The European Commission said on Thursday it had approved 119 million euros ($165 million) of French government aid to companies for research on nanotechnology and energy efficiency.
The Commission, executive arm of the European Union, signed off on 80 million euros for a programme known as NanoSmart and 39 million euros for an energy programme called Homes.
"The two programmes are in the strategic areas of nanotechnology and energy efficiency. The Commission has verified that the positive effects of the aid for consumers and for European research outweigh any distortion of competition," Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said in a statement.
NanoSmart aims to improve the performance and electricity consumption of microelectronic and optoelectronic components, the Commission said.
Homes will enable energy savings of around 20 percent in buildings through innovations including electricity distribution systems, the Commission said.
The European Commission has authorised state aid worth EUR119 million that the French government intends to provide to two research and development (R&D) projects.
Earlier this year the French Industrial Innovation Agency informed the Commission of its plans to grant €80 million to the NanoSmart programme, and €39 million to the HOMES programme. Under the Commission's state aid rules regarding research and innovation, Member States are obliged to notify the Commission of any aid measures worth over €10 million that are earmarked for projects focused on industrial research.
The new rules on state aid for research were announced in November 2006 and are designed to boost R&D spending and help Europe reach the goal of spending 3% of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) on R&D by 2010. Under the rules, countries may grant aid for R&D as long as it addresses a defined market failure, has an incentive effect and does not excessively distort competition.
'The two programmes are in the strategic areas of nanotechnology and energy efficiency,' said European Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes. 'The Commission has verified that the positive effects of the aid for consumers and for European research outweigh any distortion of competition.'
The NanoSmart project aims to improve the performance and electricity consumption of microelectronic components by developing advanced new supports with improved properties and functionalities. The total cost of the programme is €200 million spread over five years.
The goal of the HOMES project is to generate energy savings of around 20% in buildings by using active energy control. The project will see all the functions which contribute to the energy efficiency of a building (heating, air conditioning, lighting etc) integrated into the same architecture. HOMES has a total cost of €87 million, spread over six years.
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