updated 2/2/2005 7:56:40 PM ET 2005-02-03T00:56:40

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates on Wednesday launched an initiative to accelerate innovation in science and computing in Europe.

Speaking to journalists in Prague, Gates said the EuroScience Initiative will bring together talented people from universities and research centers all over Europe.

"Software has become a key tool for many types of research," Gates said.

The initiative also wants to support the Lisbon Strategy, a plan to make Europe the world's most competitive economy by 2010. Within the strategy, EU governments are expected to boost research and development spending, cut bureaucracy and social spending and increase education spending.

As part of the EuroScience Initiative, Microsoft plans to invest in a network of centers tied to key research institutions in Europe.

The first of these is a center for Computational and Systems Biology, a joint venture between Microsoft, the Italian government and the University of Trento, in which the software giant has a 40 percent stake.

A memorandum of understanding was signed by Gates and Italian Minister of Education Letizia Moratti in Prague Wednesday.

It was not immediately clear which other centers will follow, but Gates said the program will not be limited to Western Europe.

"We're sure there are great universities in the new (EU member) countries as well," he said.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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