Brussels, 28 January 2013
FET Flagships: Frequently Asked Questions
What are Future and Emerging Technologies?
Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) is part of the European Commission's Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) research programme. FET's goal is to promote long-term research and lay foundations of radically new next generation technologies. FET helps identify and develop research into uncharted areas like bio-neuro-nano, which brings together brain science, biology and nanotechnology to build better computers and new information technologies. FET is often inspired by several scientific disciplines.
FET has an expanded role in Horizon 2020 (H2020), the EU's research and innovation funding programme for 2014-2020. FET and FET Flagships will form part of the "Excellence in Science" pillar and the Commission plans to open up the FET approach to all areas of EU funded research. FET will remain focused on research across disciplines, as an incubator of radically new ideas and a pathfinder for new emerging technologies.
What are FET Flagships?
FET Flagships are visionary, large-scale, science-driven research initiatives which tackle scientific and technological challenges across scientific disciplines. The winning FET Flagships ("Human Brain Project" and "Graphene") will have a transformational impact on science, technology and society overall and will make Europe more competitive. They are highly ambitious in terms of goals and resources required. They foster coordinated efforts between the EU, Member States' national and regional programmes and beyond. They typically require cooperation among a range of disciplines, communities and programmes, requiring sustained support of up to 10 years.
How were the Flagships selected?
The Flagship initiatives were developed over a 2½ year preparatory phase.
21 eligible proposals were received in response to a call published on 20 July 2010.
These 21 proposals were then evaluated and 6 pilots ("preparatory actions") were selected in January 2011. Flagship pilots began work on 1 May 2011. (See IP/11/530 MEMO/11/270) Vice-President Neelie Kroes launched them officially at the FET11 Conference in Budapest on 4 May 2011. Each of the six contenders received around €1.5 million in funding over a year to refine their strategic research roadmaps, involve the best people for the job, look for the necessary support and develop the operational and financial feasibility.
At the end of October 2012, the 6 finalists submitted their complete research proposals, including a roadmap and implementation plan, together with a detailed and thorough justification for the proposed investment, as well as an analysis of the European landscape in the topic at stake.
Finally, in November-December 2012, a panel of 25 world-renowned experts evaluated the six Flagship proposals. The winners were publicly announced on 28 January 2013.
Why were these two Flagships selected over the others?
The Flagships were selected by a panel of 25 expects including leading scientists and specialists from a broad range of disciplines, distinguished professors, science and policy advisors, a Nobel Prize winner, former CEOs of multinational companies and experts on science and society. They 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. The "Human Brain Project" and "Graphene" were evaluated as the two best proposals.
What will happen to the projects that have not been selected?
The remaining Flagship finalists (FuturICT Knowledge Accelerator and Crisis-Relief System: Guardian Angels for a Smarter Life:IT Future of Medicine: and Robot Companions for Citizens) have stimulated an unprecedented degree of collaboration between scientific communities across Europe, leading to integrated research agendas of high value both for Member States and Europe as a whole. These research agendas and topics will remain valid for the future H2020 programme as well as for national research and innovation programmes but there will be no funding specifically reserved for them. That means that research proposals growing out of these four projects will have to compete with other proposals submitted in response to future calls.
When will Graphene and the Human Brain Project get to work?
Negotiations with the two winners will start at the end of January 2013. Pending approval from the ICT committee of Member and Associated States, contracts for the initial ramp-up phase (funded from the EU's 2013 budget) could be signed and projects could start in September 2013.
How will the Flagships be funded?
The grand challenges addressed by Flagships will require a long-term sustained effort. Each flagship could receive around €1 billion in total funding over 10 years. This will come from the European Commission and from other partners including universities, Member States and the private sector and industry.
The European Commission will support both flagships for up to 10 years through its research and innovation funding programmes. In the first phase, the winners will each receive up to €54 million from the European Commission's ICT 2013 Work Programme. From 2014-2020 the Commission's contribution will come from Horizon 2020 which is currently being negotiated in the European Parliament and Council. There will be careful monitoring during the lifetime of the projects so that the flagships continue to be an efficient use of tax-payers' money.
The Commission hopes that each flagship will be accompanied by a fleet of additional projects which complement the main flagship theme. Under Horizon 2020, the Commission has proposed to launch Calls for this fleet of projects which would collaborate with the flagship "core project". Ideally similar collaboration agreements would also be signed with related EU, national and regionally funded projects.
How many research groups are involved in these Flagships, where are they from?
The "Graphene" Flagship is led by Jari Kinaret from the Chalmers University of Technology (Sweden). This Flagship coordinates 176 academic and industrial research groups in 17 European countries for the first 30 months.
The "Human Brain Project" Flagship is led by Henry Markram from EPFL (Switzerland). The HBP consortium comprises 87 organisations in 23 different countries (of which 16 European) including universities, research organisations and industry.
Both consortia will have the possibility to take on additional partners through an open call, issued soon after the start of the initiatives.
Can we really justify funding large-scale scientific projects in the current economic climate?
This is about investing in Europe's future. Tackling grand challenges necessitates, in certain cases, large scale projects which require large scale investment. The European Commission is supporting ambitious and risky projects which promise a large return in the long term. Supporting these projects will help Europe maintain its position as a global player, particularly in priority areas which could create jobs and growth.
Major challenges like these can only be tackled at a European level, giving a better chance of long term success. These flagships will identify the synergies amongst national research agendas, increase collaboration and efficiency and help to overcome fragmented and scattered research in Europe.
Will there be any more FET Flagships?
The Commission has included FET Flagships as part of its proposal for Horizon 2020. Whether there will be any new Flagships will depend on the European Parliament and European Council's overall decision on the H2020 budget and the experiences with the first two Flagships.
How will the Flagships revitalise research in Europe?
The EU will lose its competitive edge if we do not address the current fragmentation of research landscapes. Many projects and programs currently co-exist and lack the critical mass needed to get a maximum impact from investments. Reversing this trend will not be easy but this is the one of the main ambitions of FET Flagships.
The fleet of projects linked to each Flagship will be coordinated through collaboration agreements which are closely aligned with Flagship goals, ensuring maximum impact for research efforts and investments
National funding agencies and ministries may also apply for an ERANET project in Spring 2013. Its purpose would be to identify Flagship topics on which Member States would combine their resources in common future calls for research projects related to the Flagships.
How are the Flagships linked to industry?
Flagships are uniquely positioned to bridge the gap between science-driven research and industry; they will deliver exciting new technologies that will have a transformational impact on industry and the economy. Flagships include scientists and researchers as well as industry, standing together to turn the tide in European innovation and to accelerate the path for bringing new technologies and services to the market.
Each of the winning Flagships includes industry participants, for example SAP and Cray are partners in the "Human Brain Project", along with IBM's Zurich research lab. Nokia, Philips, Alcatel-Lucent, Thales, ST Microelectronics, Airbus, Aixtron and Oxford Instruments are world-leading companies and consortium members in the "Graphene" flagship.
How open will these flagships be?
Flagships are not monolithic structures. They are designed to be open, to enable research on alternative paths and methodologies. The partnership composition will be flexible. The budget reserved for competitive open calls in each Flagship will enable new partners to join.
More specifically, Flagships will devote 20% of their resources in the ramp-up phase to an open call for new partners to join the consortium; the open calls will enable new expertise to be brought in to the Flagships in response to the evolution of the scientific and technological roadmaps.
Annex: Further information on the FET Flagships as provided by the winners
Graphene: The mission of Graphene is to take graphene and related layered materials from academic laboratories to society, revolutionize multiple industries and create economic growth and new jobs in Europe.
Graphene has been subject to a scientific explosion since the groundbreaking experiments on the novel material less than ten years ago, recognized by the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010 to Professor Andre Geim and Professor Kostya Novoselov, at the University of Manchester. Graphene’s unique combination of superior properties makes it a credible starting point for new disruptive technologies in a wide range of fields.
With today’s announcement Europe is launching a new form of joint, coordinated research initiative of unprecedented scale. The Graphene Flagship brings together an academic-industrial consortium aiming at a breakthrough for technological innovation. The research effort will cover the entire value chain from materials production to components and system integration, and targets a number of specific goals that exploit the unique properties of graphene.
Key applications are for instance fast electronic and optical devices, flexible electronics, functional lightweight components and advanced batteries. Examples of new products enabled by graphene technologies include fast, flexible and strong consumer electronics such as electronic paper and bendable personal communication devices, and lighter and more energy efficient airplanes. On the longer term, graphene is expected to give rise to new computational paradigms and revolutionary medical applications such as artificial retinas.
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.
“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 the Professor Jari Kinaret at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, Flagship Director. ”Graphene production, however, is obviously central to our project.”
During the 30 month ramp-up phase, the Graphene Flagship will focus on the area of communications, concentrating on ICT and on the physical transport sector, and supporting applications in the fields of energy technology and sensors. After the ramp-up phase, the flagship will grow to full size and include many new groups and activities. The details of flagship implementation after the ramp-up phase are still open and form a part of the discussions on the Horizon 2020 research program of the European Union.
The Human Brain Project: Understanding the human brain is one of the greatest challenges facing 21st century science. If we can rise to the challenge, we can develop new treatments for brain diseases, build revolutionary new computing technologies and gain profound insights into what makes us human. Using a unique simulation-based approach, HBP aims to provide researchers worldwide with a tool to understand how the brain really works.
Future Neuroscience: Neuroscience is generating exponentially growing volumes of data and knowledge on specific aspects of the healthy and diseased brain, in different species, at different ages. Yet despite these incredible advances, we still lack a unified understanding of the brain that can span its multiple levels of organisation, from genes to cognition and behaviour. This will require the development of radically new ICT: new supercomputing technologies to federate and manage the data, to integrate it in computer models and simulations of the brain, to identify patterns and organisational principles and to identify gaps to be filled by new experiments.
Future Medicine: Rising healthcare costs and the increasing number of European citizens who face the burden of caring for relatives with disorders of the brain, mean that a radically new approach is necessary. Today, the causes of most psychiatric and neurological diseases are still unknown or only partially understood. Diagnosis is often based on physical symptoms and is often only possible in the late stages of disease. The Human Brain Project will collect the masses of clinical data available, mining for biological patterns, leading to new ways of diagnosing and classifying brain diseases. This new approach opens up possibilities for new treatments, better identification of potential drug targets and could significantly speed up the process of clinical trials.
Future Computing: As modern computers exploit ever-higher numbers of parallel computing elements, they face a power wall: power consumption rises with the number of processors, potentially to unsustainable levels. By contrast, the brain manages billions of processing units connected via kilometres of fibres and trillions of synapses, while consuming no more power than a light bulb. Understanding how it does this – the way it computes reliably with unreliable elements, the way the different elements of the brain communicate – can provide the key not only to a completely new category of hardware (Neuromorphic Computing Systems) but to a paradigm shift for computing as a whole. The economic and industrial impact of such a shift is potentially enormous.
Research Platforms for the Scientific Community: Based on previous pioneering work by the project partners, HBP’s will build an integrated system of six ICT-based research platforms, providing scientists anywhere in the world with access to highly innovative tools and services that can radically accelerate the pace of their research. These will include: The Neuroinformatics Platform: bringing together data and knowledge from neuroscientists around the world and making it available to the scientific community; The Brain Simulation Platform: integrating this information in unifying computer models, making it possible to identify missing data, and allowing in silico experiments, impossible in the lab; The High Performance Computing Platform: providing the interactive supercomputing technology neuroscientists need for data-intensive modeling and simulations; The Medical Informatics Platform: federating clinical data from around the world, providing researchers with new mathematical tools to search for biological signatures of disease; The Neuromorphic Computing Platform: translating brain models into a new class of hardware devices testing their applications; The Neurorobotics Platform: allowing neuroscience and industry researchers to experiment with virtual robots controlled by brain models developed in the project.
The HBP platforms will drive a global, collaborative effort to address fundamental issues in future neuroscience, future medicine and future computing, with funding intended for groups outside the original HBP Consortium, working on themes of their own choosing.
As one of 2 projects selected to receive a European Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) Flagship, HBP takes a truly collaborative approach, combining existing knowhow from across Europe and internationally. The project will profoundly impact the healthcare and computing industries, giving Europe a pioneering role in what are likely to become some of the most important segments of the 21st century world economy.