Chapter News, News

EU Science and Technology Flagships pick up steam – final inclusive structure announced

The European Commission published today a report on its ambitious science and technology Flagships. The report draws the lessons from setting up the first two such Flagships, Graphene and the Human Brain Project, each representing an investment of EUR 1 billion. It also sets out the future working arrangements for the two Flagships underway.

European Commission Vice President @NeelieKroesEU said: “The Human Brain Project and the Graphene Flagships have the potential to revolutionise science, boost industry and improve peoples’ lives with new products and medical treatments. No funding agency, no scientific community, no company, no Member State can achieve this alone: we need to find the best way to join forces and the Flagship model is here to stay.”

Graphene – the wonder material

Graphene, a form of carbon in a one-atom-thick layer, has the potential to underpin new disruptive technologies, substituting materials used in existing applications and also leading to radically new markets and applications. The Flagship aims to take graphene and related layered materials from the realm of fundamental science to industrial and societal applications in the space of ten years. Novel composites, more efficient batteries and new types of sensors are examples of technologies that will benefit from graphene and related materials in a variety of fields: from energy to automotive technologies, and from chemical processes to aerospace. @GrapheneCA (MEMO/14/531)

The Human Brain Project – building a computer model of the brain

Understanding the human brain is one of the key challenges of the 21st century. The Human Brain Project (HBP) aims to combine existing knowledge and data about the human brain for building a realistic computer model of the brain by 2023. Such a model will help researchers understand how the human brain works and the diseases affecting it. Neuroscientists have an essential role to play in succeeding such endeavour [see the blog post Preparing the next steps of the Human Brain Project]. The HBP will have a potentially massive impact in areas such as neuroscience, new treatments for brain disease, computing and robotics technologies. @HumanBrainProj (MEMO/14/531)

Strong commitment and openness

Today’s report represents a strong affirmation of the Commission’s long-term support for the Flagships. While resources will continue to be pooled from public and private sources across Europe, the Commission stands firm in its engagement to anchor the endeavour by supporting each Flagship’s core over a decade.

The report’s material on the lessons drawn from the long process that preceded the start of the first Flagships is essential for any similar effort in the future.

The Commission also reports how it will put its future cooperation with the Flagships on a firm footing. It notably foresees to set up an open and transparent governance structure embracing all the involved stakeholders that will cater for efficient decision making and optimal use of funding and resources. The governance structure also includes a governance forum that will host discussions, open to all, on scientific, industrial and other relevant aspects. This governance structure will be regularly assessed in close cooperation with all the involved stakeholders and adjusted if necessary.


Flagships are a new instrument of research and innovation support under Horizon 2020. The Flagship model is designed to encourage visionary research with the potential to deliver scientific and technological breakthroughs with major benefits for European society and industry.

Today’s report describes in detail the future open, transparent and inclusive governance structure for Flagships. It also covers other success factors such as the innovation strategy and links with industry, educational training programmes and responsible research and innovation.

The Flagship model is built around a large Core Project and several Partnering Projects. The Core Project ensures the scientific leadership and cohesion of the Flagship and is funded by the Commission. The Partnering Projects, mainly funded by the Member States bring new knowledge, skills and resources to the Flagship. They address specific science and technology areas of the Flagship’s research roadmap, by complementing or extending the ones covered by the Core Project, they focus on technology transfer activities, etc. Both parts contribute to the management of the Flagship and the definition of its research roadmap. Half of the Flagship budget is planned to come from the EU funds (e.g. Horizon 2020) while the other half would come from the Member States, as well as the private sector.

The two Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) Flagships (@FETFlagships) were announced by the European Commission in January 2013 (press release) and started working in October 2013. Both Flagships have proposed Framework Partnership Agreements with the Commission to set their structure and the decade-long cooperation on a strong footing. Following an expert review of the proposals the Commission now works towards putting the agreements in place as soon as possible.

What’s next?


  1. January: first annual review of the Flagships
  2. March/April: Framework Partnership Agreements (FPA) are signed and details how the Flagships will work till 2023


  1. April: end of the ramp-up phase (funded under the previous research framework programme FP7) and start of a new phase (funded under the new research framework programme Horizon 2020 #H2020)


  1. Interim evaluation of the Flagships, including their governance and implementation mechanisms as these are defined in the staff working document published today