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EU clears state aid for German multimedia search engine project

The European Commission has authorised Germany to give EUR 120 million to researchers to work on the Internet search engine technologies project THESEUS. THESEUS will be an attempt to develop the world's most advanced multimedia search engine, creating a set of tools for tran...

The European Commission has authorised Germany to give EUR 120 million to researchers to work on the Internet search engine technologies project THESEUS. THESEUS will be an attempt to develop the world's most advanced multimedia search engine, creating a set of tools for translating, identifying and indexing images, sound and text. In addition to focusing on semantic technologies as a means to understanding the context of a search request, the project will also offer online access to cultural works, thus promoting the diversity of Europe's cultures. The EU approved state aid for the project on the basis that the benefits of creating new technologies and putting more cultural material onto the Internet outweighed the risks of giving any one company an unfair advantage over its competitors. 'I am pleased that Germany intends to promote additional research and innovation for the next generation of the Internet and has taken care to do so in a way that will minimise any distortions of competition,' said EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes. The grants are expected to foster close collaboration between industry and scientists, and to make research and development and innovation (R&D&I) more efficient. In particular, the Commission hopes the aid will prove an incentive to the large European enterprises in the project to spend more on their R&D&I activities. In a first phase, several large companies will receive the grants to act as 'icebreakers', opening up the potential for new R&D. Then in later phases, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) would receive aid to build on the results. Named after a character in Greek mythology who uses thread to navigate through King Minos' maze, the THESEUS project was born out of QUAERO, a joint French-German Internet search initiative. QUAERO was discontinued in December 2006 when the German and French researchers took different directions. Nevertheless, the coordinators from both projects have vowed to meet regularly to form synergies when possible.

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