Pieter Roelfsema has received a subsidy of 1.8 million euros from Technologiestichting STW for the development of a brain implant that could make blind people see again. Five other innovative research programs will also receive a subsidy. These six research proposals were selected from the funding scheme Perspectief voor de topsectoren, meant to challenge scientists to enter into collaborations with businesses and social organizations. The aim is to jointly establish innovative research programs that fit within the aims of Topsectoren.
Letting the blind see again
“Letting the blind see again. That has always been a dream for brain researchers. And making that dream come true is exactly what we are going to do,” according to Pieter Roelfsema. The research project (NESTOR: NEuronal STimulation fOr Recovery of function) is a consortium consisting of, among others, neurobiologists and engineers specialized in micro-electronics and wireless equipment. Together they are working on a prosthesis that, through micro-electrodes connected to a camera, will stimulate the brain of blind people. To achieve this, the consortium has committed itself to reach four research goals in the next four years: an optimal design for the brain implant, methods to wirelessly power such an implant, ways of data transferal, and algorithms able to convert a maximum of information from the camera images into useful signals for the brain with as little processing power as possible.
The projects that were awarded with a subsidy from STW will receive amounts ranging from 1.8 million euros to 3.4 million euros. All in all, businesses and other partners will invest over 8 million euros. The research programs will run between four and six years.
STW is part of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) and receives its funding from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the business community and various other organizations, so that it can pursue its mission.
All proposals submitted for Perspectiefronde 2015/2016 can be found on: stw.nl/perspectief