The European Union (EU) has approved funding worth €120m (£80m) for a German search engine project to be developed by firms including Bertelsmann, Siemens and Deutsche Thomson.

The Theseus project aims to develop the world’s most advanced multimedia search engine, creating a set of tools for indexing images, sound and text.

The German government will initially fund various companies start the project, with later funding to be given to small and medium businesses to build upon their work.

The focus of the research is on semantic technologies; aiming to return search queries by recognising the meaning of content in its proper context.

Companies such as Powerset, with its natural language search, are already well on the way to developing such technologies.

The EU search engine project was originally a collaboration between France and Germany, though the French recently decided to go their own way – its Quaero project is also seeking funding from the EU of €90m (£60m).