France gets EU clearance to fund search project

France won EU approval to give $152 million to several companies hoping to build a European rival to US search giant Google, an Associated Press report said.

The Associated Press report said the potential benefits of allowing France to fund technology group Thomson and 22 other companies working on the QUAERO multimedia search project in Europe outweigh any gain Thomson would win over rivals, according to the European Commission.

QUAERO, Latin for 'I search,' would develop technology for working with all platforms, including desktops, mobile devices and televisions, the Associated Press report said.

Its products would be sold to TV companies, filmmakers, post-production facilities and anyone who creates or uses audiovisual content, the report said.

Just under half the funding for the five-year, $306 million project will come from the French government.

The EU executive said the cash infusion aids an effort that might not otherwise win financial support because the companies have divergent interests and their chances of success were uncertain, the report adde.

Thomson hopes the research will help it offer better internet protocol distribution technology to deliver television programs or films online.

EU rules forbid governments granting money to companies if that would give them an unfair advantage over competitors, the Associated Press report also said.

The commission said the grant would not give Thomson market power because rivals will likely keep up their investment in research and development. It cleared the German government to give $165 million to the German arm of the project, called THESEUS.

The report further said that money will fund 'icebreaker' companies, Siemens, SAP, Deutsche Thomson and EMPOLIS GmbH, owned by Bertelsmann, to kick start research. The aid will later spread to smaller firms.