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Ministers give green light to EUROSTARS and assisted living programmes

The Council of Ministers has given the green light to two new pan-European research programmes. The 'Ambient assisted living' (AAL) programme will draw on information and communication technologies (ICTs) to improve the quality of life of the elderly, while the EUROSTARS progr...

The Council of Ministers has given the green light to two new pan-European research programmes. The 'Ambient assisted living' (AAL) programme will draw on information and communication technologies (ICTs) to improve the quality of life of the elderly, while the EUROSTARS programme aims to support the research activities of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). Both initiatives are made possible by Article 169 of the EU treaty, which supports the integration of national research programmes in specific areas. By pooling resources and aligning priorities in this way, these initiatives aim to prevent the duplication of research activities and boost the sharing of best practice among Member States. The AAL programme brings together 20 EU Member States, plus Israel, Norway and Switzerland. The six year programme is funded to the tune of €600 million. Half of this amount comes from the participating countries and the European Commission's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), while the other half comes from the private sector. AAL aims to promote the development of innovative ICT products and services which can boost older people's quality of life by making it easier for them to live and work independently and participate actively in society, for example. They also aim to create the critical mass of research, development and innovation in the EU in the field of technologies designed to help people age well in the information society. Finally, the programme aims to improve conditions for the industrial exploitation of research results. Europe has a strong record in this field; previous innovations include the MobilAlarm, a tracking service which enables old people to set off an alarm call and get support wherever and whenever it is needed, and I2HOME, a remote control for domestic appliances such as washing machines and heating systems which makes these devices easier to use for those with physical or cognitive impairments. 'There is no reason for older people in Europe to miss out on the benefits of new technologies,' commented Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for the Information Society and Media. 'This programme will help European companies respond better to the needs of our elders, open major new business opportunities and offer solutions to help public authorities make our health and social care systems sustainable in the future.' Meanwhile the EUROSTARS programme brings together 26 EU Member States plus Iceland, Israel, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey. The programme is designed to support Europe's research-performing SMEs, thereby enabling them to compete on the global scale. Specifically, EUROSTARS aims to boost the innovative capacity of the economy; overcome the lack of coordination of national research policies in this area; advance the development of the European Research Area (ERA); and help Europe achieve its objective of investing 3% of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) in research by 2010. 'As we are out to build a true knowledge economy, we have to make it easier for these companies to exploit new research opportunities and emerging technologies,' said EU Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik at the launch of the EUROSTARS programme in October 2007. 'We want to see more 'research-intensive' SMEs that are able to perform R&D and to develop cutting edge technologies in their field.' The AAL and EUROSTARS programmes are the first two Article 169 initiatives to receive full approval. A further two programmes on Baltic Sea research and metrology (the science of measurement) are currently in the pipeline.

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