EU gives millions to study brain, graphene
dpaBRUSSELS -- The European Union has pledged up to 1 billion euros (US$1.35 billion) to two research projects on the human brain and on graphene, billed as the world's strongest material, its executive announced Monday.
January 30, 2013, 12:15 am TWN
EU Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes called investment into research an “economic imperative” to put the bloc back in the “drivers' seat” of scientific endeavors.
While the European Commission sees research investment as key to long-term job creation, science funding has been slashed as EU member-states seek to curb spending during lean economic times.
The winning projects, based in Sweden and non-EU member state Switzerland, will each receive an initial 54 million euros this year, the commission announced.
Over the next 10 years, the EU plans to top this up to reach a maximum of 500 million euros per project. This amount is to be matched by contributions from member states, universities and the private sector.
However, the EU funding is conditional upon fierce austerity-hit EU budget negotiations, due to resume at a summit next week.
“To keep Europe competitive, to keep Europe as the home of scientific excellence, EU governments must agree an ambitious budget for the Horizon 2020 program in the coming weeks,” Kroes said, referring to the bloc's research funding program.
Graphene, a two-dimensional version of the material used in pencils, is billed as one of the strongest, lightest and thinnest materials known to man — harder than diamond and up to 300 times stronger than steel.
It also has high electrical conductivity, making it a promising component of next-generation electronics technology, according to the grant-winning consortium based at Sweden's Chalmers University.
“You've heard of Silicon Valley. I want Europe to be home to its successor — Graphene Valley,” Kroes said.
The Human Brain Project, run by a university in the Swiss city of Lausanne, aims to push forward research into neuroscience, medicine treating brain disease and even computer technology by drawing analogues with the brain.