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European Commission


16 September 2014

From lighter airplanes to new treatments for brain diseases


The two ambitious EU science and technology Flagships (@FETFlagships) will have a great impact on various sectors in the next 10 years.

Graphene (@GrapheneCA)

Mission: take wonder material graphene and related layered materials from academic laboratories to society, revolutionise multiple industries and create economic growth and new jobs in Europe.

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The research effort covers 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 revolutionary medical applications such as artificial retinas.

See the infographic

Major milestones:

  1. - By spring 2016: first improved quality graphene targeting electronics, sensing and energy applications, and identification of the fundamental limits of graphene devices and components suitable for low-power flexible systems.

  2. - By 2018: safe and sustainable supply of graphene with the right quality, quantity and price.

  3. - By 2023: integrated circuits and systems for applications in electronics, sensing, energy and health.

The Human Brain Project (@HumanBrainProj)

Mission: understanding the human brain is one of the greatest challenges facing 21st century science. Using a unique simulation-based approach, the Human Brain Project (HBP) aims to provide researchers worldwide with a tool to understand how the brain really works. This will help develop new treatments for brain diseases and build revolutionary new computing technologies.

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 requires 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: The number of European citizens with disorders of the brain is increasing. Today, the causes of most psychiatric and neurological diseases are still unknown or only partially understood. Diagnosis is often based on physical symptoms in the late stages of disease. The HBP 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.

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Major milestones:

  1. By spring 2015: The HBP will open the 6 ICT platforms to all consortium researchers; these will be open to all researchers in the world by 2016.

  2. By 2018, the platforms will be fully operational and start delivering on future neuroscience (first in silico neuroscience experiments on parts of the mouse brain), future medicine (biologically-based classification of brain diseases), computing (neuromorphic chips and interactive visualization with supercomputers).

  3. By 2021, it is foreseen to have high fidelity model of the whole mouse brain for in silico behavioural experiments, while for 2023, the project will be ready to deliver a high fidelity model of the human brain for in silico science, medicine and technology implementation and a first map of major brain diseases.


Email: Tel: +32.229.57361 Twitter: @NeelieKroesEU

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