BNCI Horizon 2020 is a Coordination and Support Action (CSA) funded within the European Commission's Framework Programme 7. Therefore, this project does not cover research, but instead aims to foster collaboration and communication among stakeholders in the field of brain-computer interfaces (including research groups, companies, end users, policy makers, and the general public at large).
Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) have become a popular topic for research in recent years. A BCI is a communication device which allows people to control applications through direct measures of their brain activity. A BNCI (brain/neuronal computer interaction) system extends a BCI by including other physiological measures such as muscle or eye movement signals (see our basics article for more details). The number of BCI research groups around the world, peer-reviewed journal articles, conference abstracts, and attendance at relevant conferences are indicators of the rapid growth of this field. With dozens of companies and research groups actively participating in the development of BCIs and related technologies, collaboration, a common terminology, and a clear roadmap have become important topics.
To provide a solution to these issues, the European Commission funded the coordination action Future BNCI in 2010/2011. This project was the first effort to foster collaboration and communication among key stakeholders. BNCI Horizon 2020 aims to continue and improve upon the efforts initiated by Future BNCI. Our consortium includes eight major European BCI research institutions, three industrial partners, and two end user organizations (one of which is also a research partner).
A main result of BNCI Horizon 2020 will be a clear and concise roadmap to support the European Commission in their funding decisions for the new framework program Horizon 2020. More specifically, we will focus on consolidating recent results in BNCI research and on investigating new BNCI activities and synergies with relevant fields. We will discuss potential new applications leading to the enhancement of functions for healthy people as well as people with motor, sensory, cognitive and mental disabilities. Furthermore, we will elaborate on key technological advancements necessary to achieve future goals, and we will touch upon other key topics including ethics, societal needs for and acceptance of BNCI systems, user-centered approaches, evaluation metrics, and the transfer of technology from research labs to the market.
BNCI Horizon 2020 will foster communication, collaboration, and dissemination of information; create public awareness of BNCIs by organizing a retreat-style conference specifically for companies and end users; actively support the foundation of an official BCI Society; create and maintain a website for researchers, reviewers, the industry, end users, and the general public; and involve both academic and industrial key stakeholders as well as end users and end user associations.
All these areas are important to further advance this still young and growing research field into a full-fledged major research discipline. A clear and comprehensive roadmap produced by BNCI Horizon 2020 will lay the foundations for, and impact on, a (continued) dominance and clear visibility of European research groups in the future. In addition, the roadmap will display opportunities, but also limitations and constraints, for the industrialization and commercialization of BNCIs.