The Dutch science funding agency NWO recently awarded a large research project into new concepts for energy-efficient information technology of no less than ten million euros. The widespread use of digital equipment and technologies, such as computers, the internet and data centers often make our lives a lot more efficient and offers opportunities in for example medical applications. However, these technologies consume lots of energy. Moreover, the amount of digital information we process and store and the associated energy costs is growing exponentially. In order to reduce this rapidly increasing energy consumption, the NL-ECO research project aims to develop new materials, technologies and scientific insights for energy-efficient information technology. A consortium of 33 organizations will conduct fundamental research into the digital technologies of the future. The research project is getting the funding as part of the research programme ‘Research along Routes by Consortia’ of the Dutch National Research Agenda (NWA-ORC).
This broad consortium consists of 33 organizations covering academia, social partners and industry, coordinated by Hans Hilgenkamp from the Technical University Twente. The CogniGron research center, Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials and Bernoulli Institute for Mathematics, Computing Science and Artificial Intelligence are involved and represent the University of Groningen. 3 PhDs are funded from NL-ECO and CogniGron matches these with its own PhD students. The municipality of Westerkwartier and Science Linx are participating as the societal partners from the North. Together with these northern partners, NL-ECO wants to involve society in the further development of these sustainable information technologies. For example, so-called “demonstrators” will be developed, whereby people themselves can become part of this new technolgy. The “living lab” in Zuidhorn (municipality of Westerkwartier), which was developed in collaboration with Science Linx, has been designated as the location for this. CogniGron already has a test set-up here in which energy is generated by means of pressure on a pavement tile and supplied to a “neuromorphic” computer
Together with CogniGron, NL-ECO will, among other things look at the brain for inspiration for the development of new technologies. This is actually the most energy efficient computer we know of. Beatriz Noheda, director of Cognigron: “This research project fits in perfectly with CogniGron's ambitions and goals. Here we are already working hard to develop a blueprint for the computer of the future. A computer that works completely differently from our current computers. CogniGron conducts fundamental research into self-learning materials and systems for a cognitive computer – computing that has the ability to learn and perform complex tasks in a super-efficient and above all energy-efficient way. We are proud to be able to contribute to the NL-ECO research project and are looking forward to the collaboration with Hans Hilgenkamp and all other partners herein.”
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