Human Brain Project (HBP)

The European Commission has officially announced the selection of the Human Brain Project (HBP) as one of its two FET Flagship projects. The new project will federate European efforts to address one of the greatest challenges of modern science: understanding the human brain.

Innsbruck, 28/01/2013: The goal of the Human Brain Project is to pull together all our existing knowledge about the human brain and to reconstruct the brain, piece by piece, in supercomputer-based models and simulations. The models offer the prospect of a new understanding of the human brain and its diseases and of completely new computing and robotic technologies. On January 28, the European Commission supported this vision, announcing that it has selected the HBP as one of two projects to be funded through the new FET Flagship Program.

Federating more than 80 European and international research institutions, the Human Brain Project is planned to last ten years (2013-2023). The cost is estimated at 1.19 billion euros. The project will also associate some important North American and Japanese partners. It will be coordinated at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, by neuroscientist Henry Markram with co-directors Karlheinz Meier of Heidelberg University, Germany, and Richard Frackowiak of Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois (CHUV) and the University of Lausanne (UNIL).

Scientists from Innsbruck, Graz and Klosterneuburg
Prof. Alois Saria from the Innsbruck Medical University is Austria's sole representative involved in the management of the project consortium. His task in this trailblazing project will be to coordinate training for the around 500 to 1,000 PhD students, to develop new training models and curricula and to set up a new distance learning platform for young scientists. Other scientists from Austria will also collaborate in this major project. Renowned neuroscientist Prof. Peter Jonas from the Institute of Science and Technology Austria in Klosterneuburg will generate essential data from the hippocampus which will then be fed into the simulation model. 

Prof. Wolfgang Maass, Head of the Institute for Theoretical Computer Science at Graz University of Technology, will head the "Principles of Brain Computation" in the Human Brain Project.
The researchers first have to find out how typical neural circuits work: "We are working with supercomputer simulations which integrate an unprecedented amount of individual experimental results," explains Prof. Dr. Maas. His team will supply the answers to central questions: In which way does the working of neural circuits differ from that of computer chips? Can we perhaps copy the trick that allows nature to work with unreliable components on nanoscale level which is particularly energy efficient? Could this trick even be used to design future computer components on nanoscale level?
"Since parts of the project volume will be advertised as open tenders, there is a possibility for other specialist groups to participate in the project at a later point in time and to steer additional funds to Austria," explains Prof. Alois Saria, Head of the Experimental Psychiatry Unit in Innsbruck.
Federal Minister for Science and Research Dr. Karlheinz Töchterle congratulated on the successful participation in the Human Brain Project. "The involvement of Austrian institutions along with renowned institutions such as Cambridge University, Yale University or the Weizmann Institute of Science, is an outstanding example of the innovative and excellent research work being carried out in Austria. It also shows that Austrian research can compete at international level and is increasingly pursuing strategic partnerships."
FWF President Prof. Christoph Kratky is also pleased about this achievement. "I would like to very warmly congratulate all the scientists working in Austria on the Human Brain Project. Thanks to this huge success, they are helping to network and internationally showcase basic research in Austria – the performance of which is to be demonstrated once again."

3 years of preparation
The selection of the Human Brain Project as a FET Flagship is the result of more than three years of preparation and a rigorous and severe evaluation by a large panel of independent, high profile scientists, chosen by the European Commission. In the coming months, the partners will negotiate a detailed agreement with the Community for the initial first two and a half year ramp-up phase (2013-mid 2016).  The project will begin work in the closing months of 2013.

Statements Austria

Prof. Herbert Lochs, Rector of Innsbruck Medical University
The extremely visionary goal of this project is to discover how the brain in all its complexity works. It is a particular honour for Innsbruck Medical University and Tirol, as a centre of research, that Prof. Saria is to play a key role in the management team. The involvement of Innsbruck Medical University is further recognition of our outstanding neuroscientific research."

Prof. Harald Kainz, Rector of Graz University of Technology:
"Joint international, interdisciplinary research is the key to success. Research into complex material like the human brain calls for a broad range of disciplines, all working together to achieve a common goal. The EU's new research flagship project will create unprecedented opportunities for brain research. We are both pleased and proud that scientists from Graz University of Technology and their internationally recognised expertise are to play a key role in this project."

Further Informations:

- The Human Brain Project in Brief (PDF)

Press kit

FET-Flegship Initiative:


Press photos to download:


Rektor Univ.-Prof. Dr. Herbert Lochs, Univ.-Prof. Dr. Alois Saria, Univ.-Prof. Dr. Günther Sperk ( nach rechts) (Foto: MUI/ Medizinische Universität Innsbruck)


Prof. Alois Saria (Copyright: MUI/Lackner) 


Prof. Alois Saria (Copyright: MUI/Lackner) 


Single Neuron (Copyright: Blue Brain/HBP)


Patchclamp, École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, EPFL (Copyright: Thierry Parel/HBP) 


Neuromorphic Microchip (Copyright: Universität Heidelberg/HBP)


 A scientific portrait of the Human Brain Project

The Human Brain Project will provide new tools to help understand the brain and its fundamental mechanisms and to apply this knowledge in future medicine and computing. 

Central to the Human Brain Project is Information and Computing Technology (ICT). The project will develop ICT platforms for neuroinformatics, brain simulation and supercomputing that will make it possible to federate neuroscience data from all over the world, to integrate the data in unifying models and simulations of the brain, to check the models against data from biology and to make them available to the world scientific community. The ultimate goal is to allow neuroscientists to connect the dots leading from genes, molecules and cells to human cognition and behavior.

A novel medical informatics platform will federate clinical data from around the world, allowing medical researchers to unlock the clinically valuable information they contain and to incorporate it in computer models of disease. The goal is to develop techniques for the objective diagnosis of the brain’s diseases, to understand their underlying mechanisms and to speed up the search for new treatments. 

Finally, the HBP will build new platforms for “neuromorphic computing” and “neurorobotics”, allowing researchers to develop new computing systems and robots based on the architecture and circuitry of the brain. The new systems will use detailed knowledge of the brain to address critical problems facing future computing technology: energy efficiency, reliability, the huge difficulties involved in programming very complex computing systems.

The HBP will fund independent scientists to use the new platforms for their own research, reserving a substantial part of its budget for this purpose.  In brief, the HBP will create a CERN for the brain.

More Informations:



Medizinische Universität Innsbruck
Abteilung für Öffentlichkeitsarbeit Barbara Hoffmann
Innrain 52, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria
Telefon: +43 512 9003 71830, Mobil: +43 676 8716 72830,


About Innsbruck Medical University

Innsbruck Medical University has approximately 1,400* employees and around 3,000 students and, together with the University of Innsbruck, is the largest educational and research institution in western Austria and the regional university for Tyrol, Vorarlberg, South Tyrol and Liechtenstein. The following courses are offered at Innsbruck Medical University: Medicine and Dentistry as the basis of an academic medical degree and a PhD degree (PhD) as the postgraduate aspect of scientific work. The bachelor's degree in Molecular Medicine is new in the curriculum since autumn 2011. The part-time Clinical PhD can also be taken as a supplement to the study of human medicine or dentistry.

Innsbruck Medical University is involved in numerous international educational and research programmes and networks. The research focuses on the areas Oncology, Neuroscience, Genetics, Epigenetics and Genomics as well as Infectious Diseases, Immunology & Organ and Tissue Repair. In addition to scientific research, Innsbruck Medical University is also nationally and internationally very successful in the highly competitive field of research funding.

* full-time equivalent