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EU earmarks €9bn for ICT research

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The European Union this week announced plans to pump €9bn into research on information and communications technologies.

The funding makes up by far the biggest single slice of EU's seven-year 7th Framework Programme for research and development, accounting for 18 per cent of the total Community budget and emphasising the priority attached by Brussels to the growth of the tech economy to Europe's future. A meeting in Helsinki, Finland which finishes on Thursday, the Information Society Technology 2006, will involve sessions aimed at thrashing out spending priorities. The 3,500 researchers gathered in Helsinki will hear what to expect from the first call for research proposals with funds totaling €1.14bn up for grabs.

Through the research grants, EU ministers hope to close the research gap between Europe and its global competitors, such as the US.

"Europe is starting to catch up in ICT research," said Viviane Reding, EU commissioner for information society and media. "By investing heavily in collaborative ICT research projects, the Commission is giving a much-needed shot in the arm to European ICT research. With €9bn we're challenging Member States, industry and academia to join us in the fight for a more competitive Europe."

A 2006 survey of the top 1250 research and development spenders found that 39 of the top 100 were US companies and 36 were European, providing evidence that Europe is no laggard. But Brussels isn't content to rest on Europe's laurels and plans to push spending further ahead in areas such as communications, electronics and photonics, and software systems and architecture where Europe is already strong. The grants aim to not only stimulate the tech economy but to benefit society as a whole through improvements in areas such as transport, energy efficiency and healthcare.

The Helsinki event will also allow the Commission to pursue its cooperation with European Technology Platforms (ETPs), groups that aim to build consensus around technology development strategies. The nine European ETPS aim attract more research investment and develop strategies for transferring new technologies to the market.

Two of these ETPs will provide the basis of Joint Technology Initiatives where - for the first time - government and industry funds will be pooled in research partnerships designed to boost European cutting-edge research in the nanoelectronics and embedded systems, technologies vital for European competitiveness in fields such as car manufacture. ®

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