Graphene — a thin, flexible atom-thick layer of carbon arranged in a honeycomb pattern — could one day revolutionize our electronics industry, and the European Commission hopes to spur development with up to €1 billion ($1.33 billion) in funding. The EC has officially announced two flagship projects for its Future and Emerging Technologies program, which will fund hundreds of research groups. The first will focus on developing practical uses for graphene, by integrating it with existing silicon-based technology or replacing silicon altogether. One long-running goal is to build cheap, efficient, and flexible semiconductors based on graphene, which the EC calls the "wonder material of the 21st Century."
"The wonder material of the 21st Century."
The second flagship is the "Human Brain Project," whose goal is to create a detailed map of the human brain. With a sufficiently detailed model, researchers hope they can facilitate new insight into treating neurological diseases, developing medications, and even creating parallel computing systems based on how humans think. Two other finalists, not chosen as flagships, were a plan to promote wearable health devices and a supercomputer that would track economic and social shifts.
Each of the two winning projects will receive €54 million ($72 million) in 2013, distributed over 100 research groups for graphene work and 87 institutions for the Human Brain Project. The real benefit is in long-term security, though: instead of having to reapply for new grants, researchers will have a ten-year funding cycle, with up to €1 billion in total funding planned for each over the next decade.