Commissioner Erkki Liikanen: "EU-India Opportunities: The IST Programme", 2004 Euro India Co-operation Forum on the Information Society, New Delhi, 25 March 2004

March 26, 2004

The political environment for research In Europe, we want to become a more competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy. To achieve this, we need to focus on European-wide investment in research and on the improvement of innovation and entrepreneurship.

These are all areas which are also priorities for India, and I am pleased to be here to explore possibilities of co-operating in these fields in a spirit of mutual benefit.

In the past, the European Union has had 15 individual national research programmes all with a similar set of priorities. And the EU's Framework Programmes were in effect a 16th programme. This has meant duplication of effort and waste of resources. Additionally, in such a situation it is difficult to set truly "European strategies" in the same way that we would talk about "Indian", "American" or "Japanese" research strategies.

The European Commission therefore proposed in January 2002 the concept of a European Research Area. It consists of the development of a coherent and co-ordinated pursuit of research activities and policies across Europe, and the creation of an area in which researchers and knowledge can move freely.

The main benefits of such a strategy are:

  • First, it makes it possible to establish a 'critical mass' by networking the capacities present in different Member States;

  • Second, it encourages people and teams to look and work beyond their own countries; and thirdly, it helps attract to Europe high quality researchers from the rest of the world, in the same way that American campuses attract researchers today.
The Sixth Framework Programme

But achieving a genuine 'European Research Area' is a joint challenge for the European Union, its Member States, and the research community in general. For the EU, the main challenge is to get the focus right. The present Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) channels its budget into actions and projects designed to build the European Research Area in partnership with Europe's best researchers.

Framework Programme 6 is divided into just two Specific Programmes. The first Programme has two objectives, first, 'integrating' and second, 'strengthening' the European Research Area. The second programme has the objective of 'structuring' the European Research Area.

The research will be focused on specific themes that are strategically important. The themes have been devised in the light of political debate, expert advice, and public consultation. They are not structured from the starting point of traditional research disciplines, but as strategic themes that will be achieved through combinations of scientific disciplines.

The FP6 programme includes the following 7 priority themes:

  • First, life sciences, genomics and biotechnology for health;

  • Second, information Society Technologies (IST), for which I am personally responsible;

  • Third, nanotechnologies and nanosciences;

  • Fourth, aeronautics and space;

  • Fifth, food quality and safety;

  • Sixth, sustainable development, global change, and ecosystems, and

  • Finally, citizens and governance in a knowledge-based society.
IST in the Sixth Framework Programme: Rationale and context

We all agree that to ensure competitiveness requires wider adoption, broader availability and an extension of ICT applications and services in the economy and society. Information and communication technologies are the key underlying technologies for easier and efficient knowledge creation, sharing and exploitation. But to achieve a positive impact on productivity, ICT investment only is not enough. This should be accompanied by restructuring of processes and investment in skills. But of course research is key to developing new technologies for the future which can help ensure productivity and competitiveness in the future.

In a European context, the objective of the IST programmes is to ensure European research in generic and applied technologies that are at the heart of the knowledge economy.

In the future, computers and networks will be integrated into the everyday environment, making a wide range of services and applications possible through easy-to-use human interfaces. This vision of 'ambient intelligence' places the user, the individual, at the centre of future developments for an inclusive knowledge-based society for all.

Europe's support for ICT in FP6 helps mobilise the industrial and research community around high-risk long term goals. It also helps facilitate the aggregation of public and private research efforts on a European scale and also on an international scale through fruitful co-operation.

IST: the structure

The FP6 instruments such as Integrated Projects will enable the integration of various research activities from knowledge generation and technology development to their application and transfer. They provide an opportunity to combine, as appropriate, applied and generic technology research. This will help pull the technology developments with applications and services addressing the socio-economic challenges and will help focus the applied research on the development of relevant innovative technology platforms.

Examples of societal and economic challenges to be addressed are:

  • To address "trust and confidence" issues so as to improve dependability of technologies, infrastructures and applications;

  • To strengthen social cohesion by providing efficient, intelligent and easy-to-use systems for health, transport, inclusion, risk management, environment, learning and cultural heritage.
We also need to push the limits of miniaturisation and minimising the costs and power consumption of microelectronic components and micro-systems. This includes breaking new barriers below the 10 nano-meter.

It also includes the exploration of alternative materials allowing further miniaturisation or organic flexible materials for displays, sensors and actuators so that they can be placed anywhere, even in the human body, and take any shape.

A last example is the need to develop mobile, wireless, optical and broadband communication infrastructures as well as software and computing technologies that are reliable, pervasive, interoperable and can be adapted to accommodate new applications and services. Europe's strengths both in communication technologies and in embedded software and systems provide a clear opportunity to contribute to the development of the next generation of products and services. The development of open standards and open source software will be encouraged when appropriate to ensure interoperability of solutions and to further innovation.

Connecting our researchers

Europe is home to a large and diverse group of academic and scientific researchers. Collectively they produce terabytes of important data every day. This data is crucial to academic research, and often needs to be shared between researchers in different countries.

The European research network GÉANT reaches over 3,000 research and education institutions in over 30 countries through 28 national and regional research and education networks. It provides the highest capacity and offers the greatest geographic coverage of any network of its kind in the world. It allows more data to be stored, transmitted and analysed than ever before. With GÉANT, researchers can make use of advanced network applications and perform cutting-edge projects.

Without high-speed research networks like GÉANT, many research projects at the forefront of their fields would simply not be possible.

GÉANT continues to expand the network both by increasing its transmission speeds and extending its geographic coverage in particular at intercontinental level by connectivity with Latin America, the Mediterranean region and Asia.

During this EURO-INDIA Forum, connectivity between Europe and India will be discussed, and I am confident that EU-India connectivity can be ensured quite rapidly.

EU-INDIA opportunities within the IST Programme

The co-operation between Europe and India in research received a boost with the signature of a Science & Technology Agreement between the EU and the Republic of India in November 2001 in New Delhi on the occasion of the second EU-INDIA summit. This agreement is the foundation for a strong and fruitful co-operation in research between Europe and India.

Further ICT co-operation is a key challenge in the context of the EU-India Joint Working Group on Information Society, jointly chaired by the European Commission and the Indian Ministry of Communication and Information Technology. It is a group which allows for a broad exchange on the three main pillars of the Information Society: research, information society policy and actions and telecommunication regulation.

At the beginning of March, the first EU-India Science & Technology Joint Steering Committee Meeting was held in Brussels with the objective of monitoring progress of the EU-India Co-operation and also of specifying priority areas. Five sectors were highlighted by India: information security, mobile communications, languages technologies, research networks and the migration from IPV4 to IPV6. These topics are also extremely relevant for Europe and the IST Programme covers all these domains.

In most ICT fields, collaboration between European and non EU research teams is essential to ensure exploitation of research results on a global scale and to build interoperable technology solutions. This is of unique value for the competitiveness of European industry and is a means to reach consensus on global critical issues such as security and dependability or the digital divide. It is also of great value to our international partners. So it is a genuine win-win situation.

The Sixth Framework Programme foresees international cooperation in all projects including support to non EU partners from the framework budget, provided that they belong to the categories defined in the Specific Programme. International cooperation is therefore sought in the different objectives and will be also supported in the general accompanying actions.

A specific budget of 90 million Euros has been earmarked for participants from a number of priority countries, India, of course, being one of them.

Mobility of researchers

I would like now to present an area which is, in my opinion, key for successful EU-India Co-operation. Everybody knows of the strong Indian diaspora exists in the US. I think it is now difficult to find a US company in Silicon Valley without an Indian-origin CEO or CTO; a great achievement for India!

In Europe, unfortunately, the Indian diaspora has not had the same presence, partly because of the language diversity, and partly due to difficulties in the area of visas.

How can we change that?

Since the beginning of the Sixth Framework, a new tool exists which should change and improve this situation.

Grants called Marie Curie Incoming International Fellowships, are available to attract top-class researchers from third countries by giving them the opportunity of working and undertaking research in Europe for 1 - 2 years. This is to allow the development of mutually-beneficial research co-operation.

So, any Indian researcher with at least 4 years full-time research experience or a doctorate and wishing to spend a period working in Europe can apply. Proposals from all areas of scientific and technological research of interest to the EU are welcome.

There are also Marie Curie Outgoing International Fellowships. These are fellowships allowing European researchers to work abroad for 1 - 2 years This would allow European researchers to work in India for 2 years.

Finally, we have also just taken measures to facilitate admission of non-EU citizens into the EU to carry out research. Our concrete proposal will be discussed with our Member States in the near future. The main objective is of course to remove unnecessary red tape and to pave the way for the free flow of researchers between our respective regions.

The road ahead

Two IST calls will be published this year. The next call will be open on 22 May 2004 and will close on 22 September 2004. The content of this call is not yet fully defined but should contain an emphasis on International Co-operation. I encourage you to look at our web site [www.cordis.lu/ist] on which all relevant information can be found.

Until now, only one Indian organisation participated successfully to the IST Programme under FP6. I think we can do much better, taking into account India's outstanding strengths in information and communication technologies.

We are discussing today, in the EU-India Working Group on Information Society, concrete actions to be planned to improve this situation.

It is crucial that we work together to address the technology challenges of the future. Our regions have proud traditions in research excellence. Combining our efforts and complementing each other would be a great achievement and would be of mutual benefit.

I sincerely hope that the 2004 Euro-India Forum can act as a seed and that it will stimulate our co-operation and increase Indian participation in our research programmes.

Thank you for your attention.

DN: SPEECH/04/151 Date: 25/03/2004

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