EU offering €3m to anyone who can clean up our air

17 Apr 2015

A new competition launched by the European Commission (EC) will reward the person or team that comes up with the best material to reduce city smog, with €3m up for grabs.

Apparently, the problem of particle pollution is a big one in Europe, with the EC claiming almost half a million people die from it each year.

But don’t think the money is as good as yours any time soon; the competition is open to applicants from January 2017, closing a year later.

“Poor air quality is a major problem for health and the environment. Air pollutants kill half a million Europeans every year,” said Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for research, science and innovation.

“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.”

Horizon 2020 is essentially a series of prize-led competitions led by the EC to stimulate innovation and come up with ways to solve some of our more pressing concerns.

Plenty to go around

This year, €6m worth of prizes will be launched, with this one representing half of that fund.

Another project underway under the auspices of Horizon 2020 is research into improvements in fish farming, which is being led by Waterford Institute of Technology’s Telecommunications Software & Systems Group.

“Air pollution is causing damage to human health and ecosystems,” says Hans Bruyninckx, executive director of the European Environment Agency.

“Large parts of the population do not live in a healthy environment, according to current standards. To get on to a sustainable path, Europe will have to be ambitious and go beyond current legislation.”

Particulate matter is basically tiny little particles suspended in the air from the likes of our burning off of fossil fuels. They can be damaging when inhaled, leading to things like asthma, lung cancer, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, birth defects and premature death.

Apparently, 90pc of the population of cities within Europe, for which data exists, are exposed to levels above the WHO’s guidelines.

Any single person or legal entity or group of legal entities established within the EU (or countries associated with Horizon 2020) can enter the competition.

Interestingly, the judging will include that of affordability. So you can’t just propose a giant continent wide filtration system on the back of a giant, sun-blocking aircraft. So I’m back to the drawing board.

Berlin image, via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic