Esprit , the information technologies (IT) programme, is an integrated programme of industrial R&D projects and technology take-up measures. It is managed by DG III , the Directorate General for Industry of the European Commission .
Information technologies are critically important for the competitiveness of all industries, both goods and services: IT is used in the design and manufacture of products, is incorporated into the products themselves, and underpins the way companies do business. Both multinational corporations and SMEs alike need IT to operate effectively in the global marketplace. Success for Europe depends, therefore, on the timely take-up of IT by European industry in general, and on Europe's IT industries providing appropriate products and services. It is for this reason that Esprit integrates R&D and take-up actions into a single programme - thereby facilitating the user-supplier collaborations that stimulate innovation.
Framework programmes set the overall aims and priorities for the EU's R&D activities and define the content of the work in broad terms. They support the EU's policies for improving competitiveness, growth and employment.
"Specific" programmes - of which Esprit is one - define the more detailed basis for R&D in a particular technological area. Esprit works in close cooperation with other specific programmes, particularly ACTS (telecommunications), IMT (industrial and materials technologies) and Telematics Applications .
The R&D that each specific programme will support is described in a " work-programme ". Esprit's is a so-called rolling work-programme, adapted each year, after extensive consultation, to take account of industry's changing priorities, and contains descriptions of the tasks to be undertaken. Calls for proposals - notices published in the Official Journal of the European Communities - invite proposals from consortia of interested parties for carrying out the work specified. Proposals are then evaluated by independent evaluators from EU and EEA countries against criteria published in an information package . The best proposals are then selected for funding.
A condition of most industrial R&D projects is that they bring together companies and research institutions from at least two EU/EEA countries. The industrial partners have half their costs met via the Framework Programme budget ; the research institutions have all their marginal costs (costs incurred specifically from participating in a project) covered. There are many opportunities for organisations from other countries to participate, and Esprit particularly favours the involvement of researchers from Central Europe and the Baltics , the Mediterranean region, and the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union (NIS).
Esprit focuses on eight intertwined areas of research:
Long-Term Research aims to ensure that, at any one time, the potential for the next wave of industrial innovation is maintained and that the expertise underpinning European information technology R&D is replenished in those areas where it is most needed. This area is open for new ideas and people, responsive to industrial needs, and proactive with respect to technologies that will shape future markets.
A further three areas deal with underpinning technologies:
Software Technologies aims to maintain a strong base of high quality and relevant skills and key technologies within all sectors of the European economy for which software development forms an important component of business activity.
Technologies for Components and Subsystems concerns the development and broad exploitation of a wide range of microelectronics solutions for electronic systems. Work encompasses equipment, materials and processes used in manufacturing semiconductors, through to electronic design tools, packaging and interconnect solutions. The area includes work on peripheral subsystems such as storage and displays, and work on microsystems.
Multimedia Systems encourages the development of the technologies and tools necessary for industry to implement multimedia end-user systems.
The other four areas are " focused clusters " - sets of projects and complementary measures combined and managed in order to achieve particular research and industrial objectives:
The Open Microprocessor Systems Initiative , or OMI, pioneered the focused cluster approach during the previous phase of Esprit. Its strategic goal is to provide Europe with a recognised capability in microprocessor and microcontroller systems, and to promote their world-wide use.
The High-Performance Computing and Networking cluster puts great emphasis on areas which are only now nearing wide applicability, such as the use of parallel systems for the substitution of simulation for experimentation and testing, and for large-scale data and image manipulation.
Technologies for Business Processes aims to support the change and transformation of enterprises to take best advantage of information technologies, business process re-engineering and human resources. The two main themes are business best practice pilots and enterprise systems integration, and the domain also includes the rapidly emerging field of electronic commerce .
Integration in Manufacturing aims, through the development of new IT solutions, to accelerate and enhance the ability of European manufacturing industry to capitalise on the emergence of a powerful global information infrastructure.
A significant part of the programme is devoted to measures designed to increase interaction between users and developers, disseminate results more widely, build trial applications, and boost product and process adoption in the market. In the current programme, these complementary measures represent around 20% of overall funding. Best practice, take-up and "first user" actions play a particularly significant role:
About 40% of the organisations participating in Esprit projects are user industry enterprises. In total, 65% of participants are industrial companies. Looking at it another way, approximately one-third of participants are SMEs, one-third large companies, and one-third research institutes and universities. User-supplier collaborations, often with large companies as users and SMEs as suppliers, are growing. This form of cooperation, which is likely to be particularly effective at generating innovation and creating jobs, is actively pursued in the programme. Specific measures are taken to encourage participation by SMEs, including exploratory awards and two-stage evaluations, with the main thrust in Esprit being to bring SMEs in as mainstream partners, employing user-supplier collaborations as a particularly effective way of achieving this.
As Esprit is focused on the requirements of industry, the selection of topics and tasks in the work-programme must be based on continuous dialogue and engagement with the users and suppliers of information technology.
This is achieved in a variety of ways, involving:
Slides in Powerpoint . If you don't have PowerPoint, read about and download Microsoft's PowerPoint Viewer version '97 .
For most organisations the completion of an Esprit project is only the first step towards commercialising their work. The hurdles that then face them can be formidable: finance, legislation, marketing and distribution all need to be addressed. Experience shows that social contacts, or networking, is a key factor in overcoming these barriers. Networking brings information technology providers into contact with systems developers, equipment manufacturers, venture capitalists, technology brokers and end-users - any or all of whom can provide what is needed to bring a result to market. Such networking helps bridge the gap between research and the marketplace, and so helps turn innovation into business.
Esprit's PROSOMA service has been launched on this basis to help industry benefit from the many successes achieved in the programme. PROSOMA helps companies looking for innovative IT solutions to identify relevant Esprit R&D results by making professionally produced, multimedia presentations of these results available on CD-ROM and via the World-Wide Web. It also enables businesses to learn from the experiences of others in taking up and making use of information technologies. Each presentation may be linked to the website of the company concerned, providing searchers with useful background information and putting the results into context with the company's other products and services. There are also connections to the CORDIS dissemination service.
To gain the full benefit of what the service can offer, access the website at http://www.prosoma.lu on the Web. To take full advantage of the service, ask for the current version of the CD-ROM, free of charge, by e-mailing a request, with your name and address, to (E-mail removed)
Esprit Information Desk
rue de la Loi 200 Wetstraat
The URL of this page is /esprit/src/intro.htm
It is was last updated on 28 February 1997, and is maintained by Steve Rogers - (E-mail removed)