EC's strategy to become global leader in high-risk health IT research

By Sam Collins
12:00 AM

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.

With more investment and cooperation in high-risk research on future information technologies, Europe aims to lead the way in turning bright research ideas into future technologies.

The Commission has 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 increase the current funding of €100million per year by 70 percent 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.

"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," Reding said.

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.

The Commission has 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 euros.

For its part, in 2010 the Commission will start increasing per year its spending on research for future information technologies from €100million to €170million 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.

     

 

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