Report sets out recommendations for ICT research in Europe

Further action is needed to facilitate the transformation of information and communication technologies (ICT)  research into 'value for the economy and society', a new report has suggested.

Published by the information society technologies advisory group 'Research results exploitation' identifies a number of barriers currently preventing the full exploitation of ICT research results in Europe. It goes on to list several measures that could be implemented at Community level – particularly in the context of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6)  – to overcome these barriers.

One barrier highlighted by the report is the missing 'system' layer in ICT research. Given the speed at which ICT products and services are developing and combining with other disciplines, the report claims that 'more than ever, research needs to be embedded as early as possible in a full value chain development in order to enable the mastering of an increasingly complex chain of technologies and business channels.' The report suggests that to fully benefit from the impact of such technologies, they should be integrated into platforms and environments on which high value applications, products and systems can be built.

However, such research is generally lacking in Europe, be it in the Framework Programme or at national level, the report claims. To bridge the gap, a more integrated and cross disciplinary approach should be taken. 'The new instruments in FP6 provide a means to address this problem provided that such research is clearly called for in the work programme,' the report states, adding that there is also a need to revise the first and last round of the project evaluation process so that it focuses on the strategic merits of a proposal.

Another major hurdle identified in the report is the lack of open standards or the presence of too many standards, combined with inappropriate licensing schemes in many ICT sectors. 'If lessons from the past show that […]  government imposed standards were not always successful in ensuring business developments, no standards or only proprietary de facto standards are hindering business developments and innovation in many new ICT sectors,' claims the report.

However, the report suggests that there is an easy solution to this problem: consensus building. 'Europe can further capitalise on the capacity of its industry to build consensus around common objectives and approaches that provide win-win situations for providers across the supply chain, for customers and consumers.' Although no one method exists for building consensus around open standards developments, the report notes that: 'What is clear though is that by bringing the different actors together and helping the building of shared ambitions and goals across industry, academia and public authorities, success is highly possible.'

In terms of better exploiting human resources in the ICT sector, the report underlines the need to promote even more the exchange and mix of people and skills across industries and academia. Although intensive efforts have been deployed in the last ten years to develop closer links in Europe between industrial and academic research, the report claims that further efforts are still needed to reach shared research objectives and approaches. This could be achieved, notes the report, by developing 'on-campus industry-academia research labs', making better use of Marie Curie fellowships, and fully exploiting other funding schemes of the Community which support researchers.

Other recommendations made by the report include the redirecting and better use of public investments in ICT; fostering a culture of risk taking and entrepreneurship in the sector; and recognising and responding to consumers' needs.

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