Six mega-projects, from a supercomputer brain simulation to a real-life SimCity on a global scale, are vying for two prizes, each worth $1 billion,
It has been called science's X Factor: six mega-projects vying for two prizes, each worth a cool €1 billion.
In 2010, the European Commission put out a call for visionary computing initiatives comparable to the moon landing or the mapping of the human genome. Such ultra-ambitious projects would change the way we think about the world and ideally solve some of its problems, too.
Of 21 ideas submitted, six were shortlisted for further development. These include the Human Brain Project - an attempt to simulate the brain using a supercomputer - and a scheme to create a new generation of electronic devices based not on silicon but graphene.
The winners will be announced at the end of January. The prize money, from European countries and private firms as well as the European Union, will be spread over 10 years.
Our money is on FuturICT, a real-life SimCity on a global scale. It will give individuals, companies and governments real-time information about the planet, and run simulations to find the best strategies for dealing with issues such as climate change.
FuturICT was conceived after the 2008 financial crash drove home our lack of understanding about today's hyperconnected world. The civilisation simulator will be an open platform, accepting data on anything from social media and the stock exchange to climate models and political preferences. Stay tuned for the start of something big.