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Scientific awareness – Scientific awards

There are three major European Commission science awards. They aim to raise scientific awareness, stimulate research and encourage young scientists.

EU Descartes Prize

About the Prize

The Descartes Prize is open to teams of scientists who have achieved outstanding results from European collaborative research projects. The Prize covers all areas of scientific endeavour, including health, safety, energy, the environment and the social sciences. Entries are not limited to EU-funded projects

Launched in 2000, the first Descartes Prize was awarded to three projects: one led by Birmingham University (UK) for their work chemistry close to the absolute zero; another prize went to a team from Sussex University (UK) for their innovative work on the XPD gene; and the third team, led by Philips in Eindhoven (NL), focused on plastic transistors.

In 2001, the Descartes Prize was awarded two teams of scientists; the first, led by Leuven University (BE), shed new light on AIDS drugs, and the other, which was led by King's College (UK), delved into asymmetric catalysts for chemical manufacturing.

In 2002, the Descartes Prize was won by two projects in the fields of medicine and astrophysics. The first, led by Aarhus University Hospital (DK), provided leading research into multiple sclerosis, a painful degenerative disease affecting thousands of Europeans. The second, led by the University of Amsterdam (NL), unravelled the mysterious astronomical phenomenon known as gamma ray bursts, offering insight into how stars and planets are formed.

In 2003, eight teams were chosen as finalists to compete for the Grand Prize. The two winners will be announced in November by Research Commissioner Busquin and the Grand Jury President Ene Ergma.

To be eligible for the Prize, the minimum number of participants is two legal entities established in different Member States of the EU or Associated States to the Sixth Framework Programme. At least one of those legal entities must be established in a Member State or an Associated Candidate Country. Entries including teams from outside the EU may be eligible, provided they meet the above requirement.

Qualifying projects must have been completed by the time of the application; the Prize is not a financial tool to support research project proposals. The monetary award is up to €1 million, which is divided among up to 5 winners.

More information on the Descartes Prize

The European Young Scientists Contest

Every year, the EU celebrates its best young scientific talent at its Young Scientists Contest. Now into its 17th year, this high profile event is open to young people aged between 15 and 20 years old. Participants in the contest are the winners of national competitions held in the EU Member and Associated States.

While demand for scientists and researchers is rising, the number of young people taking up scientific studies and careers is dipping. The contest gives Europe’s best young scientific brains a forum to display their wares and connect with other like-minded youth from other countries.

The contest aims to reward scientific achievement and to demonstrate to a wider audience that science is fun. The contestants, all potential Nobel prize winners in the making, get the inspirational opportunity to meet real life Nobel laureates.

The 2004 contest – the 16th – took place in Dublin, Ireland. It brought together young scientists from 34 European countries, as well as China and the USA. Their 73 projects competed for nine top prizes worth €28 500. The three first prizes went to a condenser microphone, a method for synthesising N Methyl Flouexetine in the laboratory, and ultrasonic detector for gas chromatography.

Under the slogan ‘with bright minds to the bright future’, the 2005 event is due to take place in Moscow, Russia, from 17 to 22 September 2005. The packed contest features some 126 young people from 35 countries exhibiting 79 innovative projects.

More information on the EU Young Scientist Contest

Science Communication Prize

The European Commission is planning to launch a prize for effective scientific communication through the media.The prize aims to recognise and reward high quality, entertaining, accurate, and educational scientific reporting in the media, such as TV programmes, publications, Internet portals. The details of the prize are currently under discussion and an announcement will be made soon. Watch this space!

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