BRUSSELS: Research into the wonder material graphene and the neurochemistry of the human brain will receive up to two billion euros in funding, the biggest research award of its kind in history, the European Commission said.
The two areas are beneficiaries of the Future Emerging Technology (FET) Flagship program, described as an “X-Factor for science”, whose winners were chosen by leading scientists, a Nobel prize winner and industrialists.
The money, amounting to a billion euros for each initiative, will be allocated over 10 years, the commission said.
The winners will receive up to 54 million euros (A$70 million) from the Commission this year, while “further funding will come from subsequent EU research framework programs, private partners including universities, member states and industry,” the European Union executive said in a press release.
Graphene to replace silicon
The EU is to provide half the total funding and the rest will be matched by national governments, industry and private backers, it spelled out.
Graphene, discovered less than a decade ago, is a sheet of carbon that is one atom thick.
It is touted as having huge potential, with superior conductivity, mechanical strength and optical purity than other materials. It is likely to replace many uses for silicon.
Described by Commission vice president Neelie Kroes as a “revolutionary material (produced) using just a pencil and Scotch tape”, graphene is now “on the verge of spawning a new industry,” she said.
A brain in a supercomputer
The Human Brain Project, meanwhile, seeks to simulate the cells, chemistry and connectivity of the brain in a supercomputer, the goal being to better comprehend the brain’s functions and development.
The hope is to find new treatments for brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and enhance “artificial intelligence” computing.
Underlined Kroes: “Europe’s position as a knowledge superpower depends on thinking the unthinkable and exploiting the best ideas.
“This multi-billion competition rewards home-grown scientific breakthroughs and shows that when we are ambitious we can develop the best research in Europe.”