No FET Flagship funding for Van den Berg and Stramigioli

| Michaela Nesvarova

The UT programs Health EU, co-coordinated by Albert van den Berg, and Robotics Flagship, co-run by Stefano Stramigioli, are out of the running to become a FET Flagship. They didn’t make it into the final round leading to one billion euros in funding. However, both programs hope to continue in another way.

Photo by: Arjan Reef
Albert van der Berg and Stefano Stramigioli

FET FLAGSHIP

European Union FET Flagships are multidisciplinary research initiatives that receive one billion euros in funding from the European Commission. Two programs co-coordinated by the University of Twente were chosen for the second stage of selection: Health EU and Robotics Flagship.

The program Health EU aims to develop personalized human avatars to prevent and cure diseases and it is co-coordinated by UT Professor Albert van den Berg. Robotics Flagship, with Professor Stefano Stramigioli as one of the main coordinators, strives to invent the next generation of robots.

Support from Philips, Bosch and Siemens

Both the Health EU and Robotics Flagship program were put on the reserve list and are officially no longer eligible to become a FET Flagship. However, Albert van den Berg believes ‘it is not over yet’ for Health EU.

‘We were not selected as one of the six projects that will compete in the final round, but it was a very close call. We got a high score,’ says Van den Berg. ‘We were of course extremely disappointed, but afterwards we received a lot of support messages from researchers and companies, including Philips, Bosch and Siemens. Based on this, we plan to ask the commission to allow us to proceed and submit the final proposal. I believe this might be possible. The six finalists all receive one million euros to prepare the final proposal. Thanks to the support we have we could cover this one million ourselves.’

The program has launched ‘the Health EU Manifesto’, which can be signed by ‘universities, research institutes, hospitals, industries and other stakeholders as an expression of direct support’. The decision whether or not Health EU can stay in the running to receive the one billion euros funding should be known in about a month.

‘Clearly a political decision’

Having been put on the reserve list as well, Robotics Flagship is currently evaluating its next steps, but Stefano Stramigioli doesn’t expect this to be the end of the program: ‘We have a phenomenal proposal, so it would be madness to do nothing with it,’ says the professor.

‘We were of course not happy with the outcome,’ continues Stramigioli. ‘We got a very high score in the last round, even higher than the projects that were selected for the final stage. We received no criticism, so in my eyes it was clearly a political decision to choose another program.’

According to Stramigioli it’s not even certain whether or not the six final projects can receive the FET Flagship funding. ‘I’ve heard through my colleagues that it’s not clear if the European Commission will finance the Flagships. That would be completely ridiculous, it would be a total waste of time of hundreds of scientists. We discussed it and if that is the case we will write an official complaint on behalf of Robotics Flagship.’