12 May 2020   |   News

Projects touting potential new hydrogen energy source among winners in latest EU research awards

European Innovation Council announces €114 million for 35 projects in its latest funding round, and appoints first programme manager to steer biomedical research to commercial success

European innovation council

The European Innovation Council (EIC) on Monday announced €114 million for 35 projects aiming to develop cutting-edge technologies in fields including nanotechnology, zero-emission energy generation, artificial intelligence, robotics and implantable autonomous devices.

The projects are part of the EIC’s pathfinder programme, a funding scheme that supports consortia of researchers to advance the development of new technologies.

Monday’s winners are divided into 22 top down projects with breakthrough potential and another 13 projects previously backed by the EU through schemes such as the Future and Emerging Technologies programmes that are ready for commercialisation.

Among the breakthrough technologies are projects to expand the use of hydrogen as a clean energy source. Following recent experimental confirmation by a team of scientists at the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission that when hydrogen is subject to extreme pressure it forms a metal, two projects, CleanHME and Hermes aim to take this forward.

With its conversion back to a gas releasing a huge amount of power, metallic hydrogen is looked to as a source of clean energy. It is also predicted to be able to superconduct at room temperature, allowing electricity to flow without energy loss.

The CleanHME team, which includes 17 partners spread across Slovakia, Poland, France and the US was awarded €5.5 million, the biggest grant in this funding round, while HERMES was awarded €4 million.

On the artificial intelligence front, MAIA AI, which includes researchers from Italy’s Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies, will attempt to decode human interactions and communicate them to assistive devices and users, to make user interfaces more intuitive. The goal is to develop trust in AI through natural interaction and mutual learning, which seen as key to the technology’s future, as it becomes more widespread.

Amongst the maturing projects is PLATFORMA, which will build on the MESO-BRAIN project to commercialise functional 3D models of human neural networks derived from induced pluripotent stem cells, for use in screening cosmetics, pollutants and drug discovery. 

Roughly 100 of the winning project partners are based in Germany, Italy, and France, the biggest recipient countries for this round of EIC funding. Researchers from central and eastern European states, on the other hand, made up only a fraction of the winners, with half of them coming from the Czech Republic.

In addition to the funding announcement, the EIC announced that Iordanis Arzimanoglou – an expert in genetics and cancer research as well as biotechnology and AI-based medicine – will become the first EIC programme manager. Arzimanoglou will be responsible for mentoring biomedical SMEs that come through the EIC programme.

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