Graphene and the Human Brain: two European science flagship projects

At the core of science funding of the Eurpean commission is the financial support for collaborative research projects. More than 4000 such projects were started in FP7 over the last seven years. Typically, these projects receive funding up to several million EUR. This is very different for the Graphene and Human Brain flagship projects of the European Commission. Both projects could obtain up to a billion EUR in support, the Commission funds both projects initially with a 54 million EUR startup budget, both projects will then be supported from the Horizon 2020 budget, as well as from other public and industry sources.

Both projects are huge international consortia. The Graphene project, coordinated by Jari Kinaret from Chalmers in Gothenburg, comprises 176 different research groups from 17 European countries. The Human Brain project is headed by Henry Markram from EPFL in Laussane and comprises 87 organisations in 16 European countries. The structure of the consortia is flexible and additional partners may be appointed after the start of the programmes, presumably towards the end of 2013. More specifically, 20% of their resources will be devoted to an open call for new partners to join the consortia. Peter will have more on the structure of these consortia in a separate blogpost.

Graphene _Image from Wikipedia._

21 Consortia submitted their applications to this call, of which six were shortlisted for further analysis. Graphene and the Human Brain Project were selected as the two best proposals. According to the Commission a jury of 25 experts decided, following a range of criteria:

"They (the jury) looked at which of the Flagships offer the best scientific and technological excellence, as well as sound implementation plans, and which would create the greatest value for Europe in terms of impact on science, technology, society and economy."

So, what are these projects about then? Graphene is a translational project, aiming at establishing industrial applications for this mono layered carbon material (see image). The Human Brain Project has a very challenging goal: "Using a unique simulation-based approach, HBP aims to provide researchers worldwide with a tool to understand how the brain really works." The consortium hopes for new application in neuroscience, medicine and computing.

See the original press release of the European Commission.