EU OKs German Online Search-Engine Grant

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 26, 2005

BRUSSELS, Belgium – The European Union on Thursday authorized Germany to give $165 million for research on Internet search-engine technologies that could someday challenge U.S. search giant Google Inc.

The Theseus research project _ the German arm of what the French call Quaero _ is aiming to develop the world’s most advanced multimedia search engine for the next-generation Internet. It would translate, identify and index images, audio and text.

Initially, the German government would pay several “icebreaker” companies _ Siemens AG, SAP AG, Deutsche Thomson oHG and EMPOLIS GmbH, owned by Bertelsmann AG _ to kick start research. Later, the German funding would be spread out to small and medium businesses for them to build on the earlier research.

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France is still discussing a similar subsidy plan with the European Commission, aiming to give $112 million to research led by French video-technology company Thomson.

EU regulators said it could allow Germany to subsidize the Theseus project until 2011 because the government grants were made in a way that would prevent giving any one company an unfair advantage over others.

The grants also are expected to help industry work more closely with scientists, making the research more efficient.

Fragmented European research efforts are one of the reasons blamed for the region lagging behind the United States in information technology. European companies in general spend far less on research than those based in other parts of the world, and the EU said the project should help change that.

“We welcome all efforts to help democratize access to information,” Google spokeswoman Katie Watson said in a statement.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Google isn’t standing still. It continues to introduce new software and has been aggressively seeking ways to import offline media, such as books and television shows, into its search engine.

Google, founded nearly nine years ago, is now one of the world’s best known _ and most valuable _ companies. On Thursday, it posted a second-quarter profit of $925.1 million _ a 28 percent jump from the same time last year.

A service of the Associated Press(AP)