Brussels, 06 Oct 2003
More must be done to involve small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in the IST priority of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6), according to the EU Commissioner for Enterprise and the Information Society, Erkki Liikanen.
During a press conference at the IST 2003 event in Milan on 2 October, Mr Liikanen said that whilst SME involvement in the information society technologies programme was above 15 per cent, changes to FP6 designed to increase the impact of Community research had made it harder for smaller companies to participate.
'Therefore, a third corrective IST call will be published in 2004 that will concentrate on SME participation, as well as international cooperation, in order to redress some of the imbalances from the first two calls,' the Commissioner announced.
Mr Liikanen stressed that despite such challenges, the new FP6 instruments had proved successful, with the average budget of FP6 Integrated Projects five to six times higher than projects under previous Framework Programmes. The new instruments, he said, 'have enabled a higher concentration and integration of the allocated resources'.
The theme for the IST 2003 event was 'the opportunities ahead', and Italy's Minister for Innovation and Technology, Lucio Stanca, used his speech to stress the importance of having the systems and resources in place to take advantage of such opportunities when they arise.
'The overall target for Europe is long term and sustainable growth. Such growth is driven by knowledge, technology, research and markets, which are all links in the same chain, and must all be properly maintained,' he said.
The future development of the information society would depend on Europe's capacity to absorb innovation, added Mr Stanca. 'Europe's citizens must be better educated and better trained. We must also attract international innovators to Europe, creating a 'brain surplus' as opposed to a 'brain drain', which requires us to stimulate international mobility.'
Commissioner Liikanen echoed the need for preparedness in his address to the conference. 'In the ICT field, it seems that new innovations and breakthroughs have emerged in periods of crisis,' he said, citing the spread of the PC following the downturn of the 1980s, and the emergence of the Internet and mobile phone a decade later.
'This means that a new wave of innovations is probably under way and we should ensure that Europe is well positioned to shape it and to exploit it,' he said. The Commissioner expressed his belief that this would be achieved through the contribution of the Framework Programmes, and the development of technology platforms, which would 'help to build a coherent approach for each sector that efficiently combines research, deployment and regulatory measures.'
Finally, the Commissioner highlighted the achievements of some third countries as examples of the targets the EU should set for itself. Europe should try and emulate the rapid implementation of broadband seen in South Korea, he said, and in order to reduce the gap in productivity between the EU and US, Europe would have to undertake the same business process reengineering that has delivered such benefits to the American economy. To read Mr Liikanen's opening speech at the IST 2003 event (in English), please: click here