The European Commission has announced two Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) Flagships that could each receive funding of a staggering one billion euro (US$1.3 billion) over a period of ten years. The “Graphene Flagship” and the “Human Brain Project” are large-scale, science-driven research initiatives designed to “fuel revolutionary discoveries” and provide major benefits for European society – hopefully creating new jobs and providing economic growth along the way.
The Graphene Flagship and Human Brain Project were selected in a process that started with 21 eligible proposals that were received in response to a call published on July 20, 2010. From these 21, a shortlist of six was then selected in January 2011. These six then submitted their complete research proposals, which were evaluated by a panel of 25 experts in November and December 2012, with the two winning proposals announced this week.
Graphene FlagshipWith the aim of getting graphene out of the lab and into real world products and applications, the Graphene Flagship will initially bring together a consortium made up of 126 academic and industrial research groups in 17 European countries. An additional 20 to 30 groups will join in through an open call that will be put out soon after the start of the initiative to add some additional engineering expertize.
With an initial 30-month budget of 54 million euro (US$72.6 million), the Flagship will focus on exploiting graphene’s unique properties for use in a wide range of fields, with the project covering everything from materials production through to components and system integration.
Electronic and optical devices, flexible electronics, such as electronic paper and bendable communication devices, along with advanced batteries and more energy efficient airplanes are just some examples of products that are expected to come out of the research. The researchers also expect new computational paradigms and new medical devices, such as artificial retinas, to result from their work.
However, the Flagship doesn’t expect to cover all potential bases. “Although the flagship is extremely extensive, it cannot cover all areas. For example, we don’t intend to compete with Korea on graphene screens”, says Chalmers University of Technology’s Professor Jari Kinaret, who is the Director of the project and will lead the research activities with the leaders of 15 work packages. ”Graphene production, however, is obviously central to our project.”
Human Brain ProjectThe goal of the Human Brain Project (HBP) is to gain a better understanding of our least understood organ so as to develop new treatments for brain diseases, build new computing technologies inspired by the architecture of the brain, and provide insights into what makes us human. The Flagship’s researchers say that thanks to modern computing technology, the time is now right for such research.
To study how the brain works, the HBP will create the world’s largest experimental facility for developing the most detailed model of the human brain. This is expected to enable the first objective classifications of brain diseases and lay the scientific and technological groundwork for breakthroughs that will improve the quality of life for millions of people.
The data provided is expected to allow researchers to map diseases, provide early diagnosis and treatment, trace the causes of diseases, screen drugs for effectiveness and side-effects before expensive animal testing and human trials and, ultimately, develop personalized treatments for neurological and related diseases.
In terms of computing, knowledge about the brain is expected to result in highly scalable and configurable hardware that mimics neuro-biological architectures by incorporating principles of brain cognition and computation.
The researchers expect these new technologies to “turn supercomputers into interactive instruments for data-intensive applications, allow the development of intelligent computing and communications devices, provide new solutions to critical challenges in power consumption, reliability and programmability and drive a paradigm shift for next-generation computing.”
FundingThe Flagship funding could amount to around one billion euro in funding for each project over a period of 10 years. The initial first phase funding of up to 54 million euro (US$72.8 million) for each project will come from the European Commission’s Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) 2013 Work Programme, with the Commission’s contribution from 2014 to 2020 coming from the Horizon 2020 initiative that aims to secure Europe’s global competitiveness and which is currently being negotiated in the European Parliament and Council. Additional funding will also come from other partners including universities, Member States and the private sector and industry.
The Commission are beginning negotiations with the Graphene Flagship and Human Brain Project and, pending approval, contracts for the initial 30-month ramp-up phase could be signed and the projects underway in September 2013.
The research proposals for the two winning projects can be seen in the videos below.