The EU is preparing to invest close to half a billion euro in breakthrough digital technologies, following the latest selection of proposals from a series of calls of the Horizon Europe Programme that boost collaborative research and development across the Union and beyond.This will mean boosted investment in artificial intelligence; big data, robotics, extended reality, quantum, photonics and sensors, next generation internet, and two-dimensional materials. All these key technologies underpin Europe’s strategic autonomy and are the key enablers of a transition to a digital, sustainable and inclusive future.
Nearly 90 projects were selected following a peer review evaluation process.
With a balanced mix of project participants from academia and research organisations with industry players, including strong representation from SMEs, these projects will see Europe shaping advanced digital technologies for a European industry with global leadership in these key areas of research and technological investment.
Artificial Intelligence, Data and Robotics
30 projects have been selected which will contribute to the further development of European Artificial Intelligence (AI), data and robotics ecosystem.
With a total budget of over €225 million, these projects aim to tackle key research and innovation challenges for new technologies, reducing the energy consumption of powerful AI systems, optimising resource management of data-intensive applications, and developing tools for easier data sharing.
Participants from over 24 countries are represented in these projects, with about half coming from industry and the other half representing academia and the research community. From the industry participants, about 50% are medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Moreover, the selected projects will help establish EU leadership in AI, data, and robotics by developing applications that align with the EU’s approach of putting people at the centre of technological innovation.
One of the selected AI projects will develop European Large Language Models (LLMs) on a vast scale. These language models will, among others, feed better translation applications, facilitate customer service chatbots in European languages, and power virtual assistants in your home.
Another selected project will develop an AI system that is adaptable and efficient, much like the human brain. This next-generation AI promises greater versatility and efficiency, with it being prepared for tests for use from compact devices to vast cloud platforms.
Another project will help make the dangerous and polluting work of ship recycling much safer by combining AI and robotics, thus powering drones for inspections and automated systems for disassembly.
An additional project will provide tools for optimal resource management of hyper-distributed data-intensive applications like, for example, e-commerce platforms or streaming services, thus making them more energy-efficient and reliable for citizens’ use.
One more project will use novel AI-enabled tools to help data sharing and more efficient and greener data operations. The technologies will be tested in use cases involving data spaces on mobility, healthcare, industry, and energy.
Another project that has been selected establishes an open challenge prize programme. This programme will serve as a benchmark for the European AI community to promote the uptake of research by industry. Through developing prestigious AI open innovation challenges, the project mobilises wide participation of top scientists and innovators across the Union, originating from academia and industry, including start-ups.
Key photonic technologies for harnessing light
Photonics offers new and unique solutions where today's conventional technologies are approaching their limits in terms of speed, power consumption, capacity, and accuracy.
With a total budget of €60 million, 12 selected projects will strengthen Europe’s current leadership in photonic technologies and applications, and secure European industry’s access to cutting-edge photonic technologies involving new photonic chips and new versatile laser configurations, and often new materials. Improved sensor systems that combine different wave-lengths and that have improved sensitivity can in future be readily applied to medical devices, manufacturing, automated vehicles, and the agri-food industry.
A diverse array of selected participants, hailing from more than 25 countries, with over a third of them small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), will work together in consortia with academia and research organisations
One of the projects selected will develop a compact, inexpensive, and ultrasensitive sensing platform to monitor air and water quality. This first-of-a-kind device will work by integrating a light source, sensors, and electronics on a microchip. Tiny pollution changes in air or water will become measurable based on the unsurpassed sensitivity of the new chip.
Semiconductor tech for industry
More than seven projects, with a total budget of €35 million, will work on innovative semiconductor design, manufacture, and packaging.
Consisting of more than 70 participants from more than 16 countries, the majority of those chosen to participate in these projects represent academia and the research community, with nearly a third coming from the industrial sector. One sixth of the participants are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
These projects cover the full value chain, starting from material research (e.g. Ferroelectrics, graphene), then addressing manufacturing processes (e.g. Atomic layer deposition), architectures (e.g. neural networks, artificial intelligence) and semiconductor devices (both analog and digital). Several projects address green electronics as a core aspect. One project goes even beyond semiconductors and proposes printed and flexible electronics technologies.
These projects will further boost and strengthen Europe’s lead in semiconductor research and innovation. Their outcome will be complementary to the technological capacity building and innovation supported by the European Chips Act.
One of the selected projects presents ground-breaking advances for brain-like or neuromorphic computing, where computer systems are modelled after the structure of the human brain. Instead of normal circuitry, it will use magnetic particles called skyrmionic quasiparticles to mimic brain chemistry and facilitate complex calculations. Moreover, devices powered by this approach to computing will use a fraction of the power needed by normal microchip technologies.
In the area of quantum technologies seven projects have been selected, with a total budget of €47 million. They will work in areas such as quantum photonic integrated circuit technologies, quantum computers based on semiconductors or photons, and next generation quantum sensing, including the development of applications in the form of chip-scale optical clocks for precision timing, magnetometers for use in geo-surveying, and temperature sensors. Coming from more than 18 countries, over a third of the selected participants are from industry (nearly two-thirds of these being SMEs), joined by academia and research organisations.
These projects underpin the EU’s efforts to strengthen European technological sovereignty in the strategic field of quantum technologies and achieve first-mover industry leadership, thus capitalising on Europe’s established excellence in quantum science and technology.
An example of a project is the development of a semiconductor-based quantum computer, to be up and running by 2029. It will be accessible to users through the cloud and will solve problems that cannot be solved by today’s supercomputers. It could be applied to the development of better drugs and vaccines, the optimisation of supply-chains, and the development of next generation batteries.
Another project aims to develop the next generation of quantum sensors, making leaps forward in terms of sensitivity and precision. This will greatly benefit European industry in areas such as material manufacturing, microelectronics, healthcare, and metrology, to name but a few. The project will also enable physicists and engineers to broaden their skillset to include expertise in quantum, as well as consolidating the European supply chain in diamond quantum sensors.
More than six selected projects, with a total planned budget of €52 million, will bring advances in XR and virtual worlds. Participating consortia come from over 20 European countries. The majority of participants come from industry, while nearly two-fifths come from academia and research organisations.
These projects will develop a new generation of extended reality (XR) devices and applications offering greatly improved user experiences. Building on the eXtended Reality for all project, the projects will make use of technologies such as 5G/6G, Internet of Things (IoT), data, Artificial Intelligence (AI), edge and cloud computing, and microelectronics to further drive innovation. The proposed solutions will contribute to Europe’s technological autonomy and support the use of XR technologies in European industry.
One of the selected projects will develop the first generic Augmented Reality Eyewear (ARE) platform and ordinary-looking augmented reality glasses suitable for all-day use, including the possibility of personal corrective lenses. Another project will develop a toolset for hyper-realistic and XR-based human-human and human-machine interactions. Yet another project will develop the next generation of large language-model based XR systems, which will adapt to the individual. Virtual avatars will be created, and will show specific style, facial expressions and attitudes to make communication easier. Additionally, one other project will work with XR applications bringing art and culture to people who may not be able to enjoy it otherwise.
A coordination and support project will contribute to shaping and promoting an open, decentralised, trustworthy European and global Metaverse in line with the vision of human-centric technology set out in the Declaration on Digital Principles and Rights. It will work closely with all relevant European stakeholders and help structuring the European Virtual Worlds ecosystem.