Neuromorphic Computing: Six Million Euros for a New Research Facility
21 April 2017
With a sum of six million euros, three private sponsors have secured the funding for a new facility intended for Heidelberg scientists in the European Human Brain Project who are developing new and pioneering computer systems in a field known as neuromorphic computing. Honorary Senator Dr Hans-Peter Wild is supporting the planned facility with three million euros, while the Klaus Tschira Foundation and the Dietmar Hopp Stiftung are both contributing 1.5 million euros to the project. "We are creating something new: Thanks to this generous financial support, we are able to build a modern research facility with a large machine hall for the cognitive computers of the future," explains Prof. Dr Bernhard Eitel, President of Heidelberg University. The future European Institute for Neuromorphic Computing (EINC) will be located on the University's Neuenheimer Feld campus.
The EINC will house the team of Prof. Dr Karlheinz Meier of the Kirchhoff Institute for Physics. Under the direction of Prof. Meier, Heidelberg scientists are working with colleagues from various European research institutions to build a technological platform for neuromorphic computing; the prototype of this platform was presented and opened for use last year. The term "neuromorphic" describes systems that are based on electronic models of neural microcircuits. "Their design emulates the neurobiological structures of the nervous system, which means they are fundamentally different from numerical simulations on conventional high-performance computers," says Karlheinz Meier. The Heidelberg research for the Human Brain Project is currently being conducted in a mobile facility.
Honorary Senator Dr Hans-Peter Wild
"In the competition between the world’s best universities, Heidelberg University is dependent on financial support from third parties. These funds must be dedicated to creating optimum parameters and working conditions for pioneering projects. Only then can we attract internationally renowned researchers and convince them to stay in Heidelberg in the long term. The new building that will house the University's facility for neuromorphic computing is an important stepping stone on the way to this goal. I have always been fascinated by new technologies, and supporting unusual and pioneering developments is important to me. That is why I am happy to contribute to Heidelberg University's efforts to offer the world’s best and brightest an excellent research environment."
Beate Spiegel, Managing Director of the Klaus Tschira Foundation
"Klaus Tschira was very interested in the investigation and development of new computer architectures that are modelled on the human brain. Beyond his personal interest, he was keen to support the ongoing development of information science for the benefit of humankind. That is why he agreed as early as three years ago to become a sponsor of the European Institute for Neuromorphic Computing through his foundation. We are very happy that with construction of the new facility now under way, the University is taking the first visible step toward new and exciting research findings."
Dietmar Hopp, Dietmar Hopp Stiftung (Foundation)
"The Human Brain Project represents a new chapter in information and communication technology. I am happy that Heidelberg University, and with it the entire Rhine-Neckar Metropolitan Region, is part of this development and taking a leading role in the European consortium. The work being done in this field has complex ties to a wide range of disciplines, among them physics and medicine, and research is already running at full speed – with the new facility, the university will finally be able to offer the research teams a suitable working environment."
Half of the roughly 18 million euros in construction costs for the EINC facility is being provided by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and allocated by the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Science, which will contribute another two million euros. "With the added support of Honorary Senator Wild, the Klaus Tschira Foundation and the Dietmar Hopp Stiftung, we have been able to secure sufficient funding to get this important project off the ground", explains the President of Heidelberg University; the University has allocated more than a million euros of its own funds to the new centre in the Neuenheimer Feld district.
The Human Brain Project, which was launched in 2013, is one of two FET Flagship Initiatives for pioneering technologies that were started by the European Commission. The large-scale project aims at developing an integrated understanding of brain structures and functions using new information and communication technologies. Six technology platforms provide the basis for an extensive collaboration of scientists, clinical experts and engineers. Neuromorphic computing plays a central role in the emulation of learning and development processes that will help researchers design cognitive computers for machine learning applications.