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Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda
Delivering 10 years of world-class science
FET Flagship winners press conference
Brussels, 28 January 2013
The EU has long supported top-quality research and innovation. That's essential to fertilise the green shoots of economic growth.
So today is an important day for European science, where we announce our biggest research cash award ever, one billion euros each for two excellent projects.
Europe is the home of modern scientific excellence. And these fundamental, transformative initiatives will help put us back in the drivers' seat again.
This programme is like The X-Factor for Science. 23 proposals, then a shortlist of six, and now two winners. The winners were selected by a panel of 25 experts: including leading scientists, professors, a Nobel prize winner, and industrialists. These two winners will now become large pan-European programmes. I'd like to welcome their leaders onto the stage with me.
One of the two winners is for research into Graphene.
Graphene is the new wonder material. It is likely to replace many uses for silicon and other materials. Transforming not just electronics, but materials science, energy, transport or health: you name it.
The story of Graphene also shows that there is still wonder in science. Producing a revolutionary material using just a pencil and Scotch tape – would you believe? And just a few years later it is on the verge of spawning a new industry.
So – you've heard of Silicon Valley. I want Europe to be home to its successor – Graphene Valley. "Which region in Europe wants to be known as Graphene Valley?", that's the billion euro question I am putting to you today.
Congratulations Professor Jari Kinaret of Chalmer's University of Technology in Sweden.
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And the other winner is the Human Brain Project. Fundamental research that will shows us how the brain works.
We know so little about the brain, but we know it affects so much about our health and well-being. Through incredible simulations this project will help us find new ways to diagnose and treat brain conditions; even opening the door to a new kind of computer — a computer that "thinks" and works the way we do.
So congratulations, Professor Henry Markram of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. I suspect your brain would be harder to model than the average one!
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The shortlist of 6 initiatives was very strong: each one promising ground-breaking new discoveries. I hope that all of them will find other forms of support and continue. Each member of the shortlist gets my full congratulations and admiration.
Total EU support will be worth around one billion euros over 10 years – matched by the same amount from Member States, industry and others. The EU's investment is large-scale: but so is the challenge.
And make no mistake: the pay-off is much bigger than the financial investment. But it is dwarfed by the potential pay-off. In these economic doldrums, this is exactly the investment we should focus on.
We are bringing society and technology together to answer Europe's challenges.
We are working across borders, because we achieve more when we work together as one Europe. The winners work with 161 partners from 25 countries.
EU funding helps them work together, complement each other, achieve more.
Those benefits, that EU added value, apply not just to Graphene and the Human Brain Project.
They apply to the many projects already funded under the EU's research and innovation programme. And for the €80 billion we have proposed for Horizon 2020, the next framework programme for research and innovation.
This investment is an economic imperative: I hope that Member States will do the right thing, for Europe's future, when discussing the Union's budget next week.
Leaders need to ask what they want their future economy to look like. The work of the two winners and six shortlisted projects gives us a good idea.
Today is about finding new products, new solutions, new opportunities that benefit every European. So today there aren't just two winners. There are 500 million winners.