Call it “Europe's Got Talent” for geeks.
Teams of scientists from across the continent are vying for a funding bonanza that could see two of them receive up to 1 billion euros, or $1.33 billion, over 10 years to keep Europe at the cutting edge of technology.
The contest began with 26 proposals, which were whittled down to six last year. Four have made it to the final round.
They include a plan to develop digital guardian angels that would keep people safe from harm; a massive data-crunching machine to simulate social, economic and technological change on our planet; an effort to craft the most accurate computer model of the human brain to date; and a team working to find better ways to produce and employ graphene, an ultrathin material that could revolutionize manufacturing of everything from jets to computer chips.
Initially, each project will receive 54 million euros from the European Union's research budget, an amount that will be matched by national governments and other sources. Over a decade, funding could total 1 billion euros each.
Securing such vast sums will be made harder by the austerity measures imposed by many financially drained European governments. Still, Neelie Kroes, the senior EU official overseeing the so-called Future and Emerging Technologies Flagships program, is confident the money will be made available.
“Supporting research and development is not a nice-to-have, it is essential, because no investment means no chance for a better future,” Kroes said.