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Call for a Certification Service Provider for electronic signatures for the Community Research Programmes open procedure, 25 August 1998

When the EU's Fifth RTD Framework Programme gets under way in the next few months, research consortia will be able to submit formal proposals electronically for the first time. Technological developments mean that the Commission is now working towards a system where proposers will be able to submit their proposals electronically in response to all calls. This will make processing and evaluating the large numbers of proposals received more efficient and, above all, quicker. Of course, many will prefer to submit their proposals on paper as before, and this will continue to be possible, without incurring any disadvantage.

The Commission has launched an invitation to tender for a certification service provider who would be responsible for the provision and verification of electronic signatures to be used for electronic proposals. Ensuring the authenticity of proposals is vital if electronic submission is to become accepted for formal proposals. The main tasks to be carried out by the contractor will be issuing, revoking, suspending and amending certificates, issuing and managing certification practice statements and related registration tasks.

It should be noted that these services will be required for two types of calls: continuously open calls and regular targeted calls, published on fixed dates with closing dates normally within three months of publication. The contractor will therefore have to cope with varying workloads at different times of the year, with the need to ensure efficient processing of proposals at all times. As electronic submission will be an alternative and not a replacement for traditional paper submission, there is no way to predict accurately the volume of proposals likely to be submitted electronically. As a guide, the total number of proposals submitted during the first two years of the Fourth Framework Programme was around 50,000, of which about half were for training grants (Marie Curie Fellowships).

The contract with the certification service provider will initially be concluded for 12 months, and should be signed in December 1998. This contract may be renewed three times for further 12-month periods.

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