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  • Writer's pictureKirk Hartley

“Science Beyond Fiction” – The EU Gets The Value of Science and is Pushing It Forw

Science beyond fiction.

Think about that phrase. Think about the changes of the last hundred years. The last ten years. The last two years. The last week. Science is exploding, and today’s fiction cannot keep pace with the fundamental daily advances in science.

The source of the phrase ? An EU-created group focused on science and change.

The group? FET. Future and Emerging Technologies. FET’s tagline: "science beyond fiction."

FET’s mission ? The website defines it as follows:

"Within the EU Framework Programme for Research and Technological development, Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) is funding frontier research based on a radically new visions of what can be done and grounded in scientifically valid ideas how to make major steps towards achieving such visions.

FET acts as a pathfinder open to new ideas and opportunities, as they arise from within science or society. It aims to go beyond the conventional boundaries of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and ventures into uncharted areas.

FET funded projects increasingly rely on fresh synergies, cross-pollination and convergence with different scientific disciplines and with the arts and humanities. This transdisciplinary and high-risk research requires new attitudes and novel organisational models in research and education. The multidisciplinary creative process that is at the heart of future and emerging technologies is a constant challenge to conventional academic boundaries."

A conference known as fet11 just finished up in Hungary, and brought together scientists, government leaders and dreamers from around Europe. Among other things, they talked about new projects, and a billion dollars of research grants. Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission, is one of the government leaders. Her resume is impressive:

"Biography: From February 2010 Kroes has been a Vice President of the European Commission and is leading implementation of the Digital Agenda for Europe – the EU’s new comprehensive action plan to harness ICTs to drive growth and address social challenges. Kroes will be mobilising industry, national governments, other stakeholders and her colleagues to deliver on 31 pieces of legislation and 101 targets by the end of her term in 2015. At the top of the list is the EU’s commitment to deliver ‘broadband for all’ . Prior to her roles in Brussels, Kroes was President of Nyenrode University from 1991-2000, and served on the boards of a string of major companies such as Lucent Technologies, Volvo, and P&O Nedlloyd. Kroes hails from the liberal VVD Party in the Netherlands, and served as a national minister of transport and telecommunications in the 1970s and 1980s. Kroes has been a Knight of the Order of the Netherlands Lion since 1981 and a Grand Officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau since 1989."

What did they decide? This page from IPfrontline provides the following synopsis of the finalists for the grants, in alphabetical order:

FuturICT Knowledge Accelerator and Crisis-Relief System: ICT can analyse vast amounts of data and complex situations so as to better predict natural disasters, or manage and respond to man-made disasters that cross national borders or continents.

  1. Graphene Science and technology for ICT and beyond: Graphene is a new substance developed by atomic and molecular scale manipulation that could replace silicon as the wonder material of the 21st century.

  2. Guardian Angels for a Smarter Life: tiny devices without batteries that act like autonomous personal assistants, and which can sense, compute and communicate potentially even while travelling through your bloodstream.

  3. The Human Brain Project: understanding the way in which the human brain works can bring the benefits of brain-related or brain-inspired developments to computing architectures, neuroscience and medicine.

  4. IT Future of Medicine: digital technology has the power to deliver individualised medicine, based on molecular, physiological and anatomical data collected from individual patients and processed on the basis of globally integrated medical knowledge.

  5. Robot Companions for Citizens: soft skinned and intelligent robots have highly developed perceptive, cognitive and emotional skills, and can help people, radically changing the way humans interact with machines.

That’s a great list of projects, andthe fet11 website is full of interesting articles and videas. Kudos to the EU leaders trying to push science ahead. Science is our future, and makes sense for reasons of business, jobs and finding solutions to help people.

Here in the US, President Obama and others also "get" the value of science. Indeed, he’s made some wonderful decisions to push science forward. Sad to say, US efforts to push science ahead face opposition vocal, headline-grabbing opposition from misguided tea-partiers who seek to slash research budgets, and restrict science. Hopefully forward-looking people will speak out with voices and numbers sufficient to overcome the opposition.

Hat tip to the Financial Times for covering the topic here, but it’s articles are often behind barriers.

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