European Commission launches € 3m prize to improve air quality in cities

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European Commission launches €3m prize to improve air quality in cities

Brussels, 16 April 2015

A prize of €3 million will be awarded to the person or team that develops the best material to reduce the concentration of particulate matter in urban areas, the European Commission announced today. The aim is to improve air quality in cities and reduce the serious health risks posed by particulate matter (PM), the air pollutant which has the most severe impact on health.

The Horizon Prize on materials for clean air aims to stimulate innovative thinking to find a material-based solution to the problem. The material can be made from any chemical substance (e.g. plastic, concrete, asphalt, etc.) capable or reducing PM concentration in the air (e.g. by capturing it).

Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said: "Poor air quality is a major problem for health and the environment. Air pollutants kill half a million Europeans every year. Under Horizon 2020, we are continuing to invest in key enabling technologies, such as advanced materials, to reduce particulate matter in the air for the benefit of everyone."

The prize is open to established scientists as well as other innovators. It leaves applicants total freedom to come up with the most promising and effective solution. The award criteria just require the solution to be affordable, sustainable, innovative and well-designed.

As of today, the rules of contest are available online. Contestants will be able to submit their entries from 26 January 2017 until 23 January 2018.


Particulate matter consists of microscopic solid and liquid particles suspended in the air coming from both natural and human activities (such as burning fossil fuels for electricity, industry and transport). The inhalation of these small particles can lead to asthma, lung cancer, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, birth defects, and premature death. In Europe, approximately 482 000 premature deaths were caused by exposure to outdoor air pollution in 2012. Currently, around 90% of the population of European cities for which PM data exist is exposed to levels exceeding the World Health Organisation's air quality guidelines.

The Horizon Prize is a new kind of prize by the European Commission to stimulate innovation and come up with solutions to problems that matter to European citizens. It offers a cash reward to whoever can most effectively meet a defined challenge with a breakthrough solution. In 2015, at least five Horizon Prizes worth €6 million are being launched in the areas of health, environment and ICT under Horizon 2020, the European Union's research and innovation programme (IP/14/849).


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