Informatics research boosted by European funding
Informatics research in Europe has been bolstered by The European Commission which is providing €89 million to the 'Human Brain Project' alongside a €1.5M grant from the European Research Council to enable the study of cereals resistant to pathogens and diseases.
The Human Brain Project is made up of six new informatics-based platforms across Europe which aim to accelerate scientific understanding of the human brain, make advances in defining and diagnosing brain disorders, and develop new brain-like technologies.
One of these projects, based at the University of Manchester is called SpiNNaker (short for Spiking Neural Network Architecture), a computing platform made up of 500,000 microprocessors that emulate the way brain neurons fire in real time. SpiNNaker can be used to accurately model areas of the brain, and to test new hypotheses about how the brain might work. This biological approach to robot control is very different from the algorithmic systems more commonly used in robotics.
The Human Brain project aims to deliver a collaboratively-built first simulation of the human brain by 2023, which will not be a complete replication of every detail, but will provide a framework for integrating data and knowledge about the human brain from worldwide research and clinical studies. The 10-year project began in 2013 and involves leading scientists at more than 100 universities and research centres across Europe and in the USA, China, and Japan. It is focused on six ICT research platforms: neuroinformatics (access to shared brain data), brain simulation, high-performance analytics and computing, medical informatics (access to patient data), neuromorphic computing (access to brain-inspired computers), and neurorobotics (use of robots to test brain simulations).
The flagship project has just received €89 million boost from the European Commission. Commenting on the announcement, Steve Furber, ICL Professor of Computer Engineering at The University of Manchester’s School of Computer Science, said: 'We are very pleased that the funding for the next phase of the Human Brain Project has been confirmed, enabling us to continue to offer the SpiNNaker platform to our growing international user community and to progress the development of a second generation machine.'
Thomas Skordas, acting director of the European Commission Digital Excellence and Scientific Infrastructure Directorate, said: 'The Human Brain Project is now ready and well-prepared to begin its next phase. We have established the right basis for the project to make significant progress in the coming two years towards reaching its overall goals'.
Meanwhile, the European Research Council (ERC) has also provided additional funding to European informatics with the announcement that the Earlham Institute (EI) and The Sainsbury Laboratory (TSL) has been awarded a €1.5M Starting Grant (over five years) to investigate the immune system of our most important crops.