Digital Agenda for Europe
A Europe 2020 Initiative

Ideas for new topics - what's new that isn't in the other 9 topics?


What topic involving novel collaborations between scientists and engineers has made new technologies possible? Why are these technologies important?
Specific ideas for a project should not be submitted. What is needed are general ideas that could launch a new research community of scientists and engineers who would work together to reach a common goal.

Please make sure to provide the following information when submitting your idea for a new topic:

  • Title of your idea
  • Keywords
  • Scientific and Technological Topics to be addressed?

    Guiding questions:
•    What does this topic address?
•    What is the state-of-the-art and what are the main scientific and technological challenges and opportunities for frontier research that need to be tackled in the next 5-10 years in this area?
•    Which disciplines are involved?
•    What would be the critical mass of European researchers needed to carry out research in this area? What is the current situation?
•    How is this topic related to recent breakthroughs?
•    Why is this research needed now (or when would it be needed)?

  • Why is this topic important?

Possible examples could include:
•    tackling the great societal challenges (e.g. global warming, tightening supplies of energy, ageing of society etc.)?
•    solving key technological problems
•    potential contribution to EU growth
•    maintain EU leading role in the field
•    essential role to boost EU innovation…
•    etc…

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0 users have voted.


Luca Gammaitoni's picture

Proposal for new FET proactive topics.

• Title: Zero-power computers
• Keywords: ICT-Energy, energy efficiency, low-power computation, beyond CMOS, heat dissipation

• Scientific and Technological Topics to be addressed:
It is a known fact that the amount of power dissipated into heat during computation is becoming the main limitation toward the realization of new and more powerful computers. The discussion on the development of High performance computing initiative identified the reduction of energy dissipated as one of the two strategic challenges for the future in the field. On the other hand the realization of wireless micro sensors that can be deployed in numbers is presently hold by the gap between how much energy is available from portable sources (batteries and/or energy harvesting technologies) and how much energy is required for their functioning.

State of the art approaches are based in incremental improvements in the energy efficiency of microprocessors realized with existing technology. Improving efficiency on the scale of fractional points will help saving some energy but will not change the future of ICT. In fact, this issue can be addressed at different levels, from application software down to the hardware layer: basic switches in integrated circuits. In the past a general call has been issued. Now, in order to produce radical changes, more specific focus is needed.

Focus on the basic hardware. We need radically new ideas on how to design computing devices that can be operated without energy dissipation. Recent advances in nanoscale technology and non-equilibrium thermodynamics indicate that this is conceptually possible. How to make it happen is still an open issue.

FET proactive initiative should address this very point by challenging researchers to design, realize and test actual computing micro-devices that can be operated below the KT scale of energy. Proposals for novel information-carriers beyond electrons in semiconductors could be privileged. The FET proactive initiative could be in the form of a challenge to demonstrate figure of merits pre-defined by the call.

Disciplines involved in this topic, range from nanotechnology to solid state physics, from non-equilibrium thermodynamics to information theory, form opto-electronics to mems design. The scientific background required to address this challenge is associated with the study of the energy transformation processes at micro and nano scales.

In this field Europe is in competition with USA and Japan.
USA has recently funded the Center for Energy Efficient Electronic Science (E3S), with the scope of addressing the energy efficiency of basic logic switch elements and the short-to-medium range communication of information between logic elements.
In Japan research and development of Ultra-low Power Spintronics-based VLSIs, is granted by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) through the “Funding Program for World-Leading Innovative R&D on Science and Technology (FIRST Program).
In Europe we developed a significant activity in the broad field of energy efficiency (see e.g. the C.A. ICT-Energy with 10 European partners involved), however we still miss a specific initiative focused on the very topic of micro and nanoscale devices for zero-power computation.

This topic is very timely due to the increasing pressure of the semiconductor industry that is facing the wall of excess heat dissipation and to recent advances in theoretical and experimental physics where Landauer principle has been put under test and nanoscale energy measurement are demonstrated possible.

This topic is clearly important for a number of strategic objectives:
- It addresses 2 key technological problems: 1) how to make more powerful computers viable. 2) how to make autonomous wireless sensors possible.
- It tackles the great social challenge of providing solution for the ubiquitous computing scenario in a “smart city” environment.
- It contributes to reducing the ICT carbon footprint and the general energy consumption.

0 users have voted.
Greet Bilsen's picture

I really think the topic of zero-power computers is an important one in order to have concepts like 'Smart Cities' and personalised; continuous follow-up of Health & Well-being being able to become a reality. Indeed the amount of power consumed by today's devices is still too large, to have small 'sensors' work 'infinitely' without needing to change batteries.
The aspect of finding new solutions for reducing power consumption in such small devices with some orders of magnitude is a challenging topic that certainly needs attention. Although instead of limiting the zero-power quest to 'computing' devices only, as I have the impression is done in the proposal, I believe we have to look at it into a broader context and not only look at the "computing" parts of such sensing devices but also the actual "sensing" and " communication" parts and the way they can interact intelligently. I'm convinced a lot can be achieved by introducing new groundbreaking technologies in each of such subsystems (so more than in the computing part only), and that one can go even one step further by bringing together these improvements into "systems" that can be enhanced with some intelligence to make use of that zero-power hardware in the most efficient way (also integrating it with energy harvesting technology)

69 users have voted.
Jan Haagh's picture

I very much second this opition. With the number of wireless sensors around us growing year over year, the use of batteries is unwanted (maintenance and environmental issues). Zero-power electronics and systems become a necesety. Energy harvesting and wireless energy transmer are, together with zero-power electronics, technology directions that need focussed attention.

45 users have voted.
Olivier Sentieys's picture

I strongly support the topic of zero-power computers. It offers many opportunities for basic research as well as for innovation, applied research and, most importantly, industry transfer and entrepreneurship.

29 users have voted.
Peter Ramm's picture

For these extreme low power applications the performance advantages of 3D integration is absolutely needed: E.g. Samsung compared conventional PoP solution with equivalent 3D solution and concluded that 3D integration offers a 50% reduction in power consumption, an increase of a factor 8 in bandwidth and of course a considerable reduction in package size (Handbook of 3D Integration, vol. 3 (June, 2014)). 3D heterogeneous integration is as well the enabler technology (of course with new challenges there) for combining new ''nano'' materials and devices with more traditional technology in a compact system. And concerning the European key application sensors: there are high growth areas expected, in particular wireless sensor system for the IoT, with the need of 3D heterogeneous sensor/IC products !

32 users have voted.
Denis Flandre's picture

To my opinion, truly autonomous wireless sensor networks with low carbon footprint appear as a (the ?) major and challenge and big-impact opportunity to collect data and efficiently manage the very complex systems of our global world, such as cities, buildings, plants, transportation, ... environment at large, to save energy and improve healthcare and well-being. Let's not miss that real big-benefit application of the emerging IoT !

0 users have voted.
Christian Piguet's picture

It is in my opinion the most interesting and mandatory topic to be capable of reducing the power consumption of computing for many portable devices connected to the cloud and to scavenge energy from the environment. As everything becoming connected including objects (IoT), this will be for sure the global system in which we will live for the rest of our life. No doubt that we will have many applications for e-health, security, education, etc... but the key point is energy. So we have to take this problem very seriously, by searching for new ways to scavenge enough energy and to reduce by a factor of 1000X the energy necessary for computation, communication and for sensing.

0 users have voted.
Jan Madsen's picture

I fully support this view and the visions of where it can bring us. The computing part is crucial in achieving smart/intelligent devices and systems, but also the integration of more technologies (the more than Moore concept) is important and challenging under a zero-power heading! This include integration of microfluidic biochip technologies and biological interfaces.

23 users have voted.
Dominique Thomas's picture

I fully support this topic. As the previous commenters noted, there are several (5 to 8) orders of magnitude to win in the energy efficiency of our information systems, entering into the so called "Internet of things" or ubiquitous intelligence era. Gaining this ability will revolutionize our ability to devise cyberphysical systems and systems of CPS.

30 users have voted.
Dominique Thomas's picture

I fully support this topic. As the previous commenters noted, there are several (5 to 8) orders of magnitude to win in the energy efficiency of our information systems, entering into the so called "Internet of things" or ubiquitous intelligence era. Gaining this ability will revolutionize our ability to devise cyberphysical systems and systems of CPS.

38 users have voted.
Group managers
Aymard DE TOUZALIN European Commission Future and Emerging Technology Unit Deputy Head of Unit
Walter VAN DE VELDE European Commission Future and Emerging Technologies Scientific Officer and FET Strategy
Beatrice MARQUEZ-GARRIDO European Commission Future & Emerging Technologies Unit Project Officer
Group Participants