Tag Archives: FET Flagships

Europe’s Horizon 2020 and nanotechnology

Michael Berger’s July 1, 2013 Nanowerk Spotlight article features a commentary on a recent European Union publication, Nanotechnology: the invisible giant tackling Europe’s future challenges, which provides an overview of the current nanotechnology efforts under the Framework Programme 7 (FP7) funding  and a very brief peek at plans underway for nanotechnology funding under the Horizon 2020 programme, successor to FP7 after 2013.

From Berger’s article,

A new publication by the European Commission outlines nanoscience and nanotechnology dedicated research expenditure in Europe over recent years, in particular via the 7th research framework programme (FP7). An overview is given of the main sectors where nanotechnology is enabling significant progress. It highlights a selection of exemplary projects financed through FP7 that are representative of major research themes, such as nanoelectronics, nanophotonics, nanobiotechnology, nanomedicine, self-assembly, catalysts, industrial applications, energy and environment, tools for investing the nanoscale, health/safety/environment and communication/societal impact. The final chapter focuses on future economic benefits for Europe, such as improving health care, rejuvenating traditional industries and bringing solutions to the most major challenges facing Europe, a secure affordable energy supply and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

I did take a look at the report which is 44 pp PDF (42 pp print version). It offers some insight into the areas where the EU has chosen to focus its energies.  I was hoping for something a little more panoramic in scope, i.e., I would have liked to have seen a listing of all their currently funded nanotechnology projects arranged by theme. Still, they do offer a table which shows the funding and number of projects according to programme themes (Note: The information for this table is from p. 10 PDF version; p. 8 print version of the report)

Programme /Themes Number of Projects Funding in € million
ERC 296 514,5
Health 18 74,0
Energy 19 55,0
Environment 3 10,5
Food, Agriculture & Fisheries, & Biotechnology 13 39,5
NMP 238 896,0
Joint programmes 32 112,0
ICT 102 316,0
Security 4 10,2
Aeronautics 5 44,0
SPACE 9 24,3
Sustainable Surface Transport 3 7,0
SME 35 41,6
Science in Society 14 15,0
EraNets 4 10,5
Infrastructure 16 60,0
Marie Curie Actions 560 295,0
Regions 19 28,7
International Cooperation 10 6,3
TOTAL 1400 2560,0

* FP7 Funding of Nanoscience-Nanotechnologies between 2007 and 2011 (source EC: Common Research Data Warehouse (CORDA))

Perhaps this (excerpted from the report) better explains things (Note: A footnote has been removed),

Given the broad-reaching potential of nanotechnology, there has been a commensurate explosion in global research and development funding in recent decades. According to estimates, governments around the world have invested over USD 67 billion in nanotechnology research since 2000 and by 2015 investment, including that from corporate and private sources, could reach USD 0.25 trillion.

Europe’s funding levels are largely comparable to its major competitors, the US and Japan, standing at EUR 6-7 billion in 2007/8. The EC is currently nearing the end of its largest ever research funding initiative, FP7, with a total of EUR 50.5 billion available during 2007-2013 to support projects boosting the region’s competitiveness and tackling the grand challenges facing society in human health, climate change, energy and the environment.

Under FP7, the largest single share of funding for nanotechnology, some EUR 896 million for the period 2007-2011, comes through the dedicated Nanosciences, Nanotechnologies, Materials and new Production Technologies (NMP) stream, but significant support also comes through the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) stream (EUR 316 million), as well as the Health (EUR 74 million), Energy (EUR 55 million) and biotechnology (KBBE) streams (EUR 39.5 million). Meanwhile, the funding mechanisms that support individual researchers also serve as a conduit for nanotechnology-related funds, with the European Research Council (ERC) accounting for an estimated EUR 514.5 million and Marie Curie fellowships a further EUR 295 million. (from p. 10 PDF; p. 8 print version)

Oddly, there’s no mention of China as a major competitor relative to funding investment in the nanotechnology sector. These days one usually mentions China.

What follows in the rest of the report after the table is an overview of nanotechnology projects as organized by the EU’s  main themes. They are not religious in their approach so don’t expect that the table categories are followed exactly.

Other than funding, I found the peek into the future the most interesting aspect of this report,

Nanotechnology has exploded in recent decades and is now one of the centrepieces of the EU’s research funding programme. With its broad reach across diverse fi elds, nanotechnology stands on the verge of launching a new technological revolution. But while Europe has embraced the exploration of the nanoscale, European Research, Innovation and Science Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn warns that the region faces an “innovation crisis”.

The Commission is responding with a major new financial instrument, Horizon 2020, which will supersede the successful FP research funding initiatives when they come to a close at the end of the year. Running from 2014 to 2020, the proposed EUR 80 billion initiative aims to harness research and innovation to drive new growth and jobs in the region. For the first time, Horizon 2020 will bring together all research and innovation funding under one umbrella, including a EUR 24.6 billion dedicated science budget, EUR 17.9 billion for industrial innovation including a EUR 1.2 billion package specifi cally for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and EUR 31.75 billion targeted at the most pressing issues facing Europe such as climate change, sustainable transport, renewable energy and the medical care requirements of an ageing population.

One of the already identified cornerstones of the Horizon 2020 programme, under the Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) competition, will be a EUR 1 billion, ten-year sustained initiative dedicated to the investigation and exploitation of the unique properties of graphene. This exceptional nanomaterial possesses such remarkable physical and chemical properties that it has been dubbed the wonder material of the 21st century with far-reaching potential in electronics, transport, energy and medicine. The ‘Flagship’ effort on graphene, which will involve over 100 research groups and 136 principle investigators including four Nobel Laureates, indicates just how important nanotechnology is and will be over the coming decades.

But while the clear priority of the new funding programme is to bridge the gap between research and the market, the central tenant of the European research effort remains excellent science, without which there can be no progress. (p. 42 PDF; p. 40 print version)

I’m glad to see they mentioned the graphene flagship (its funding announcement was announced here in a Jan. 28, 2013 posting). The over allconclusion is that  nanotechnology is important to Europe’s future. Cynics might say they’d have to reach that conclusion given all the funding that nanotechnology research has received.

European consultation on Future and Emerging Technologies

I’ve checked this out and it seems to be open to people from all countries even though it’s a consultation about European research according to the Oct. 30, 2012 news item on Nanowerk,

The European Commission is launching a public consultation to identify promising and potentially game-changing directions for future technological research.

The research directions for future and emerging technologies will shape our economy for decades to come. The right strategic choices will mean a better future for all, from protecting our environments to providing better healthcare to Europeans. Therefore the Commission is inviting scientists, researchers, engineers, innovators, artists, entrepreneurs and individuals to submit their ideas before November 30th 2012. Do you have a big idea for the future? Then let us know!

The consultation is structured under two themes: research direction in FET and arguments for the importance of this research. All interested parties can submit their ideas on what this research should be and its expected impact. The contributors to the public consultation are invited to answer a series of concrete questions on FET research and its contribution to some of the great societal challenges of our age, like global warming, energy supply, pollution, ageing of society, global crises, peace or democratic deficit.

I have mentioned the Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) funding initiatives previously in my Feb. 13, 2012 posting. This news item mentions a few FET projects I haven’t encountered before,

Examples of how FET is changing the face of European research include:

In 2000, FET launched a major initiative on NEURO-ICT, bringing together for the first time scientists from life sciences and neurophysiology, and computer scientists and engineers to co-develop understanding about the human brain. This work has resulted in a number of new research directions and industrial spin-off companies, for example, in the areas of “machines that think”, or the development of novel clinical tools that can help in the diagnosis and treatment of brain disease.

FET launched ‘Proactive Initiatives’ on Nano technology and Quantum ICT, involving researchers who went on to win two Nobel Prizes for Physics. The initiatives bring together physicists and software and hardware engineers to develop new forms of computer technology.

FET launched a Proactive Initiative on Bio-chemistry-based information technology which has created since 2009 the first research union at the intersection of biology, chemistry and information technologies.

A related FET program, “FET Flagships” is offering €1billion in funding to two projects looking to solve “grand challenges” faced by Europe, with winners to be decided in 2013.

Less confused about Europe’s FET (Future and Emerging Technologies programme)

I’ve had problems trying figure out the European Union’s Future and Emerging Technologies programme and so I’m glad to say that the Feb. 10, 2012 news item on Nanowerk offers to clear up a few matters for me (and presumably a few other people too).

From the news item,

Go forth and explore the frontiers of science and technology! This is the unspoken motto of the Future and Emerging Technologies programme (FET), which has for more than 20 years been funding and inspiring researchers across Europe to lay new foundations for information and communication technology (ICT). [emphasis mine]

The vanguard researchers of frontier ICT research don’t always come from IT backgrounds or follow the traditional academic career path. The European Commission’s FET programme encourages unconventional match-ups like chemistry and IT, physics and optics, biology and data engineering. Researchers funded by FET are driven by ideas and a sense of purpose which push the boundaries of science and technology.

They have three funding programmes (from the news item),

To address these challenges, the FET scheme supports long-term ICT programmes under three banners:

  • FET-Open, which has simple and fast mechanisms in place to receive new ideas for projects without pre-conceived boundaries or deadlines;
  • FET-Proactive, which spearheads ‘transformative’ research and supports community-building around a number of fundamental long-term ICT challenges; and
  • FET Flagships, which cut across national and European programmes to unite top research teams pursuing ambitious, large-scale, science-driven research with a visionary goal.

The news item goes on to describe a number of projects including the GRAPHENE-CA flagship pilot currently under consideration, along with five other flagship projects, for one of two 1 Billion Euro prizes. I have commented before (my Feb. 6, 2012 posting) on the communication strategies being employed by at least some of the members of this particular flagship project. Amazingly, they’ve done it again; theirs is the only flagship pilot project mentioned.

You can see the original article on the European Union website here where they have described other projects including this one, PRESENCCIA,

‘Light switches, TV remote controls and even house keys could become a thing of the past thanks to brain-computer interface (BCI) technology being developed in Europe that lets users perform everyday tasks with thoughts alone.’ So begins a story on ICT Results about a pioneering EU-funded FET project called Presenccia*.

Primary applications of BCI are in gaming/virtual reality (VR), home entertainment and domestic care, but the project partners also see their work helping the medical profession. ‘A virtual environment could be used to train a disabled person to control an electric wheelchair through a BCI,’ explained Mel Slater, the project coordinator. ‘It is much safer for them to learn in VR than in the real world, where mistakes could have physical consequences.’

So, PRESENCCIA is a project whereby people will be trained to use a BCI in virtual reality before attempting it in real life. I wish there was a bit more information about this BCI technology that is being developed in Europe as I am deeply fascinated and horrified by this notion of thought waves that ‘turn light switches on and off’ or possibly allow you to make a phone call as Professor Mark Welland at Cambridge University was speculating in 2010 (mentioned in my April 30, 2010 posting [scroll 1/2 way down]). Welland did mention that you would need some sort of brain implant to achieve a phone call with your thought waves, which is the aspect that makes me most uncomfortable.