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Brussels, 7 March 2007

3 excellent European projects share €1m Descartes Prize for Research

Three research projects financed by the European Commission were today awarded a share of the €1m Descartes prize for Research at a ceremony in Brussels. The High Energy Stereoscopic System is a telescope system that has revolutionised existing astronomical observation techniques and increased our knowledge and understanding of the Milky Way and beyond. The Hydrosol project has developed a method of producing hydrogen from water-splitting, using the energy of the sun, which could lead to environmentally friendly production of hydrogen for energy purposes. The third project, APOPTOSIS, has made great strides in our understanding of apoptosis (programmed cell death), which will lead to new developments in future treatment of cancer and AIDS. The awards were given at a ceremony in Brussels, attended by the German Federal Minister for Education and Research, Dr Annette Schavan and European Science and Research Commissioner, Dr Janez Potočnik. The ceremony coincides with celebrations of the contribution of research to the European Union over the last 50 years.

The High Energy Stereoscopic System (HESS) brings together about 100 scientists from Germany, France, the UK, Ireland, Poland, the Czech Republic, Armenia, South Africa and Namibia. With EU support they have designed and built the system, developed the complex software needed to collect and analyse data and offered training to young astronomers and astrophysicists.

The Hydrosol project is composed of academics and businesses from Greece, Germany, Denmark and the UK, and was awarded an International Global 100 Eco-tech award in 2005 and a Technical Achievement award from the International Partnership for the Hydrogen Economy in 2006.

APOPTOSIS brings together some of the leading names in cell biology, from Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy and Sweden to examine the mechanisms involved in programmed cell death. Since 2001, the team's research papers have been cited over fifty thousand times in other publications, an extraordinary indicator of the team's success.

A further five projects were also recognised as finalists. These are: NEMABS (Gaining a clear picture of molecules through colouring); QGATES (Quantum mechanics for breakthroughs in information processing); TAMRAM (Thermally Assisted Magnetic Random Access Memory); DYNAQPRIM (Protein dynamics in cell nuclei) and GLOBALIFE (Life courses in the globalisation process)

Launched in 2000, the EU Descartes Prize for Research rewards teams of scientists for outstanding scientific or technological results achieved through trans-national research in any field of science, including the social sciences, humanities and economics.

This year's winners were selected from amongst 13 nominees, which were in turn selected from 66 submissions. The award is selected by the Grand Jury, chaired by Ms Claudie Haigneré, former French Minister for EU Affairs and ESA Astronaut. The Jury is made up of 22 eminent scientists from 11 EU countries, plus Brazil, Morocco, Russia and Turkey, and covers a broad range of scientific disciplines.

For more details of the winning projects, see IP/07/132, MEMO/07/42 on Descartes Prize for Research and IP/07/131, MEMO/07/43 on Descartes Prize for Science Communication.

Commissioner Potočnik's speech at the event: SPEECH/07/127

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