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Draft plans released by the European Commission promise funds for several research areas. Artificial photosynthesis, cloud computing, blockchain and ways to turn windows into solar power plants are just some of the projects set for funding by the EU. Amongst the initiatives in the draft for 2018-2020, it says that a reward will be given to researchers who can replicate the natural phenomenon photosynthesis, involving a bionic leaf. In addition, the EU will start putting money into an EU-wide cloud computing network. A first-of-its-kind effort to create an international system for sharing research data from any laboratory or scientific discipline. Money will also go to testing new applications of blockchain, the technology at the heart of the digital currencies such as Bitcoin, which creates a digital ledger of transactions, agreements and contracts distributed across hundreds of computers across the world. All these proposals feature in the draft Horizon 2020 research plans for 2018-2020, which the commission is publishing online for comment, with final versions expected later this month. Committees of the member states and researchers have developed the work programmes over the past year with the help of the commission’s research department. The post EU reveals more big research bets appeared first on Horizon 2020 Projects.
Europe’s Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) research remains relevant; however, the wider benefits of the project are difficult to pin down, according to a review. IMI was set up to revive drug developments in Europe’s pharma companies in antibiotics and treatments for cancer, respiratory, neurological and neurodegenerative diseases. An evaluation assessed the progress of IMI2 during the first half of the current Horizon 2020 research programme. The evaluation team reaches some stark conclusions on the contribution of IMI to drugs research in Europe to date. The report says: ‘There are limited examples that IMI helped to shorten the time of development of new applications or that IMI brought new, safer and more effective therapies or products to patients.’ However, it notes there are promising results emerging from the development of a new Ebola vaccination. The main success for the programme is that pharma companies in Europe are doing precompetitive research together, setting the research agenda. The EU has put €1.6bn of Horizon 2020 money into IMI, bolstered by €1.4bn of in-kind contributions from pharma companies. Collaboration partners include universities, smaller firms, patient organisations and drug regulators. The review team says there is not sufficient data to demonstrate that IMI will keep the European pharmaceutical industry at the fore of innovation. There is, however, an acknowledgement that since it began in 2008, the IMI may have increased the resilience of the industry during the global financial crisis. Patient organisations say they appreciate the opportunity to participate in the design of IMI projects, something that is not possible in other Horizon 2020 projects. The post Review appraises Innovative Medicines Initiative appeared first on Horizon 2020 Projects.
The final three years of the Horizon 2020 framework programme will see a push to open new sources of capital finance commercialised by EU funding. In addition to boosting access to debt and equity under existing schemes, the European Commission’s draft plan for 2018-2020 proposes new facilities, whilst continuing to support existing schemes. One new facility, InnovFin Science, will aim to improve access to risk finance to set up innovation infrastructures for research organisations and universities. Another, InnovFin Emerging Innovators, will support actors described as modest and moderate innovators with the aim of improving access to risk finance in member states that, to date, have received relatively limited support. The draft also describes the commission’s plan for supporting commercialisation of green energy research in the InnovFin Energy Demo Projects, which will be the first of a kind. Given the importance of these projects, the commission plans to double the budget. Loans between €7.5m and €25m will be available to set up demonstrators of untested pre-commercial energy technologies. Likewise, the commission wants to plug the gap in funding the development of treatments for serious infectious diseases. InnovFin will fund projects developing vaccines, drugs and diagnostic devices that have advanced and require clinical trial. The draft also details a proposed crowdfunding trial under which the commission will provide guarantees to crowd lending platforms that support research and innovation. The post EU promises more H2020 investment appeared first on Horizon 2020 Projects.
A team of medical researchers from Israel will develop nanoparticles capable of tracking the effects of cell injection therapies for numerous diseases, including cancer and autism. The nTRACK project will launch on 16 October and is part of the EU’s Horizon 2020 research programme. A winning proposal came from a group led by Professor Rachela Popovtzer from Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel. “The goal is effectively to develop a clinical method that will allow us to track cells and will be suited to any technology – one that could be spotted by devices like an MRI or CT,” Popovtzer said. Popovtzer has spent the last decade developing nanoparticles for medical applications. The aim of the project is to develop a tracking nanoparticle which will be ready for clinical testing in human subjects within four years. The nanoparticle will track injected cells to observe where they go in the body and what effects they produce, enabling researchers to determine how successful the form of therapy is. Currently, experimental cell therapy is used for a wide variety of diseases, including cancer, autism, and eye disease, Popovtzer added. “The main problem is that so far these therapies don’t affect all patients the same way and the success rate varies. The variation is very large, and it’s not clear why this works on some patients and not on others. “People wait for months to see how the body reacts. For cancer therapies, it’s a minimum of two months; for stem-cell therapies in other disease, you wait even longer to see if the results are positive.” The post Israeli researchers to lead EU nanotech project appeared first on Horizon 2020 Projects.
A new three-year research project has been launched to address the safety and efficiency of Arctic ship operations. Safe Maritime Operations Under Extreme Conditions (SEDNA) aims to mitigate navigation issues, as well as design vessel coatings based on the water-repellent feathers of penguins. With global warming taking its toll on the ice in Arctic waters, more and more routes are opening to shipping companies looking for a shortcut. Last year researchers at the University of Reading, UK,  predicted that there will be double the opportunities for vessels to cross the Arctic by 2050. SEDNA aims to make Arctic waters safer, as increasing numbers of vessels travelling through freezing waters has already resulted in more casualties, highlighting how many vessels aren’t built for the task. Philipp Lohrmann, SEDNA’s project co-ordinator, said: “If you take a shortcut through the Arctic rather than go all the way around it, that is a massive saving in fuel and time, so that’s motivation; the idea is to have a bit of an international co-operation because obviously a lot of countries are interested in Arctic shipping.” The isolated nature of Arctic voyages means that ships need to be capable of handling tough weather and freezing conditions. A key aspect of SEDNA will be developing new ways to protect ships from Arctic conditions as ice is one of the biggest threats. SEDNA aims to develop anti-icing solutions that can be applied to ships to prevent build-up, with scientists currently looking for inspiration from an unexpected source – penguins. “Their feathers have a mixture of nanostructure and hydrophobic oil covers that repel water and prevent it from freezing on the surface,” Lohrmann said It is also claimed that SEDNA will use numerical simulation tools to study various types of icebreaking procedures. Researchers will also attempt to produce a risk-based framework with which shipbuilders could design vessels specifically for Arctic operations. Lohrmann added: “We’re working closely with the stakeholders and we’re in contact with actual mariners to make sure what we do is useful and close to reality.” With Arctic waters in a state of constant flux, there’s a concern that solutions developed could be outdated by the time they are tested. The post Project launched to make Arctic voyages safer appeared first on Horizon 2020 Projects.
Zap&Go have developed a rapid-charge carbon-ion cell at its Oxford laboratory. The British start-up has produced the battery which is capable of charging within a matter of seconds. The carbon-ion pack uses a power pack alongside a cordless device for direct power transfer. The developers were recently awarded €1.43m in funding from the EU Horizon 2020 programme. Stephen Voller, Zap&Go’s CEO, said: “We have successfully demonstrated how to reduce recharge times from hours, to five minutes with our carbon-ion cells … and ‘instant charging’ represents the next stage of the development of our technology. “Since we have the technology to charge a cordless drill in 15 seconds, we expect to be able [to] similarly improve EV charging rates, thereby solving one of the main obstacles to making EVs the new standard.” In a feasibility study, Zap&Go established consumer interest in cordless tools. Interest was also indicated in commitments from OEMs for joint development agreements. Though the current models only carry small amounts of chargeable power, Zap&Go hopes to use the grant to develop existing prototype cordless tools, including vacuum cleaners and power drills, as well as building units to conduct customer trials. The post Carbon-ion battery facilitates quick charging appeared first on Horizon 2020 Projects.
CATEC, located in Seville, Spain, has developed a pioneering technology which allows the use of airborne robots and small unmanned aircraft for industrial contact inspections. AEROX is a further development in the use of drones and airborne robots for different industrial tasks, such as inspections in factories or aqueducts. Antidio Viguria, head of avionics and systems division in CATEC, said that the new drone “represents a great step further for the use of this type of aerial robots in different tasks, as they not only could see from the air but also touch and feel”. It is not only possible to see and collect data from the air, but also to minimise time, resources, and the health implications of working at height. The development has been selected as one of ten candidates for the Innovation Radar Prize 2017, launched by the European Commission, to identify Europe’s top future innovators and their innovations to be applied in the market. Competing in the ‘Industrial Enabling Tech’ category, the award aims to recognise new technologies and components, developed with EU-funding, which have industrial relevance as well as the potential to enable the emergence of new applications. Viguria added: “The Innovation Radar Prize can be a great opportunity for us to increase our knowledge of this technology and to arouse the industry’s interest in exploiting it.” The post CATEC develops aerial technology for drones appeared first on Horizon 2020 Projects.
The EU has granted the Mixed-Integer Non-Linear Optimisation Applications (MINOA) project funds as part of the Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Framework Programme. The project is a collaborative European Training Network with 12 research partners in four countries, Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI) being one. Monique Laurent, MT member at CWI and local co-ordinator of the MINOA project, said: “We are very happy that we can start with our new Training Network MINOA and that we can now build on the solid collaborations we had established within our previous, successful MINO consortium.” Starting in January 2018 and running for four years, each partner will receive a PhD position (in total €3m). MINOA outlined in a research proposal that the project would be: ‘Building upon the achievements of the Marie-Curie ITN MINO (2012-2016), the goal of the MINOA proposal is to train the next generation of highly qualified researchers and managers in applied mathematics, operations research and computer science that are able to face the modern necessary challenges in areas such as energy, logistics, engineering, natural sciences, and data analytics. ‘12 early-stage researchers (ESRs) will be trained through an innovative training programme based on individual research projects that … will stimulate new developments in the field. ‘MINOA aims at building bridges between different mathematical methodologies and at creating novel and effective algorithmic enhancements. ‘ESRs will work on dynamic aspects and optimisation in real time, optimisation under uncertainty, multilevel optimisation and non-commutativity in quantum computing. ‘The projects will be jointly supervised between experienced practitioners from leading European industries and leading optimisation experts, covering a wide range of scientific fields, from mathematics to quantum computing and real-world applications’. The post MINOA project receives H2020 optimisation grant appeared first on Horizon 2020 Projects.
Today (5 October) Italy celebrates the 20th anniversary of its scientific membership of the world’s flagship centre for neutron science, the Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL). The two decades of collaboration have tackled scientific challenges across areas as diverse as health and computing as well as upskilling the future generation of neutron scientists. Around 6% of all scientific visitors at the ILL and 24% of those welcomed from scientific member countries are Italian. Some of the most exciting science to be conducted at the ILL recently has come from Italian users. The revelation that ‘quantum tunnelling’ (where a particle ‘tunnels’ through a barrier) enables the birth of stars was discovered by the University of Parma, for example. Work within the same department has brought molecular magnets closer to application in quantum computing – a relatively unexplored field. In the global context, an ageing population means treating chronic diseases is a scientific challenge. In this area, ILL has supported the University of Milan in contributing to the fight against chronic conditions such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s – mapping the mechanisms underpinning the diseases to contribute to the design of new treatments. Italy was in fact one of the first nations using neutrons for spectroscopy. With no nuclear source of their own since the 1960s, use of the ILL’s world-class facilities and expertise has enabled Italians to maintain influence on the global research stage, impacting  areas such as Alzheimer’s, cryopreservation and investigation of life under extreme conditions. Professor Helmut Schober, director of the ILL, said: “The unique research conducted by Italian users at the ILL over the last 20 years has been essential to solving some of the major challenges facing modern society. Carried out across a broad range of disciplines and feeding into innovation in many different fields of application, including health, materials and the future of computing, I have no doubt that science in Italy will continue to benefit from the unrivalled services provided by the ILL.” Given the European Commission’s planned €1bn quantum technologies flagship initiative in 2018, ILL is enabling Italian scientists to be at the forefront of European science priorities. The post Italy and ILL celebrate 20 years of scientific excellence appeared first on Horizon 2020 Projects.
The 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank, and Richard Henderson ‘for developing cryo-electron microscopy for the high-resolution structure determination of biomolecules in solution’ Their work has allowed scientists to freeze biomolecules to look at their structures and the processes they are involved in. According to the press release by the Nobel Prize Committee, electron microscopes were long believed to only be suitable for imaging dead matter because the powerful electron beam destroys biological material. In 1990, Henderson succeeded in using an electron microscope to generate a three-dimensional image of a protein at atomic resolution. This breakthrough proved the technology’s potential. Frank made the technology generally applicable. Between 1975 and 1986 he developed an image processing method in which the electron microscope’s fuzzy two-dimensional images are analysed and merged to reveal a sharp three-dimensional structure. Dubochet added water to electron microscopy. The water evaporates in the electron microscope’s vacuum, which makes the biomolecules collapse. In the early 1980s, he succeeded in vitrifying water – cooling it so rapidly that it solidified in its liquid form around a biological sample, allowing the biomolecules to retain their natural shape even in a vacuum. Following these discoveries, the electron microscope was optimised and the desired atomic resolution was reached in 2013. Researchers can now produce three-dimensional structures of biomolecules. In the past few years, scientific literature has been filled with images of everything from proteins that cause antibiotic resistance, to the surface of the Zika virus. ‘Biochemistry is now facing an explosive development and is all set for an exciting future’, the Nobel Prize Committee said. The post Chemistry Nobel awarded to imaging trio appeared first on Horizon 2020 Projects.

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