← Back


Friday, 27 May 2022

ICN2 leads an EIC Pathfinder Challenges grant to develop breakthrough neurotechnology for brain interfaces

by Virginia Greco

Granted a total of 5.2M euros, the project will be carried out by a consortium coordinated by the ICN2 and that includes INBRAIN Neuroelectronics, a spin-off company founded by researchers from ICN2, IMB-CNM-CSIC and ICREA developing graphene-based implants to treat neurological diseases.

The project MINIGRAPH, coordinated by the ICN2 Advanced Electronic Materials and Devices Group, led by ICREA Prof. Jose A. Garrido, has been awarded 4M euros by the European Commission through the European Innovation Council (EIC) Pathfinder Challenges call, plus another 1.2M€ by the Swiss Federal Government (State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation). Selected with other 38 out of more than 400 projects, MINIGRAPH will be carried out by a consortium including besides ICN2, the spin-off company founded by researchers from ICN2, IMB-CNM-CSIC and ICREA INBRAIN Neuroelectronics (Spain) – which in 2021 raised more than 14M euros of investments to develop smart graphene-based neural implants for personalised therapies — imec (Belgium), the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration (Germany), ETH Zürich (Switzerland) and its spin-off Nanoflex Robotics (Switzerland), and the Leiden University Medical Centre (Netherlands). The project’s purpose is to develop novel brain neurotechnology on graphene for the treatment of neurological disorders and a minimally invasive implantation procedure.

The Commission selected 39 new projects under the 2021 EIC Pathfinder call for cutting edge research projects to achieve breakthroughs in five strategic areas: Self-aware AI, Tools to measure and stimulate activity in brain tissue, Emerging technologies in cell and gene therapy, Novel routes to green hydrogen production, and Engineered living materials.

The successful projects were chosen among 403 proposals and will receive up to €145 million of EU funding (with an average of €3.7 million per project). They will also be granted access to tailored-made coaching under the EIC Business Acceleration Services and potential fast track access to the EIC Accelerator.


About the MINIGRAPH project

MINIGRAPH aims to develop ground-breaking brain neurotechnology for neuromodulation and a novel minimally invasive implantation procedure, for the treatment of neurological and neuropsychiatric diseases. The goal is to overcome some of the limitations of current clinical devices and technology, such as high invasiveness of the procedure, multiple side effects due to off-target stimulation, low signal resolution and lack of personalized and adaptive stimulation therapies.

Taking advantage of the unique characteristics of graphene, the researchers will develop and validate a new generation of brain implants with closed-loop neuromodulation capabilities to treat brain disorders. A flexible electronic unit control and miniaturised, high-density arrays of graphene microelectrodes will be used, which will guarantee large spatial resolution and high signal-to-noise ratio, together with optimal biocompatibility and adaptability to brain tissue, going far beyond state-of-the art neurostimulation therapies.

MINIGRAPH will also introduce a minimally invasive and high-precision robotic implantation procedure based on magnetic navigation and a small skull incision. In addition, thanks to the closed-loop neuromodulation, researchers will be able to identify disease biomarkers and, thus, develop personalized and adaptive therapies according to patients’ needs.

This project is funded by the European Union’s Horizon Europe Programme under the grant agreement Nº 101070865 (MINIGRAPH).


About the EIC Pathfinder grants

With its Pathfinder scheme, the EIC supports the exploration of bold ideas for radically new technologies. It welcomes the high-risk/high-gain and interdisciplinary cutting-edge science collaborations that underpin technological breakthroughs. 

Grants of up to €3 (Pathfinder Open call) or up to €4 million (Pathfinder Challenges call) support early-stage development of future technologies (e.g. various activities at low Technology Readiness Levels 1-3), up to proof of concept.  EIC Pathfinder projects benefit from interactions with EIC Programme Managers and can receive additional funding for testing the innovation potential of their research outputs or for working across projects for portfolio actions. In addition, promising results can receive substantial follow up funding through the EIC Transition scheme to create a commercial venture or use the Fast Track scheme to access the EIC Accelerator to bring innovations to the market.