- Commission publishes performance indicators for Networks of Excellence
- Technology-enhanced learning information day
- Online consultation on Science and Technology Foresight in FP7
- New web portal for regions' research and innovation network
- New Calls for proposals
- Entrepreneurial innovation: networking key players and users
- New CORDIS focus supplement to help European SMEs 'ride the wave'
- Commission responds to recommendations on FP6 instruments
- Reding pledges to close the digital divide
- Partner search FP6
- Topics in EU-news of 25 October 2004.
1. COMMISSION PUBLISHES PERFORMANCE INDICATORS FOR NETWORKS OF EXCELLENCE:
The Commission has published a guidance note for participants in its research framework programme, providing performance indicators for the assessment of Networks of Excellence (NoEs).
During the recent high level evaluation of the new instruments introduced under FP6, the panel's report concluded that there is widespread dissatisfaction within the European research community concerning the definition and application of NoEs and Integrated Projects. In its guidance note, the Commission points out that while NoEs will be varied in their nature, content, structure and objectives, they will all have the common aim of overcoming fragmentation. The key requirement is to establish a set of verifiable indicators for measuring progress, it continues. These indicators should include both quantitative goals that can be checked easily each year, such as the number of exchanges of personnel between the network partners, as well as qualitative goals, such as progress in terms of convergence of training programmes, that may require a deeper analysis. Not only should these indicators be used to assess progress towards achieving the network's overall goal of durable integration, according to the Commission, but also to measure progress in reaching those intermediate milestones necessary to achieve the overall objective.
In stressing the importance of selecting indicators that measure true progress, the Commission explains: 'The setting up of common tools by the participants, although an indispensable condition to durable integration, does not per se demonstrate their will and actuality of durable integration. The existing and increasing use of these common tools by all participants will constitute an illustration of progress towards integration.' The guidance note concludes with a list of examples of expected final results for a Network of Excellence, along with possible intermediate steps and indicators of the progress achieved. The Commission makes it clear that the list of final and intermediate results is not exhaustive, concluding: 'They are meant to provide examples of what could be expected from a network aiming at achieving a satisfactory level of integration at the end of the Community funding period.'
2. TECHNOLOGY-ENHANCED LEARNING INFORMATION DAY:
In the context of the next call for proposals for projects in technology-enhanced learning, due to be launched in mid-November, an information day will take place in Luxembourg on 29 November. The next call will address the strategic objectives defined in the updated version of the IST work programme 2005-2006.
In the field of technology-enhanced learning, the research focus will be on exploring interactions between the learning of the individual and that of an organisation, and on contributing to new understanding of learning processes by exploring links between human learning, cognition and technologies. The information day will aim at building consensus on trends and challenges in future research on technology-enhanced learning, developing a better understanding of the FP6 instruments, sharing ideas and experiences, and finding partners for project consortia.
3. THE COMMISSION LAUNCHES AN ONLINE CONSULTATION ON SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY FORESIGHT IN FP7:
The European Commission recently launched an open online consultation concerning EU Science and Technology Foresight activities under the future FP7 programme. The consultation procedure follows a communication published by the Commission in June 2004, under the title "Science and Technology, the key to Europe's future - Guidelines for future European Union policy to support research". All interested circles, such as policy makers, research organisations, universities and the industry, are invited to submit their comments and thus contribute to the design of the future EU research policy until 15 November 2004.
The Commission proposes to focus EU research activities on six major objectives:
- Creating European centres of excellence through collaboration between laboratories
- Launching European technological initiatives
- Stimulating the creativity of basic research through competition between teams at European level
- Making Europe more attractive to the best researchers
- Developing research infrastructure of European interest
- Improving the coordination of national research programmes
Following consultation and wider debate, and based on a thorough assessment of evidence and impacts, the Commission will present its legislative proposals for FP7 for R&D in the course of 2005. The Commission would welcome views and comments from all regarding EU Science and Technology Foresight activities in FP7. Contributions would be particularly welcome from the foresight community, policy-makers at national and regional level, but also from research organisations including public institutes, universities, industry, international organisations and associations.
http://europa.eu.int/comm/research/future/foresight/index_en.html and http://www.cordis.lu/foresight/
4. NEW WEB PORTAL FOR REGIONS' RESEARCH AND INNOVATION NETWORK:
CORDIS announced the launch of a new website for the European Regions Research and Innovation Network (ERRIN). This is a Brussels-based network designed to help regions participate fully and effectively in the European Research Area. ERRIN is supported by the European Commission's Research DG in the framework of the Regions of Knowledge Pilot Action Programme. The site contains information on events, funding, policies, best practice and more.
5. NEW CALLS FOR PROPOSALS:
Eight calls for proposals under the Marie Curie Actions of FP6 (FP6-2004-Mobility-5 to FP6-2004-Mobility-12) and a call for proposals entitled "Stepping up economic and technological intelligence" (FP6-2004-INNOV-5) were recently published.
http://fp6.cordis.lu/fp6/calls_activity.cfm?ID_ACTIVITY=594 and http://fp6.cordis.lu/fp6/call_details.cfm?CALL_ID=171
6. ENTREPRENEURIAL INNOVATION - NETWORKING KEY PLAYERS AND USERS:
A call for proposals for 'Entrepreneurial innovation: networking key players and users' has been launched by the European Commission under FP6. The call relates to the following areas:
- Entrepreneurial innovation and sectors (area 18.104.22.168 in the work programme): Innovation challenges and strategies differ widely by sector, type of company, technology area and market. The objective of this action is to identify sector-specific leverages and barriers to innovation such as consumer habits, tradition and culture, organisational rigidities, product regulations and interoperability constraints, market fragmentation, workforce mobility, lack of skills and sources of financing. In addition, the action will identify by sector the main types of innovation players, such as 'pioneers', innovation 'drivers' and 'catalysers', and define sectoral benchmarks and indicators.
- Entrepreneurial innovation and clusters (area 22.214.171.124 in the work programme): The objective of this action is to activate cooperation between business clusters in Europe through the establishment of networks between clusters that operate in the same or different domains. The action will assist existing clusters to adopt 'outward looking' approaches by establishing learning platforms between them for exchanging experiences, information, good practices and knowledge. These networks will facilitate the exploitation of synergies, the joint development of collaborative projects and assist clusters from different domains to move towards megaclusters through partnership schemes. The projects will be encouraged to involve regional agencies aspiring to undertake policies fostering the development of clusters, in particular in the new Member States. Outcomes should include specific proposals for policy actions. Synergies with existing projects and networks that have been already developed in the framework of the PAXIS initiative will be strongly encouraged.
- Networking innovation actors by sectors (area 126.96.36.199 in the work programme): This action aims at tackling sector-specific innovation finance issues. A number of pan-European networks per sector will be created involving innovation financing professionals such as investors, incubators as well as industry federations and relevant associations. The selected projects will undertake actions such as identification of a sector's specificities relevant to innovation financing, and new business models for particular sectors. They will also organise a number of business forums per year allowing the different parties (investors, incubators, firms, University spin-offs and start-up companies) to meet and discuss consumers' needs, new niche markets, technology foresight, and funding strategies suitable for each sector. Synergies with existing projects and networks that have been already developed in the framework of the Gate2Growth and PAXIS initiatives, as well as cooperation with the EIF and other national-based relevant initiatives will be strongly encouraged.
The total indicative budget for this call is 20 million euro. The deadline for submitting proposal documents is 27-1-2005.
7. NEW CORDIS FOCUS SUPPLEMENT TO HELP EUROPEAN SMES 'RIDE THE WAVE'
CORDIS, the Community Research and Development Information Service, has published a new edition of its supplement aimed specifically at European small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Entitled 'e-Business: Riding the waves of innovation', it covers technology from research projects offered for the marketplace, EU support services for SMEs, and opportunities for SME participation in EU research projects and programmes. This second SME special issue of the CORDIS focus 'Technology Opportunities Today' supplement spotlights e-business tools and applications for SMEs.
The 'e-Business Market W@tch' survey in 2003 found that more than a quarter of European companies had broadband connections and over half bought supplies online. On the sales side too, the share of firms conducting more than five per cent of their transactions online was surprisingly strong among SMEs in the retail and tourism sectors. The supplement presents a wide selection of technologies and potential partners with particular interest for the e-business applications of European SMEs. For example, the EU-funded Merci project, profiled in the magazine's section on 'Efficient Business Solutions', has developed a supply-chain management database compatible with a wide range of standards for interoperability, and available for licensing.
A central pullout section profiles EU services that provide support for European SMEs. Readers can keep this as an introductory guide, including contact details, to innovation support providers such as Gate2Growth (links to venture capital) , IPR Helpdesk (intellectual property issues) and the CORDIS service on incubators. The supplement also introduces opportunities for SMEs to participate in EU-funded research projects and programmes. The outgoing EU Commissioner for Research, Philippe Busquin, is quoted in the publication as saying: 'we need very practical [...] measures to help SMEs overcome the difficulties in setting up and participating in European research actions'.
At least 15% of the budget of FP6 for research and development is to be assigned to SMEs, with a total budget of 1700 million euro available in its various thematic priority areas. The supplement's hands-on guide to FP6 and profile of the Detect-IT project indicate just how smaller firms can become directly involved. The offers of usable technology and opportunities for commercial collaboration are taken from the CORDIS Technology Marketplace.
Looking for useful technology or potential business partners:
Results of the European 'e-Business Market W@tch' survey 2003:
8. COMMISSION RESPONDS TO RECOMMENDATIONS ON FP6 INSTRUMENTS:
The European Commission has responded to the recommendations of the high level panel of experts, led by Ramon Marimon, on the new instruments of FP6. In a communication and working document, the Commission reacts to each individual recommendation, often underlining that it is aware of problems and has taken moves to tackle them. The paper also outlines corrective measures planned for the future.
The Commission welcomes one of the panel's main messages - that the objectives of the new instruments (Integrated Projects IP and Networks of Excellence NoE) are valid, and that their design is compatible with the idea of establishing a European Research Area. It is, however, the definition and application of these instruments that has led to dissatisfaction among some quarters of the European research community. The Commission also believes that many of the problems that have arisen are likely to disappear as the research community becomes more familiar with the new instruments. This evaluation was, after all, carried out during the year when the first IPs and NoE were launched.
The Commission's working document starts by re-stating that the new instruments will continue during FP7. This should be welcomed by researchers, who were found by the Marimon panel to covet continuity. Actions will, however, be taken in order to provide further classification of the instruments according to their objectives and specific characteristics. 'The Commission recognises that a clear differentiation of the new instruments according to their specific objectives has not always been made and implemented as clearly as desirable,' states the Commission paper.
'This lack of adequate distinction between the new instruments and between them and traditional instruments, has led to uncertainty with regard to the context, the conditions and the exact objectives with regard to which each of them ought to be used, and this uncertainty has been further exacerbated by the fact that the opening-up of various thematic areas to several instruments could give the impression that these were to a large extent interchangeable,' continues the Commission. In order to address this and other misconceptions, the Commission intends to publish a summary table restating the instruments' specific objectives, expected scope and activities covered by EU funds, as well as the form of Community financing that is applicable and the context in which an instrument is likely to be used.
One recommendation by the expert panel that is rejected entirely by the Commission relates to flexibility and the selection of objectives and instruments. The Marimon report stated: 'The European Commission should specify the portfolio of instruments available and the strategic objectives. Participants on the other hand should define the specific research objectives they will pursue and why this can best be met by the instrument they have chosen.' The Commission claims that this proposal is 'tantamount to calling into question the very principle of the work programmes on which the Union's research programmes are based.' It emphasises that the work programmes are drawn up in collaboration with advisory boards, and claims that giving participants the freedom to define research objectives would lead to a reduction in the effectiveness of EU support for research. This would be the unavoidable result of spreading resources over too many themes, says the Commission. Similarly, leaving participants to use an instrument of their choosing 'would make arbitration between the many proposals very difficult', states the Commission.
Addressing the issues of size and critical mass with regard to the new instruments is, however, accepted by the Commission as necessary. It concedes that there has been confusion among researchers, and re-emphasises that the new instruments should not simply be understood as 'large instruments'. 'The Commission stresses the need to separate the concepts of 'size' (number of partners and volume of resources applied) and 'instrument': a larger size in terms of volume of resources of partnership is only a consequence of the nature of the project and does not suffice to define the instrument,' reads the Commission paper. The Commission highlights how it has made efforts to clarify these issues with the inclusion of a 'read this first' notice in the guide for proposers and the provision of 'good examples' of Networks of Excellence and Integrated Projects.
Furthermore, the Commission pledges to take further action to clear up the misconception that Integrated Projects are simply a larger version of an older instrument, the specific targeted research project, or STREP. Both the Commission and the expert panel recognise that the STREPs remain popular among small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), young research teams and researchers in the new EU Member States. While adamant that the proportion of resources allocated to the new instruments and the older instruments (which favours the former) has been in line with the objective of structuring and integrating the European Research Area (ERA), the Commission does offer the prospect that 'the proportion of financial resources allocated to STREPS could be increased in certain priority thematic areas.' The Commission also pledges to do more to encourage the participation of SMEs in EU research programmes during FP7. The Commission is reluctant to fully embrace the two-step evaluation procedure, as recommended by the Marimon panel. The recommendation was made with a view to reducing costs for participants. However, the Commission's experience of this procedure thus far is that it has led to longer delays in processing the proposals and a significantly increased workload.
The Commission concludes by noting that the recommendations and conclusions from the mid-term evaluation 'bear out to an important extent the observations it has been able to make since the entry into force of the Framework Programme and emphasises that many 'corrective measures' have already been adopted accordingly. The Commission undertakes to continue to implementation of these 'corrective measures' to strengthen them where necessary and to adopt additional measures as and when required.'
9. REDING PLEDGES TO CLOSE THE DIGITAL DIVIDE
'I will be the commissioner for innovation, inclusion and creativity,' said the Commissioner designate for Information Society and Media, Viviane Reding, at her hearing before the Industry, Research and Energy and Culture and Education Committees of the European Parliament on 29 September.
Explaining that addressing inequality of access to information technology - the so called digital divide - was one of her main priorities, Mrs Reding stressed that reducing the European information technology gap will enable the EU to open up markets and bring people closer together. 'Innovation must act as the driving force in the Lisbon process; inclusion will combat the digital divide and strengthen European identity and its cultural diversity, by means of media pluralism that will provide free expression for creativity,' Mrs Reding said at the hearing.
The Commissioner deplored the fact that although an increasing number of Europeans have access to fast Internet connections, the infrastructure remained underused. 'Broadband is available on 80% of the European network but has been taken up by only 7% of users,' she pointed out. 'This discrepancy,' she explained 'can be ascribed to lack of interest, as users do not see why they should use broadband in the absence of services to encourage its use.'
Mrs Reding then encouraged small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to 'be open to new information technology and promote research, otherwise they run the risk of losing out to other world players.' Greater openness to information technologies is the key to conquering new markets, said Mrs Reding, citing the GSM standard for mobile phones as an example of how the EU has been able to stimulate growth by facilitating the setting up of technological standards. 'How many Europeans know that GSM is the culmination of research projects financed by the European Union budget?' she asked.
According to Mrs Reding, Europe must now turn to third-generation mobile telephony: 'We have strong 3G operators and it would be unthinkable for Europe not to benefit from the development of this new standard.' Mrs Reding then pledged to fight the social divide, which develops when demand is curbed by high prices or the inaccessibility of information technology tools, and tends to disadvantage groups such as the elderly and the disabled. 'We can fight this by demystifying new technology, which will bring these groups out of their isolation and offer them services such as distance medical consultation. This is of vital importance in an ageing Europe,' concluded the Commissioner.
10. PARTNER SEARCH FP6:
Title: SEMBUS - The main objective of the proposed project is the definition and development of an advanced open e-Business Framework defined by and intended for SMEs
Project Type: IST - Research Vacancies for Marie Curie fellows
Abstract: The main objective of the proposed project is the definition and development of an advanced open e-Business Framework defined by and intended for SMEs:
- as a support of a reference SME-oriented e-Business model;
- open and interoperable by means of ebXML standards conformance;
- modular due to its distributed Web Services-based architectural conception,
- flexible and adaptable allowing automatic and coordinated execution of electronic transactions on the use of ontologies and semantic components providing "intelligence" to the process.
Title: High Rate Elements of Cryptographic Applications
Project Type: CRAFT
Abstract: For the realisation of Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC) difficult mathematical algorithms and suitable electronic are necessary. There are a lot of publications about ECC realisation in the mathematic literature, but it is difficult to find out which is really practicable with the modern new technical possibilities. The situation is more complicated if the technical possibilities are limited. This is the case with cheap Smart Card (SC) solutions or in the satellite communication.
Title: Call for Ideas in the mobile and wireless domain
Project type: IST - Coordination Action
Abstract: We would like to present MOCCA – The Mobile Cooperation and Coordination Action www.ist-mocca.org. It is the major objective of the MOCCA project to support both national and international R&D projects, starting with a Call for Ideas concerning common issues.
Description of proposal: MOCCA is an FP6 IST project of the European Commission in the area of mobile and wireless that has the following three main areas of work: - Issues of common interest in Europe - User expectations and requirements in developing regions - Improved international collaboration Concerning the first area of work, we will support R&D projects active in the domain of mobile and wireless to cooperate on issues of common interest by offering workshops and setting up and accompanying task forces for the issues identified by the projects in order to enable consensus building activities. The results of the task forces will be reported back to the R&D community, as well as being given to the European Commission as input for the planning of future activities in this area. The aim is to improve mutual understanding between wireless research projects, as well as between wireless technology sectors and application sectors in order to support the capture of requirements. The development of consensus before the start of the standardisation process for future mobile and wireless systems will also benefit. We therefore would like to invite you to participate in the MOCCA Call for Ideas! We kindly ask you to fill-in a short questionnaire you will find under www.ist-mocca.org/questionnaire. There you can let us know which topics in the mobile and wireless domain from your point of view are of common interest, and should be addressed in joint workshops and task forces, as well as in possible future co-operative R&D activities. We will analyze your answers, and organize three workshops for you covering the most relevant issues, seeking a mutual understanding. We will then look for commitment to join dedicated task forces working together over a period of time to progress the identified issues in the interest of the participants. Projects participating in these activities will have access to a broad audience for the early dissemination of their research objectives, ideas and results. You can raise issues and get feedback from other projects, national and international ones. Direct as well as cross-sector insights into the issues that other R&D programmes and projects consider important for the development of the future mobile and wireless world will be available to you. This will grant you the opportunity to voice your opinion on the direction this development should take, including future research activities in Europe.
11. TOPICS IN THE PREVIOUS EU-NEWS (available at the CTIT intranet):
- EU Approves 1.75 Billion Euro programme for IST projects
- Evaluations in the European Research Area
- IST 2004 conference, NL
- Conference best practices in science-based incubators, UK
- Technopolicy tour to Leuven, Belgium
- Marie Curie calls for proposals
- Info-day NEST programme and brokerage event NEST-PATHFINDER, Belgium
- Conference on 'converging sciences', Italy
- Briefing on FP6 financial management, reporting & auditing, Belgium
- RFID Conference, France
- China-Europe networking symposium on research networks
- European venture market 'focus', Germany
- Stepping up economic and technological intelligence - call for proposals
- Public hearings on the future shape of the European patent system
- EU funds innovative European ambient intelligence infrastructure
- Revamp FP6 service on New and Emerging Science and Technology (NEST)
- European Construction Technology Platform to outline vision for 2030
- Network for European researchers in the US to be launched in 2005
- Congres 'Innovation, not stagnation', Germany