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IP/09/608

Brussels, 21 April 2009

Science beyond fiction: Europe unveils strategy to become a global leader in high-risk IT research

Unlimited computing power, computers mimicking the brain, mind-controlled wheelchairs and friendly robotic companions are part of a new European plan to boost visionary research, unveiled by the European Commission today. With more investment and cooperation in high-risk research on future information technologies, Europe can lead the way in turning bright research ideas into future technologies. The Commission today proposed to boost Europe's high-risk research into future technologies by doubling research investment at national and EU level in this area by 2015. The Commission will lead by example, increasing the current funding of € 100 million per year by 70% by 2013.

"Europe must be inventive and bold – especially in times of crisis. Research seeds innovation which is key for Europe's long-term global competitiveness. Scientific and revolutionary breakthroughs constitute enormous opportunities and we must bring the best brains together to make the most of them," said Viviane Reding, Commissioner for Information Society and Media, when launching the first-ever 'European Future Technologies Conference' in Prague. "Combining efforts of the 27 EU countries and stepping up cooperation with global partners is essential for Europe to take the lead in future information technologies that can yield radically new solutions for European citizens in domains such as health, climate change, the ageing population, sustainable development or security."

Europe's investment in information and communication technologies (ICT) research is lagging behind other regions. Although the EU produces almost one third of the world's scientific knowledge, research in this sector accounts for only a quarter of its overall research effort (IP/09/397).

The Commission today called on Member States to catch up with the US, China and Japan by doubling by 2015 their investment in high-risk research in ICT, by joining research efforts between national and European programmes and by new flagship research initiatives that can drive large and sustained effort of several hundred millions of euro.

For its part, in 2010 the Commission will start increasing per year its spending on research for future information technologies from €100 million to €170 million by 2013. It also aims to launch at least two flagship research initiatives by 2013 that combine efforts across borders and scientific disciplines to achieve research breakthroughs – the development of biocomputers, for example. The Commission's proposed actions will also help talented young researchers engage in high-risk research and support research intensive high-tech Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) that can turn early research results into new business opportunities.

Examples of European future research include:

- A thought-navigated wheelchair that interprets brain signals to move, helping the 300,000 people in Europe disabled from a spinal cord injury and other novel neural implants for handicapped people.

- Computer technology that copies the way the brain processes information so that it can continue to work even when parts of its hardware fail.

- More secure computers that can function faster than light speed and process unlimited amounts of information thanks to the first breakthrough of quantum technology research – a domain where Europe is already a leading player.

Background

The Commission has funded multi-disciplinary research on future information technologies through its overall research programme in the past 15 years (by a total of € 1 285 million since 1994). It has contributed to European leadership in areas like quantum computing and communications, nanoelectronics, neuro- and bio- information science, and complex systems research, recognised by awards such as the Nobel Prize in physics to Albert Fert (France) and Peter Grünberg (Germany) in 2007 and to Theodor Hänsch (Germany) in 2005 – all of whom have been partners in European high-risk research projects.

A press pack, including information on some of the future technology projects, today's Commission Communication on researching future technologies in Europe and a video clip is available at:

http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/newsroom/cf/itemlongdetail.cfm?item_id=4871

To find out more about the European Future Technologies Conference 'Science Beyond Fiction' starting today in Prague and the visionary projects that will be presented there, please visit the official website:

http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/events/fet/2009/index_en.htm


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