Brain, Graphene Research Wins $1.3 Billion In Funding From European Commission
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
As part of a concerted effort to boost scientific research amongst its member nations, the European Commission announced two $1.3-billion winners of the EU’s Future and Emerging Technologies competition.
The two international and multi-institutional projects, the “Human Brain Project” and “Graphene”, will each receive over $1.3 billion during the course of the coming decade. The awards are the largest of their kind to come from the European Union’s executive body.
“Europe’s position as a knowledge superpower depends on thinking the unthinkable and exploiting the best ideas,” the European commissioner for information technology, Neelie Kroes said in a statement.
She added that the competition was designed to “keep Europe competitive, to keep Europe as the home of scientific excellence.”
The Human Brain Project is a European-based collaboration of 87 research institutions from around the world dedicated to creating the world’s largest experimental facility with the exclusive purpose of modeling and studying how the human brain works on a previously unseen level of detail. Using state-of-the-art computer processing power, the project goal is to not only improve the diagnosis and treatment of brain disorders, but to also search for new computing techniques based on the brain’s mechanics.
Besides having an impact of science, one of the HBP’s stated goals is sociological as well.
“Since in the project we are combining computer science with other disciplines which have long been preferred by women, such as biology and psychology, we hope to engender enthusiasm for computer science among talented young women researchers by means of this bridge,” said Wolfgang Maass, an HBP researcher at Graz University of Technology in Austria.
The Graphene project includes over 100 research groups and will explore and utilize a groundbreaking new carbon-based material. Graphene can be fashioned into ultrathin sheets and wires 300 times stronger than steel and capable of conducting electricity better than copper. Experts say the material could be used to build better display screens and electronic devices.
Nokia, a Graphene project member, began researching the material in 2006 in pursuit of electronics and mobile phone applications.
“(W)e have come to identify multiple areas where this material can be applied in modern computing environments,” wrote Nokia’s Executive Vice President Henry Tirri on the company’s official blog. “We’ve done some very promising work so far, but I believe the greatest innovations have yet to be discovered.”
The awards are intended to spur scientific research in the European Union, which currently trails the United States in innovation. A study issued last year by the European Commission found that the innovation and research gap has been widening in recent years, particularly in categories like research and development spending by businesses.
The study also ranked Europeans behind the Japanese and South Koreans with respect to innovation, adding that China has been closing in due to its exporting of medium and high level technical devices.
In 2009, European Union member states began raising concerns over science and technology deficiencies, resulting in the European Commission developing a finance plan to award about $2.7 billion over a decade.