based on close collaboration between industry and science and will focus on SME-participation in later stages. It will help overcome coordination problems and deliver R&D&I more efficiently. In particular, as concerns the large companies involved, the Commission found that the aid would provide an incentive to increase their level of R&D&I activity. On balance, the Commission found that the positive effects of THESEUS would outweigh any possible distortion of competition.
THESEUS originates from April 2005, when Germany and France agreed to work towards a new technology policy to strengthen the competitiveness of both countries. Subsequently, a high-level group proposed, among other projects, QUAERO, an initiative regarding search-technologies and services for the future internet. While France maintained the project-title QUAERO, Germany named its national programme THESEUS. France is currently discussing corresponding state aid plans with the Commission. Both countries aim to collaborate, for example. in the framework of joint workshops.