If approved, the HBP will be the first project in the world to develop a large-scale ICT infrastructure for the specific purpose of understanding the brain and its diseases, and of translating this knowledge into new computing technology. Likewise, the HBP will be the first project to make such advanced ICT capabilities available to researchers. The new infrastructure will not only allow scientists to radically accelerate their research; it will help to catalyse a new culture of global collaboration in neuroscience, medicine and computing. Realising these goals will put European researchers at the heart of ICT innovation. The HBP can play this ambitious role because it builds on a strong foundation of pioneering research by the partners. In all areas in which the project is active, European researchers compete on an equal footing with scientists in other parts of the world; in many, they are leaders. The HBP will help to consolidate this leadership, implementing a bold new plan grounded in major innovations in ICT.
In neuroscience, the HBP will lead a global collaborative effort to unify our understanding of the structure and function of the human brain. The project will develop novel ICT capabilities making it possible to systematically integrate all available data and knowledge in unifying models of the brain, identifying and filling the gaps and reconciling conflicts. In this way, it will bring together historically distinct bottom-up and top-down approaches, allowing researchers to systematically trace the complex chains of causation leading from genes to cognition. The HBP will put Europe in a position where it can lead the effort to address this grand challenge.
In medicine, the HBP will enable the first objective classifications of brain disease. The project will develop ICT tools that allow researchers to analyse clinical data for the full range of psychiatric and neurological diseases, to build models of brain disease and ultimately to explore their root causes in simulation. This will allow researchers to systematically map diseases, provide personalised early diagnosis and treatment, trace mechanisms of causation, and screen drugs for effectiveness and side-effects before expensive animal testing and human trials. These innovations will strengthen the competitive position of European pharmaceutical companies, reduce the escalating burden of brain disease for national health services and contribute to the welfare of tens of millions of patients and their families. In computing, the HBP will develop radically new computing technologies.
The needs of the project will drive development of technology for remotely accessible interactive exascale supercomputing and for multi-scale simulations. Knowledge of the brain will lead to highly scalable and configurable neuromorphic hardware, incorporating principles of brain computation and cognition. The new technologies will turn supercomputers into interactive instruments for data-intensive applications, allow the development of intelligent computing and communications devices, provide new solutions to critical challenges in power consumption, reliability and programmability and drive a paradigm shift for next-generation computing.
These innovations will place European industry in a strategic position to lead what are likely to be among the most important sectors of 21st-century economy.