A personal scanner that reveals the nutritional value of your food could soon be helping you to eat healthily, thanks to a EUR 1 million prize that is being offered to the inventors who come up with the best working prototype.
The scanner will be able to identify whether your sausages, burgers or croissants contain too much fat and salt, and even pick out traces of nuts or gluten.
It’s one of five Horizon Prizes where money is offered to inventors and developers who create a specific technology.
‘Healthy eating is a key way of limiting certain diseases like obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases,’ said EU project officer Gerald Cultot, who was involved in designing the terms of the prize.
‘There are these fitness apps which tell you how much energy you have spent, but you don’t have that many apps that tell you how much you have consumed, so it’s really about going to the other side of the spectrum and helping people to better measure their food intake,’ he said.
‘It’s really about going to the other side of the spectrum and helping people to better measure their food intake.’
Gerald Cultot, European Commission
The EUR 1 million prize will be split into a maximum of three awards - EUR 800 000 for the winner, and EUR 100 000 each to the first and second runner-ups.
In order to win the prize, the prototype needs to be able to analyse food composition, nutrition facts and potentially harmful ingredients such as allergens.
That's a major issue because about 17 million Europeans suffer from food allergies, with 3.5 million of them less than 25 years of age, according to the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
The idea behind the Horizon Prizes is that they could attract people who might not apply for a standard research project, which are usually awarded to international research consortiums.
The foodscanner prize follows a prize for a bacteria test announced in February, prizes for better sharing of wireless bandwidth and for higher speed optical data transmission announced in March, and materials that can improve the air quality of cities in April.
‘With the prize contest we want to bring people to join our programmes that usually wouldn’t apply,’ said Barbara Kowatsch, an EU officer who has helped develop the new funding instrument.
The prizes are seen as an ongoing method for the EU to stimulate innovation. Next year's prizes will be announced in the autumn. ‘Every year we target to have ambitious prizes in areas related to societal challenges,’ said Kowatsch.
Professor Martijn Nawijn, an immunologist at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, tells Horizon about his quest to map every cell in a healthy human lung. He says this work should help to understand more about the causes of lung disease - which is comparatively understudied - and should lead to new therapies in the next 15 to 20 years.
There was one science story that dominated 2020 and coronavirus is likely to remain a dominant theme in 2021. But from vaccine rollout to lessons for future pandemics and – that other big challenge that we’re facing – climate change, how will the year in science play out? We asked a selection of our interviewees about lessons from 2020 and what needs to happen in their fields in the coming year.
In the summer of 2014 a strange building began to take shape just outside MoMA PS1, a contemporary art centre in New York City. It looked like someone had started building an igloo and then got carried away, so that the ice-white bricks rose into huge towers. It was a captivating sight, but the truly impressive thing about this building was not so much its looks but the fact that it had been grown.
Bilingual people can effortlessly switch between languages during everyday interactions. But beyond its usefulness in communication, being bilingual could affect how the brain works and enhance certain abilities. Studies into this could inform techniques for learning languages and other skills.
Live mycelium networks, capable of information processing, could be used as building materials.
Researchers are investigating whether bilingualism enhances certain cognitive abilities.
Dr Kate Rychert studies ocean plate structures.