The European Union spends billions of euros on research covering a huge range of topics, from everyday transport problems to ‘blue-sky' materials research. All projects successfully evaluated by independent experts and chosen to receive EU funds have proven track records in their respective fields. Many go on to discover novel solutions to today's pressing challenges. Over the years, the European Commission has showcased a large number of these successful projects.
As with previous series of EU research ‘Success stories', dating back the 1990s, the general aim of these project write-ups is to promote successful Commission-funded research projects and their exploitable results. The latest batch was published, throughout 2004, on the Research Directorate-General's Information Centre.
|The MaxWave project successfully developed tools for tracking and forecasting freak waves capable of sinking ships.|
The 2004 series presents a selection of 36 completed EU-funded research projects, which show how Framework Programme funding directly addresses significant social and economic challenges, and in many cases has an immediate practical impact. The featured projects include ones which have led to the creation or improvement of consumer products, and to changes in business practice or regulation. Others provide the basis for future improvements in safety, productivity, energy supply, environmental protection and health.
Supported by the European Union under the Fifth Research Framework Programme (FP5), many of the projects show characteristics of the present Sixth Framework Programme, which succeeded FP5 in 2002 and runs until 2006. They tend to be large-scale, seek the development of sustainable research networks, involve end-users and other industrial partners, and direct significant attention to plans for exploiting their results.
Chicken genetics and other examples
To illustrate the sort of successful endeavours included in the series, Headlines has chosen three very different examples. The first one, in the area of agriculture and food, is an EU ‘Quality of life' project called Chicken IMAGE which tackled the genetics of disease resistance in chickens.
The poultry industry is threatened by increasingly virulent diseases which can cause huge flock losses. Some chickens have resistance to these pathogens, but identifying them is difficult and costly for chicken breeders. Seven European research groups joined forces to study the genetic basis of disease resistance in chickens, by identifying and sequencing chicken genes involved in the immune response, and comparing how these genes are expressed in resistant and susceptible birds. Research continues to discover the function of genes involved in the resistance.
Another noteworthy case in the energy sector, and supported in FP5 by the Euratom programme, highlights the efforts of two research clusters (SAMEN and MOSES) to build up expertise and manage the response to nuclear disasters across national borders. Together, the two clusters represent 11 projects carrying out a range of complementary research, from developing tools to predict such disasters, to systems for coordinating a response to them if they do occur.
Our third success story, in the medicine and health/life sciences categories, delves into neurosciences to discover what role the hippocampus section of the brain plays in the formation and retention of memory in vertebrates, starting with the behaviour of rats. NAPPY, or ‘Network analysis of hippocampal memory processing', an EU-funded ‘Quality of life' project, put together a team of scientists with an instrument manufacturer to analyse and understand how the hippocampus really works – the interaction of the cells in making memory. The knowledge generated in the project could, one day, help in the battle against degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.