Rewarding EU scientific excellence: eight research teams shortlisted for the 2003 EU Descartes Prize

September 26, 2003

Brussels, 25 September 2003

The names of the eight international research teams short-listed for this prestigious scientific award were announced today. Launched in 2000, the EU Descartes Prize rewards outstanding scientific and technological research carried out by cross-European collaboration and partnerships. Over 900 scientists in 230 research teams from across Europe competed for this year's prize. The eight projects short-listed today cover a wide range of science and technology fields - information and computer sciences, geophysics, life sciences, engineering, molecular chemistry and materials engineering. The projects address wide ranging issues such as artificial intelligence, next generation aircraft, thin and pliable TV and computer screens, giant sea waves, advanced satellite positioning systems, new drugs for post-menopausal disorders and cures for Alzheimer's disease. The work of the finalists will be presented, and the winners of this year's awards announced at a ceremony in Rome on 20 November. Winners will share a €1million prize.

Commissioner Busquin declared: "The key to the success of EU research lies in its most important asset: European scientists. Highly qualified researchers play a crucial role in boosting the competitiveness of the European economy and improving the quality of life in the EU, but the importance of human resources in science is not always fully recognised in Europe. We must raise the profile of research in Europe and reward excellence. The Descartes prize brings into the spotlight the dynamism and commitment of European researchers, and the crucial value of cross-border co-operation and partnerships. Such partnerships are at the heart of the European Research Area (ERA). Sharing resources and pooling talent, as demonstrated by the Descartes Prize finalists, is the way to success in a highly competitive international environment".

EU-wide cooperation: a fundamental need and a reality in the ERA

The projects selected for the shortlist involve researchers from 21 countries in Europe and beyond. This clearly demonstrates that cross-European collaboration is the best way to tackle problems which know no national borders - from Alzheimer's disease or hormone replacement therapy to giant tidal waves. The 2003 Descartes competition has also seen the growing involvement of Accession countries and third countries. Scientists from the Czech Republic, Ukraine and Russia are among the participants in research into increasing the accuracy of global geographical positioning.

An increased role for female scientists

This year, two of the eight finalist projects are co-ordinated by women. This confirms the general trend observed in this year's applications of an increase in the number of female scientists involved as project coordinators (from 13% to 17%). This is an encouraging sign that more women are attracted to a career in science.

EU teams at the cutting edge of technology and innovation

This year's finalists represent Europe's excellence at the cutting edge of key science and technology sectors. Examples of successful pan-European collaboration include

  • The production of flexible light displays and molecular semiconductors , which have considerable economic potential and should contribute to maintain EU leadership in extremely competitive fields such as organic electronics and nanotechnology.

  • The development of an innovative and effective design engine for the development of a new generation of civil aircraft, paving the way for to new production processes and substantial cost reductions for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) active in that sector.

  • The launch of a global open test network for intelligent autonomous 'agent' systems, capable of greatly facilitating use of the Internet by businesses, governments and citizens.
The Descartes Award Ceremony

The Ceremony will take place on 20 November 2003 in Rome. It will be hosted by the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei which is marking its 400th anniversary. The ceremony will be preceded by a seminar on mobility and trans-national scientific careers.

The Descartes Grand Jury brings together representatives from academic, industrial and public life. Chaired by Professor Erne Ergma, Vice President of the Academy of Sciences of Estonia, the Jury includes Professor Helena Illnerová, President of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic; Mr. Pantelis Kyriakides, Vice President of the European Patent Office; Professor Anna Roosevelt, curator of the Field Museum in Chicago; Dr. Ion Siotis, a physicist and, until recently, President of the National Hellenic Research Foundation; and Rudi Thomaes, President and CEO of Alcatel Bell.

New Jury members this year are: Prof. Jose Gago Mariano, Prof of Physics of the Lisbon Institute of Technology and former Minister for Science and Technology; and Prof. Wubbo Ockels, Head of the European Space Agency's Education Office

For further information:


DN: IP/03/1283 Date: 25/09/2003

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