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Monday, January 28, 2013

No robot companions for European citizens

The dream of a new generation of European robots that will be self-adaptive machines helpful to humans throughout their lifetimes, described in the FET Flagship Initiative "Robot Companions for Citizens" is over for now.
The European Commission has chosen instead the Graphene and Human Brain initiatives as winners of the multi-billion euro competition of  Future and Emerging Technologies (FET). Both projects will receive one billion euros each, to deliver 10 years of world-beating science at the crossroads of science and technology. Each initiative involves researchers from at least 15 EU Member States and nearly 200 research institutes.

The European Commission will support "Graphene" and the "Human Brain Project" as FET "flagships" over 10 years through its research and innovation funding programmes. Sustained funding for the full duration of the project will come from the EU's research framework programmes, principally from the Horizon 2020 programme (2014-2020) which is currently negotiated in the European Parliament and Council.

The Graphene project

"Graphene" will investigate and exploit the unique properties of a  revolutionary carbonbased material. Graphene is an extraordinary combination of physical and chemical properties: it is the thinnest material, it conducts electricity much better than copper, it is 100-300 times stronger than steel and it has unique optical properties. The use of graphene was made possible by European scientists in 2004, and the substance is set to become the wonder material of the 21st century, as plastics were to the 20th century, including by replacing silicon in ICT products.

From the start in 2013 the Graphene Flagship will coordinate 126 academic and industrial research groups in 17 European countries with an initial 30-month-budget of 54 million euro. The consortium will be extended with another 20-30 groups through an open call, issued soon after the start of the initiative, which will further strengthen the engineering aspects of the flagship.
The flagship will be coordinated by Chalmers University of Technology based in Gothenburg, Sweden. Director is Professor Jari Kinaret who will lead the research activities together with the leaders of the 15 work packages. The management team is supported by a Strategic Advisory Council that includes the European Nobel Laureates Sir Andre Geim (chairman), Albert Fert, Klaus von Klitzing and Sir Kostya Novoselov, industrial representatives from Nokia and Airbus, and two representatives
of the global graphene research community.
Check out the morph concept video below demonstrating some of the possibilities nanotechnologies might enable in future communication devices.

The Human Brain Project

The "Human Brain Project" will create the  world's largest experimental facility for developing the most detailed model of the brain, for studying how the human brain works and ultimately to develop personalised treatment of neurological and related diseases. This research lays the scientific and technical foundations for medical progress that has the potential to will dramatically improve the quality of life for millions of Europeans. The goal of the Human Brain Project is to pull together all our existing knowledge about the human brain and to reconstruct the brain, piece by piece, in supercomputer-based models and simulations. The models offer the prospect of a new understanding of the human brain and its diseases and of completely new computing and robotic technologies. Federating more than 80 European and international research institutions, the Human Brain Project is planned to last ten years (2013-2023). The cost is estimated at 1.19 billion euros. The project will also associate some important North American and Japanese partners. It will be coordinated at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, by neuroscientist Henry Markram with co-directors Karlheinz Meier of Heidelberg University, Germany, and Richard Frackowiak of Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois (CHUV) and the University of Lausanne (UNIL).
The Human Brain Project builds on the work of the Blue Brain Project. Led by Henry Markram of the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), the Blue Brain Project has already taken an essential first towards simulation of the complete brain. Over the last six years, the project has developed a prototype facility with the tools, know-how and supercomputing technology necessary to build brain models, potentially of any species at any stage in its development. As a proof of concept, the project has successfully built the first ever, detailed model of the neocortical column, one of the brain's basic building blocks. Check out the video below for a project overview by Prof. Markram.

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