By Martin Banks - 15th April 2013
Europe's position as a knowledge superpower depends on thinking the unthinkable and exploiting the best ideas
The European commission has announced the winners of a multi-billion euro competition of future and emerging technologies (FET).
The winning 'Graphene and human brain' initiatives are set to receive €1bn each aimed at delivering ten years of what the commission calls "world-beating" science.
Each initiative involves researchers from at least 15 member states and nearly 200 research institutes.
"Graphene" will investigate and exploit the properties of a revolutionary carbon-based material.
Graphene is a combination of physical and chemical properties: it is the thinnest material, conducts electricity much better than copper, 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 commission says 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.
The "Human brain project", meanwhile, will create the world's largest experimental facility for developing the most detailed model of the brain.
It will study how the human brain works and ultimately develop personalised treatment of neurological and related diseases.
The commission says the research lays the scientific and technical foundations for medical progress that "has the potential to dramatically improve the quality of life for millions of Europeans".
The commission will support "Graphene" and the "Human brain project" as FET "flagships" over ten years through its research and innovation funding programmes.
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 parliament and the council.
European commission vice president for the digital agenda Neelie Kroes said, "Europe's position as a knowledge superpower depends on thinking the unthinkable and exploiting the best ideas.
"This multi-billion competition rewards home-grown scientific breakthroughs and shows that when we are ambitious we can develop the best research in Europe."