International proposals to study graphene and the human brain have won the biggest funding contest the European Union has ever hosted. The European Commission will officially announce the winners, each of which stands to receive up to a billion euros, at a press conference on Monday morning in Brussels. "This was the hardest scientific competition Europe has ever seen and we congratulate the winners," says Dirk Helbing, coordinator of FuturICT, one of the losing projects.
Six projects made it into the last round of the Future and Emerging Technologies Flagship Initiatives, but last week, the European Commission confirmed to ScienceInsider that only four projects were still in the running. Today, members of two of these projects, Guardian Angels for a Smarter Life and FuturICT, confirmed in interviews with ScienceInsider that they are not among the winners. That leaves a project on graphene, a material made of carbon atoms arranged in a single layer, and the Human Brain Project, which aims to recreate the human brain in a computer, as the winners.
According to the Flagship plan, the two winning teams will receive €108 million together for the first 2.5 years. Because universities and industrial partners have to contribute money as well, that translates to more than €70 million in funding per project. "Typically, a researcher costs about €100,000 a year in Europe, so this translates into 700 person-years," says Jari Kinaret of Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, who coordinates the graphene project. "That is substantial funding." After this start-up phase, funding for the two projects is supposed to go up to €100 million each per year.