The European Commission has announced plans to invest €1.5 billion (£1.2bn) in information and communication technologies to support the Digital Agenda's ICT research funding targets and create new growth and jobs.

The funding is part of a wider €8.1 billion investment in research and innovation to support projects and ideas that will boost Europe's competitiveness and tackle issues such as health, the environment, urbanisation and waste management.

A further €365 million will be earmarked for technologies that will transform urban areas into sustainable “Smart Cities and Communities”, and around €970 million of financing will go to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) working in these and other areas.

“Knowledge is the currency of the global economy. If Europe wants to continue to compete in the 21st century, we must support the research and innovation that will generate growth and jobs, now and in the future,” said European Research, Innovation and Science Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn.

“The high level of competition for EU funding makes sure that taxpayers' money goes to the best projects that tackle issues that concern all of us.”

The funding is open to organisations and businesses in all EU Member States and partner countries. It is not yet known which projects the ICT money will be invested in, but the EC said that most of the invitations to bid for funds would be published on 10 July.

Meanwhile, universities and research institutions have been invited to apply to become one of five European Research Area (ERA) Chairs, responsible for helping to spread research more widely.

Applicants must demonstrate their ability to support excellence through providing the necessary facilities and complying with European Research Area principles such as open recruitment.

The EC has previously promised funding of €9.2 billion to help expand investment in broadband networks in Europe. It has also put aside €10 million to form a European Cloud Partnership (ECP) to boost the use of cloud services and innovation in the region.

The EU's total research budget also includes €751 million to help support “joint technology initiatives” with industry under the Euratom treaty.