PORTLAND, Ore.—The European Commission (EC) has allocated $1.6 billion in funding for two high-profile semiconductor initiatives, ending a three-year evaluation process by choosing graphene and the development of semiconductors that operate like the human brain as the focus of separate research projects to be funded by its Future and Emerging Technologies initiative.
The EC believes that graphene will be the successor to silicon at the end of the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors circa 2023, prompting it to start this year a 10-year Graphene Flagship program aimed at coordinating academic and industry development efforts. Specific targets include developing graphene as a material for faster, lower-power electronics, flexible substrates, lightweight components, novel optical devices and advanced batteries.
The Graphene Flagship will coordinate over 125 academic and industrial research groups in 17 European countries. Initial projects will be funded with $72 million for 30-months in addition to 20-to-30 additional targeted projects that will be announced later in 2013. Jari Kinaret, a professor at Chalmers University of Technology (Gothenburg, Sweden), will serve as director of the Graphene Flagship program along with 15 individual project leaders.
The Human Brain Project aims to first simulate all the different regions of the brain that have been explored in biological research using supercomputers. Semiconductors will then be designed to emulate the software simulations with hardware.
So far, the Brain Simulation Platform has been based on simulations run on an IBM BlueGene/P supercomputer at the Ecole Polytechnique Fe´de´rale de Lausanne (EPFL, Switzerland). But now the project will enlist help from the Swiss Supercomputing Centre (SSC, Lugano) and other European installations.
The Swiss Federal Government will allocate $80 million to EPFL and SSC over the next five years with the Canton of Vaud municipalities kicking in another $47 million to build a new facility called Neuropolis which will specialize in emulating brain functions with silicon chips.
The Human Brain Project will be coordinated by neuroscientist Henry Markran at EPFL with co-directors professor Karlheinz Meier of Heidelberg University (Germany) and professor Richard Frackowiak of Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois (CHUV, Switzerland) and the University of Lausanne (UNIL, Switzerland).