Mr Erkki Liikanen: "GÉANT - the benefits of Europe's Broadband Research Network", Global Research Network Summit and GÉANT Commissioning event, Brussels, 22 May 2002

May 24, 2002

Brussels, 22 May 2002

Ladies and gentlemen,

It gives me particular pleasure to close this event, and to send you away from here with a sense of the immense contribution that GÉANT - and research networking in general - are making to the realisation of a knowledge-based society in Europe.

Indeed, your efforts are spearheading the implementation of the long-term strategic goals established by the European Heads of State two years ago in Lisbon, and which have recently been reinforced by the Barcelona Summit last March.

GÉANT and research networking benefit also from a strong support of key Members of the European Parliament, and from increasingly close collaboration with other research networking initiatives around the world.

Your evident success in deploying and making effective use of broadband Internet technologies is driving forward the more widespread commercial applications that must soon follow.

GÉANT & Lisbon strategy

As you know, one of the main policy initiatives reflecting the determination of Europe to play a leading role in the emerging Knowledge Economy and Society is eEurope.

It is based on the political priorities established by the Heads of European States, during the Lisbon Summit, in 2000.

The present eEurope 2002 Action Plan has achieved very good results, and is having a marked impact on the development of Information Society in Europe.

Since the launching of the action plan in spring 2000:

The decision-making process has accelerated in areas such as telecommunications and e-commerce regulation, pan-European Research Networks, information and network security.

Progress achieved at EU and national level has been monitored and cross-compared through the establishment of a number of new benchmarking indicators.

Internet has been brought to the top of the political agenda in Europe. In this context, the rapid implementation of the GÉANT backbone network at 10 Giga Bits per second has been a major achievement in support of the eEurope actions, especially in terms of achieving a faster Internet for researchers.

The innovative characteristics of GÉANT and the synergies being exploited through complementary research actions on IPv6, GRIDs and Optical Networks constitute at present major successes on which further actions may now be built.

IST research projects are playing a major role in pioneering and validating the technologies required to increase the competitiveness of Europe. This is the case with IPv6, a technology that is crucial for stimulating the widespread use of Internet across Europe and for the development of 3G mobile communications.

It is also the case with the GRIDs concept: middle-ware that can effectively harness computing and data resources available anywhere in the world- and make them seamlessly accessible as a single resource for any user on the network.

GÉANT - supported by the IST programme - has emerged as a powerful catalyst. It is a key building block for the deployment of the Next Generation Internet in Europe.

Yet it is already an essential infrastructure that supports all other fields of collaborative research. As such, GÉANT is considered by all European Institutions to be of paramount importance for the practical realisation of a European Research Area, of which the Community's 6th RTD Framework programme is a major component.

Future orientations following from the Barcelona summit

If Lisbon was the beginning of Europe's push towards a knowledge-based society, the recent Barcelona Summit, in March 2002, has set out the areas in which further progress is still needed.

Continuation of eEurope

In Barcelona, the EU Heads of State called on the Commission to develop a comprehensive eEurope Action Plan for 2005, to be presented in time for the next European Council in Seville in June.

The focus of this new initiative is to be on users, making it immediately clear that we consider the development of services, applications and content to be crucial.

Consequently, on May 28th, the Commission is due to propose the 2005 Action Plan, planned to be focused on five core priorities on which Member State governments are to be asked to take initiatives:

First, the promotion of content, services and applications, introducing for example value added services based upon the re-use of public sector information.

Second, the provision of interactive public services on-line, promoting gains in productivity while ensuring equity.

Third, the reinforcement of digital inclusiveness in all its aspects, individual, social, geographical, in education and in training.

Fourth, the promotion of broadband Internet access which will need to be in place to ease the widespread deployment of resource-intensive services such as telemedicine or virtual research done in remote laboratories.

Fifth, the building up of an acceptable level of trust and confidence in cyberspace. New Impetus for Research

During that same Summit in Barcelona last March, the European Council recognised the need to progressively increase overall levels of expenditure in Europe on research, development and innovation, and set themselves the target of 3% of GDP by 2010.

Given such determination in Europe to establish, maintain or reinforce leadership in key Research fields, a continuous and more vigorous upgrading of the underlying research infrastructure is required. This should utilise the latest state-of-the-art technology, which is often not yet commercialised on a large scale.

Member States and the European Parliament have recognised the value and strategic importance of recent improvements in research infrastructure. In the 6th RTD Framework Programme therefore, topics related to Research Networks are to receive double the funding that was allocated to them in 5th Framework Programme.

Four inter-linked objectives are sought through this increase:

First, the reinforcement of the broadband communications networks for researchers, attaining the 100 Giga bits per second and moving towards terabits.

Secondly, inter-linking of European research infrastructure with similar infrastructures in other parts of the world, ensuring a coherent global approach.

Thirdly, the development of high performance GRIDs to support the establishment of European virtual co-laboratories. These will considerably increase the use of distributed computing and networking facilities, and so make powerful computer resources more accessible to multiple scientific communities.

And finally, the promotion of large-scale experimentation on next generation networks, aiming to keep research-networking infrastructure at the forefront of available technology.

Such research objectives demand an ambitious vision and a reinforced commitment from the stakeholders, which events like this meeting of today can help to stimulate.

Strategic importance of co-operation on a global scale

It is very rewarding to see here, the levels of co-operation actually being achieved amongst you.

Though you each have your own specific initiatives and sources of support, you share a common commitment to the development of research networks that is fully in line with our own eEurope objectives. I am referring here to Member States acting through their different local, regional and national funding authorities, the European Institutions, the National Research and Education Networks, the Industry, the Operators, the Service and Content Providers and the Research Community at large.

Co-operation amongst National Research and Education Networks has also another interesting dimension in Europe, in that it brings together, in a single initiative, not just the EU Member States but also all of the Associated countries.

As a consequence, GÉANT has interconnected since its inception some 32 countries in Europe, and is therefore a little ahead of our broader political integration.

This illustrates why Research Networking has acquired in recent years, an added political significance as an instrument facilitating co-operation and convergence, and so helping to implement a wide range of policies:

Research Networks are a tool for research, and constitute a key component of the European Research Area. They bring together Researchers from all regions of Europe, softening disparities and easing access to sources of information and processing power.

Research Networks are a driver for innovation: They support thousands of on-line Researchers that are seen to be the "avant-guard" of the Internet, pushing available technology to its limits.

Research Networks are a benchmark for deregulation in Europe, as they promote competition for broadband infrastructures and services that will ultimately be provided commercially in the future.

And finally Research Networks are, as we are experiencing right now, a means to strengthen co-operation with other regions of the world. The Commission has a coherent strategy for promoting the global perspective of Research Networks, through combinations of its Research and International Co-operation initiatives.

Several initiatives have already been launched by the Information Society DG and its IST programme, in co-operation with the External Relations DG and EuropAid, to reinforce the linkage between Researchers in Europe and those in other parts of the world.

This is the case with Programmes such as:

EUMEDIS, regarding the Mediterranean rim

Trans Eurasia Information Network, regarding the ASEM Asia rim

NeDAP, the Nordic eDimension Initiative, regarding the North Western part of Russia.

ALIS, regarding Latin America.


Ladies and Gentleman, I am delighted to have had this opportunity to share with you today, our vision for the development of a Knowledge Society in Europe. Initiatives such as GÉANT can play a major role in creating the necessary basis for attaining the Union's longer-term objectives.

I consider myself fortunate to enjoy not only the strongest levels of political support from the European Council and from Parliament, but also your own strong support and your clear successes, in upgrading and using the research networking facilities of Europe.

I want you to be in no doubt of the great significance we attach to your own contributions to realising our vision for a knowledge-based society in Europe.

As clearly shown by the Barcelona Summit, your collective achievements have raised even further our objectives and expectations regarding the future.

Indeed, Research Networks are firmly established as a strategic investment for Europe, and will provide a strong basis for attaining the targets being established for eEurope Action Plan for 2005.

I am confident that by working together, and together with our international partners, we will be able to meet these expectations. Jointly, let us work to put in place the basis on which we can build-up a knowledge-based society spanning not just Europe, but ultimately across the continents.

I thank you for your attention.

DN: SPEECH/02/221 Date: 23/05/2002

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