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Microsoft unveils new European research initiative

Coinciding with the EU's Information and Media Commissioner's call for increased funding for information technology research, Microsoft has announced the launch of a new initiative to accelerate innovation in science and computing in the EU, and to create a network of elite re...

Coinciding with the EU's Information and Media Commissioner's call for increased funding for information technology research, Microsoft has announced the launch of a new initiative to accelerate innovation in science and computing in the EU, and to create a network of elite research centres. Unveiling the EuroScience initiative in Prague on 2 February, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates explained that the aim of the multi-year programme is to boost collaborative research at the intersection of computing and sciences, focusing primarily on new computing paradigms, computational science and intelligent environments. 'By bringing computing technology and the sciences closer together, the EuroScience initiative will accelerate progress in key areas, such as the life and physical sciences, engineering and agriculture,' said Mr Gates. The initiative was announced on the same day that the Commission re-launched the Lisbon agenda, calling for EU Member States to accelerate technology development and research and development (R&D) funding, and for the creation of an EU institute of technology to rival the US Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). An important part of the EuroScience programme will be to invest in a network of European centres of excellence tied to key research institutions. Similarly, in its revised Action Plan, the Commission has put forward the idea of recreating the legendary MIT, that would 'act as a pole of attraction for the very best minds, ideas and companies from around the world,' the Commission said. It would be part publicly, and part privately funded, with offshoots in other EU countries. Microsoft Research is investing in a network of centres of excellence tied to a particular research area. The first, the Centre for Computational and Systems Biology, is a joint venture that includes the Italian government and the University of Trento. As Mr Gates explained, researchers in this centre will focus on creating the next generation of computational tools to enable biologists and other life sciences experts to better understand and predict complex processes in biological systems, leading hopefully, to new insights into the origin of disease, new therapies and better vaccines. 'This initiative will support the establishment of new kinds of converged scientific research,' said Letizia Moratti, Italian Minister of Education, University and Research. 'The Trento centre has the potential to bolster new economic growth in the Trentino region and beyond, as well as underpin traditional industries such as agriculture and agriscience,' she added. Additional centres will be announced in the coming months and discussions are underway with various research institutes in France, Germany and the UK. The EuroScience initiative is a public-private partnership. In the case of the University of Trento, the Italian government is contributing 60 per cent of the budget, and Microsoft the rest. Microsoft will provide software and computer scientists. The initiative will also include fellowship programmes, PhD scholarships, awards and workshops. 'There is a great level of innovation in European universities and software has become a great vehicle for research,' stated Mr Gates. [...] We are at a great point where computing and software can advance science,' he added. 'By promoting investment, broad participation and critical advances in the EuroScience research priorities, we feel certain that the scientific community, European industry and government will - in partnership - help release Europe's full potential,' concluded Jean-Philippe Courtois, CEO of Microsoft Europe, Middle East and Africa.

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Germany, France, Italy