EU Commission releases early details of future research megaprojects

The next €1B flagship projects will target ICT, energy and health, according to the draft work programme for 2018-2020 published by the Commission.

The European Commission has published early details on funding opportunities for the next three years under its Future and Emerging Technologies research stream.

The Commission says it wants to receive game changer proposals for new candidate megaprojects, or flagships, which will each receive €1 billion.

An outline paper appeared this week on a Commission website in an unusual move by the executive, which generally does not publish draft materials. Final work programmes for the 2018-2020 period of Horizon 2020 are expected to be published next month.

Proposals must target “a visionary unifying goal” within one of three main areas of ICT; health and life sciences; and energy, environment and climate change.

The paper does not commit to how many new flagships will be financed, but says up to €1 million in initial seed money is available for promising ideas on topics ranging from robotics and artificial intelligence, to new energy production, conversion and storage devices, and projects that offer new insight into the functioning of human cells.

The paper also gives new information on plans for the EU quantum flagship, launching in 2018. The Commission will back projects to translate the investment in basic quantum research to breakthroughs in computing, sensing, communication, measuring and simulation.

There will also be more money for ongoing, decade-long flagships. The human brain project, led by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne will receive a further €150 million, as will the graphene project led by Chalmers University of Technology.

Other competitions cover topics such as living technologies, socially interactive technologies, artificial organs and micro-energy technologies. Projects with a radical vision in these fields will be rewarded with up to €3 million each.

There will also be money for projects that develop new algorithms, software, big data analytics, and hardware, developed with Mexican and Brazilian partners who are expected to provide their own funding.

There are indications in the paper that the Commission will be doing something about the huge demand for FET competitions, which from next year will be run out of the new European Innovation Council. “Oversubscription and underfunding  is addressed by increased budget, clearer and enforced scoping, and advice on resubmission,” the paper says.

The Commission has not yet confirmed whether it would be publishing information for other Horizon 2020 programmes.

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