PROJECTS

Together, we are more intelligent

In many ways and in the most specialised fields, EU research policy is focusing on cooperation in the service of excellence. This strategy is causing European and international players to coordinate their abilities in the interests of better innovation. Here are some examples.

© P.Visser/OLLA project
© P.Visser/OLLA project

An enlightened Europe

A diode is a semiconductor electronic component consisting of two layers of materials between which electrons can flow in one direction only. During this transfer of electrons, and subject to certain conditions, an energy charge is emitted in the form of photons. The properties of light-emitting diodes, commonly known as LEDs, are already very much a part of the technological environment. They are used to illuminate the keys or indicators on countless electronic or electrical devices and also – thanks to the invention of laser diodes – to form the reading and engraving heads of audiovisual or computer discs.

These two functions of LED technologies – generating light and processing or converting optical signals – are areas of research that are far from exhausted. Thus, two European projects are currently bringing together scientists and industrialists at the leading edge of these fields. The WWW.BRIGHTER.EU consortium is seeking to increase the strength and photonic sensitivity of laser diodes, in particular in medical imaging technologies and in telecommunication networks. Another project, OLED100.eu, is working on the emerging technology of organic LED diodes with a view to developing a new generation of TV and computer screens with increased energy performances.

www.ist-brighter.eu
www.oled100.eu

Web calculating

The Mountain, choreography by Jason Garcio Ignacio, is based on the sonority of volcanic seisms. The rumblings are captured using techniques developed by Domenico Vicinanza, an artist and engineer involved in the DANTE project.© P.Visser/OLLA project
The Mountain, choreography by Jason Garcio Ignacio, is based on the sonority of volcanic seisms. The rumblings are captured using techniques developed by Domenico Vicinanza, an artist and engineer involved in the DANTE project.
© P.Visser/OLLA project

Science can take giant steps provided it has the means, among which data processing resources are particularly important.

Twenty years ago, when a handful of researchers at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) invented the Internet, it was to meet the need for research centres to exchange information and data. We all know what resulted: remarkably open in its design, the invention spread to all areas of society.

But science’s appetite for data processing goes beyond communication. The vast mass of knowledge means that research comes up against another constraint: calculation and information processing capacity. The capacity of science centre computers is increasing all the time and many of them are now equipped with ‘supercomputers’. This demand for calculating power is indeed such that in the 1990s a new idea gained ground, that of backed the creation of the DANTE (Delivery of Advanced Network Technology to Europe) platform, based in Cambridge (UK). This first worked on setting up the present shared system between national research and education networks inter connecting computers so as to share their processing capacity. This gave rise to the concept of the grid, a term used traditionally in English to refer to an electricity network to which anybody can connect without having to bother about the power station that produces the current.

By developing an arsenal of technological compatibility (and standardisation) solutions, the grids serve to make available and exploit the unused working capacity of thousands of autonomous computers located all over the world.

The EU understood immediately the importance of this disseminated computing capacity. In 1993 it backed the creation of the DANTE (Delivery of Advanced Network Technology to Europe) platform, based in Cambridge (UK). This first worked on setting up the present shared system between national research and education networks in Europe, known as GÉANT2. This stretches from the Atlantic to the Black Sea. However, in the age of globalisation, Europe has also sought to be a pioneer in intercontinental grids. TEIN3 (Trans- Eurasia Information Network) covers the interconnection of Chinese, Indian, Australian and South-East Asian networks. EUMEDCONNECT3 has been set up in North Africa and the Middle East, while ALICE (America Latina Interconectada Con Europa) provides access to CLARA, the South American grid.

www.dante.net

Something very new on our plates

© Shutterstock
© Shutterstock
© Shutterstock
© Shutterstock
© Shutterstock
© Shutterstock

As far as proteins, lipids, glucides and other molecule families in food are concerned, consumers are aware of their presence as the content is displayed on all edible industrial preparations. This enables consumers to dose, albeit approximately, the different energy sources that their body cells metabolise. Over the last decade or so, biochemists have been exploring other dietary fields. In so doing they have revealed the action of many other molecules, secondary metabolites that influence living cells in other ways than the global processes of the metabolism. Just as one speaks of the genome when exploring DNA, so today scientists are becoming interested in the metabolome. This neologism refers to the set of metabolic intermediates: the hormones and other molecules of the signal as well as the secondary metabolites than can be found in a biological sample.

In addition to these fundamental aspects, this new field of research is very interesting in terms of identifying data on the role played by these multiple molecular compounds in terms of health benefits and illness prevention. The international project METAPHOR, for example, is seeking to identify, in the very short term, the nutritional properties, due to their metabolite content, of the world’s major crops. Its 22 partners (universities, agricultural institutes, agro-foodstuffs industries) are currently focusing on rice (one of the partners is the International Rice Research Institute – IRRI, based in the Philippines), broccoli and melons.

www.meta-phor.eu

Sensing danger

In the age of wireless devices, strategies to protect against urban, industrial or environmental disasters are focusing on the potential of preventive weapons as represented by interconnected sensors. The 11 partners in the Winsoc (Wireless Sensor Networks with Self-Organization Capabilities for Critical and Emergency Applications) project are currently developing the methodology for a new form of sensor network inspired by the architecture of biological systems.

Three types of risk are being studied: landslide forecasting and protection, detection of gas leakages of all kinds, and temperature monitoring to predict or detect fires in a given area. Major companies, academic and private research centres, SMEs and risk prevention managers are all contributing to Winsoc. The project therefore represents an alliance between very high-level expertise (in sensor technologies, information and communication network management, etc.) and the field knowledge of security practitioners.

www.winsoc.org

Nurturing European citizenship

If there is one field in which the social and political sciences are currently facing a huge challenge it is surely that of the ‘crisis of governance’. To explain this phenomenon, it is customary to point to the effects of globalisation. Yet governance is also an issue that is closely associated with the increased power of an increasingly complex and open civil society, one that is laying claim to its right to participate and exercise control. This dual theme is central to the reflections of CINEFOGO (Civil Society and New Forms of Governance in Europe), the new European network of excellence and an example of intensive cooperation in the field of socio-economic research. Since 2004 some 200 researchers with the CINEFOGO network – coordinated by the University of Roskilde (DK) – from 45 partner institutions throughout Europe have been comparing their analyses and exchanging data on their work. Specifically, CINEFOGO is creating a database of ideas, knowledge and practice on the ways in which citizens participate (or could participate) in social and political governance. The field of research extends to questions such as nourishing the democratic debate and democratic organisation, the ‘welfare state’ and social protection, family and gender policy, responses to the immigration problem and the fight against social exclusion.

www.cinefogo.org

Didier Buysse



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