The EU Descartes Prize Finalists 2004

July 26, 2004

Brussels, 23 July 2004

To celebrate the 5th anniversary of the Descartes Prize, on July 12th, the European Commission staged an event in Brussels, with former winners, the Grand Jury and other members of the Descartes community. The aim was to look at the story of the winning teams since receiving their awards, and also to announce this year’s finalists. During the anniversary event, two Descartes laureates from 2002 and 2003, Prof. Lars Fugger (Denmark) of the University of Oxford and Prof. Véronique Dehant (Belgium) of the Royal Observatory of Belgium, shared their personal experiences and explained how the Prize helped them in their research on respectively multiple sclerosis and the positioning of Earth in the universe. The anniversary event also revealed the best submissions for this year’s Descartes Prize. The 2004 finalists comprise eight research teams, made up of researchers from 20 countries across the EU, plus Bulgaria, Switzerland and non-European third countries such as the US. The finalists have addressed some of the most fundamental challenges of our time in key life sciences and technology sectors.

Five years of rewarding scientific excellence

Prize laureates have developed key technological applications: one of the first projects awarded in 2000 in the field of electronics has resulted in 7 patent applications. Others have started collaborating actively with private companies. For instance, one of the 2001 winning teams is now marketing new asymmetric catalysts for chemical manufacturing thanks to the collaboration with a major pharmaceutical company.

The 2004 EU Descartes Prize Ceremony

The work of the eight short-listed teams is evaluated by the Descartes Grand Jury, bringing together renowned personalities from various academic disciplines, industrial and public life. The Jury is chaired by Prof. Ms. Ene Ergma (Estonia), Vice-president of the Estonian Academy of Sciences and Chairperson of the Estonian Parliament.

This year’s Descartes Award Ceremony will take place on 2 December in the prestigious surroundings of the famous Prague Castle (Czech Republic). The ceremony will provide an outside view of European research and will look at comparing research priorities in Europe and key markets in North and Latin America and Asia.

The 2004 Descartes Finalists


Field of research: Chemistry

Project coordinator: Prof Vincenzo BALZANI
Università di Bologna
Selmi 2
40126 Bologna - Italy


  • Prof. Fritz Vögtle, Rheinische-Friiedrich-Wilhems-Universität Bonn, Germany
  • Prof. Luisa De Cola, Universiteit van Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Objectives of the project:

The aim of the project was to design, construct and operate phototonic molecular devices based on dendrimers. Dendrimers are a new class of well-defined macromolecules, exhibiting a tree-like architecture of nano dimension: they are currently attracting great attention because of their unusual chemical and physical properties. The project has led to novel concepts and ideas for the development of the important areas of chemistry and nanoscience.

2. Project CSNM

Field of research: Physics

Project co-ordinator: Prof Peter WEINBERGER,
Center for Computational Materials Science, CMS,
PO BOX 134
Getreidemarkt 9
A-1060 Vienna - Austria


Objectives of the project:

Novel materials and their physical properties play a crucial role in high technology industry and its future development. The research team is specialised since almost 15 years on developing quantum mechanically based approaches and ab-initio computational schemes in order to described and evaluate not only the electronic and magnetic structure of novel materials but also their physical properties such as electric and magneto-optical transport, relevant for practical applications.

3. Project IST-QuComm

Field of research: Physics

Project coordinator: Prof Anders KARLSSON
Kungl Tekniska Högskolan
Valhallavaegen 79
100 44 Stockholm - Sweden


  • Prof. Harald Weinfurter, Ludwig-Maximilians Universitaet Muenchen, Germany
  • Prof. Anton Zeilinger, Universitaet Wien, Austria
  • Prof. Artur Ekert, University of Oxford, United Kingdom
  • Prof. Nicolas Gisin, University of Geneva, Switzerland
  • Dr. Richard Hughes, Los Alamos National Laboratory, US
  • Dr. Thierry Debuisschert, Thales, France
  • Prof. John G. Rarity, QinetiQ, United Kingdom
Objectives of the project:

The IST-QuComm project took quantum technologies outside the laboratory with a number of breakthroughs that may shape communication technology not only in the future, but also in the shorter term with the promise of a global network for secure communications. The project demonstrated that quantum cryptography for fundamentally secure communications could be used in practice, such as in the very first bank transfer guaranteed by quantum technologies done at a public demonstration in Vienna.

4. Project APLOMB

Field of research: Engineering

Project co-ordinator: Prof Peter TOWNSEND
University of Sussex
BN1 9RH Falmer – Brighton - UK


  • Prof. Gines Lifante, Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, Spain
  • Dr. Ronald MacAlpine, ElectronTubes Limited, United Kingdom
  • Dr. Jonathon Howorth, Photek Limited, United Kingdom
  • Dr. Thorsten Bauer, Laser Zentrum Hannover, Germany
  • Dr. Bojan Erjavec, Institute of Metal and Technology, Slovenia
  • Dr. Latchezar Avramov, Optella LTD, Bulgaria
  • Dr. Lorenzo Costa, Novara Technology, Italy
  • Dr. Maria Gonzales, Centro de Investigaciones Energeticas, Mediaambientales y Tecnologicas, Spain
Objectives of the project:

The key objective of the project is the development of efficient photon detectors to measure low intensity luminescence. The approach started with detailed theoretical modelling of cathode performance, using data from new experimental methods to derive the dielectric constants of cathode materials. Theoretical modelling of structured cathodes and optical interactions indicated methods to improve sensibility.

5. Project MAFTIA

Field of research: Information Sciences

Project coordinator: Dr Robert STROUD
University of Newcastle upon Tyne
7 Kensington Terrace
NE1 7RU Newcastle upon Tyne - UK


  • Dr. David Powell, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique Délégation Midi-Pyrénées, France
  • Prof. Paulo JE Veríssimo, Fundação da Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal
  • Dr. Christian Cachin, International Business Machines Corp, Zurich Research Laboratory, Switzerland
  • Dr. Sadie Creese, QinetiQ, United Kingdom
  • Andre Adelsbach, Universität des Saarlandes, Germany
Objectives of the project:

Large network infrastructures such as the Internet are vital for citizens to benefit from the services provided by the Information Society. However users must be able to trust services offered to them. MAFTIA investigated the use of fault tolerance techniques to build dependable systems that are intrusion tolerant, i.e. able to continue providing a secure service, despite the presence of malicious faults (deliberate attacks on the security system). The project’s major innovation was a comprehensive approach for tolerating both accidental faults and malicious attacks in large-scale distributed systems.

6. Project MBAD

Field of research: Life Sciences

Project coordinator: Prof Howard Trevor JACOBS
University of Tampere
FIN-33014 Tampere - Finland


  • Prof. Nils-Göran Larsson, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden
  • Dr. Ian J. Holt, Medical research Council, United Kingdom
  • Dr. Massimo Zeviani, Istituto Nazionale Neurologico “Carlo Besta”, Italy
  • Dr. Pierre Rustin, Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche médicale, France
Objectives of the project:

The research tem contributed to elucidate the molecular mechanisms underlying mitochondrial disease and ageing, and the core functions of the mitochondrial genetic systems. Mitochondrial diseases are now recognised as one of the most important classes of inherited neurological disease.

7. Project Local Therapy

Field of research: Life Sciences

Project coordinator: Prof John Francis MARTIN
University College of London
Gower Street
WC1E 6BT London - UK


  • Prof. Seppo Ylä-Herttuala, University of Kuopio, Finland
  • Prof. Georg Breier, Technische Universitaet Dresden, Germany
  • Prof. Rodolfo Paoletti, University of Milan, Italy
Objectives of the project:

The research team contributed to discover new methods of local delivery of drugs in the body and to understand the pathophysiology of the cardiovascular system. In particular a reservoir for the delivery of drugs allowed an understanding if a novel role of vascular endothelial growth factor as an arterioprotective agent in vessels.

8. Project uPAR

Field of research: Life Sciences

Field of research: Prof Francesco BLASI
Università Vita-Salute San Raffaele
Via Olgettina 58
20132 Milan


  • Prof. Keld Dano, Finsen Laboratory, Rigshospitalet, Denmark
Objectives of the project:

The research team has worked in the field of extracelullar proteolysis, cell migration and cancer, working on the urokinase plasminogen activator/urokinase plasminogen receptor (UPA/uPAR). The collaboration has led to important discoveries like the molecular structure of uPAR, the identification of a variety of UPA and UPAR interactors, the mechanisms through which uPA/uPAR influence cell migration, the importance of this system in this cancer phenotype and its use in predicting disease outcome and response to therapy.

Item source: MEMO/04/196 Date: 23/07/2004

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