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Find the most recent information on EU Funding activities in the field of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) by visiting our ICT in FP7 website , which covers ICT in the 7 th Framework Programme (FP7) 2007 - 2013.

The first IST call in FP6

One Billion Euro to strengthen Europe's role in shaping the future of ICT and its impact on society and economy

Bringing Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) closer to people's needs, making it easier to use by everyone and strengthening Europe's industrial competitiveness : These are the challenges of the IST priority in the Community's 6th Framework Programme for research and development. The aim is to make all European citizens and businesses benefit from the advantages that progress in ICT can bring and to reinforce Europe's role in shaping the development of the technology and its applications.

To do so, the European approach to ICT development is simple: Put the user, people and businesses, at the centre of future developments of ICT and build on Europe's strengths in areas such as mobile and wireless systems, consumer electronics and micro and nano electronics and systems. This has to be done while seizing also new opportunities like those emerging with the new means of interacting with technologies using all our senses or by making "computing a utility" like electricity, and through using new materials that can be integrated in all objects and artefacts. Although the approach is simple, it requires a sustained research effort.

The Information Society Technologies (IST) priority is one of the seven priority themes of the EU sixth Framework Programme for research and development (FP6). It has a total budget of 3.6 B€ over four years and supports research in information and communication technologies and their applications.

Funding is provided to collaborative research projects following calls for proposals. The IST Work Programme structures the content of the calls into a set of Strategic Objectives.

The first IST call was launched in December 2002 and had a deadline in April 2003. The call attracted 1400 proposals requesting 6.2 B€ . The budget available for the call was 1.07 B€ . Selected projects are expected to be launched in the autumn 2003.

The Commission has just finalised the evaluation of proposals submitted to the first call for proposals to the IST priority. With the help of external experts, 236 projects were selected out of 1400 submitted. These will receive above 1 B€ of funding and are expected to start the work in the coming 2-3 months.

A key feature of the selection is the unprecedented concentration of efforts and building up of critical mass to address the target objectives .

The projects will bring together private and public organisations, and industry and research around shared goals and roadmaps with substantially increased contributions and partnerships. Each project is now integrating five times as many resources as did projects under previous Framework Programmes . Now, in a typical integrated project, more than 25 partners receive almost 10 M€ for a period of 2-4 years to which they add an equivalent amount as the Community funds only 50% of the costs.

Bringing ICT closer to people needs

Bringing technology closer to people's needs means that the new wave of ICT, the related infrastructures and applications and services, will address today's key societal challenges . This is why more than 165 M€ in the first Call are devoted to research applying ICT to areas like health and transport. They include:

  • Support for better health and social care for an ageing population : Projects will work, for instance, to equip citizens with 'biomedical/functional' clothes, integrating textile sensors, to fight cardio-vascular diseases. Others will address the remote monitoring of patients' well being.
  • Improvement of the safety of the car, its driver and other road users through on-board assistance systems that sense the nature and the significance of imminent dangers and provide interfaces and interactions tailored to the driving context.

Making every citizen and business benefit from ICT

Making every citizen and business benefit from ICT is also about embedding technology, in a seamless way, in our every day life and in our work environment . It is about supporting new business models that enable new value creation across organisations.

  • At home , new technology is expected to provide us with more options for entertainment and social interaction, and it gives us the choice to reconnect to work and new learning schemes. More than 75 M€ have been committed to work on access to streamed and stored audio-visual media, on interoperability between home platforms and on their integration with global networks. 85 M€ are earmarked to work on experiential and contextualised learning and access to repositories of European culture, history and science.
  • At work , new platforms allow companies to better manage customer relations, to dynamically establish business constellations according to market demands, and to track goods in real time with intelligent tagging systems. The Call dedicates more than 90 M€ to come up with solutions that allow organisations to network with each other and with their customers. This includes e Government applications to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of administrations and make them closer to the citizens.
  • For individuals and businesses to be confident in using the technology, it has to be secure, safe and dependable. This is not totally the case today with our emails overwhelmed by undesired messages and software viruses circulating on the net. A lot of research work is ongoing to remove these barriers for ICT wider expansion and adoption. The first IST call is devoting more than 70 M€ to research into new cryptography tools and Key Distribution infrastructures and identification systems including biometrics. It also addresses ICT for security with applications like passport controls and justice processes.

Strengthening and establishing European leadership

Applying the technology and building platforms for home and work is far from being sufficient. Research into the basic technologies and their integration into components and systems are also essential . Today's Web, Internet or mobile networks and devices will be challenged with more user-centred technologies which are context-aware and able to dynamically adapt. Projects in the first IST call address technology progress along the following five main tracks:

  • Miniaturisation down to the nano-scale : The race to ever smaller and more integrated electronic components is not "just for fun". The advantages are enormous in terms of performance and costs of ICT products and services in all application fields. This is the research that is taking us from the micro to the nano scale and from silicon-based to new materials. Almost 90 M€ are allocated to projects in micro and nano electronics, mainly for the further miniaturisation of silicon chips. The strong industrial involvement together with Europe's leading research labs reflects the importance of collaboration at European level to succeed in the race to "nano".
  • Multiple functionalities at the micro and nano-scale : In addition to components for computing and communication, technology enables us to integrate sensing, actuating and other functions on chips at the micro and nano-scale. This is the field of Microsystems in which Europe has a clear strength. Latest application fields include wireless tags in retail and logistics but an expanse of new opportunities is ahead of us in this field. Applications span from health to environment to security and civil protection. Around 100 M€ are devoted to this field in the first call with strong presence of industry and mainly SMEs.
  • Wireless everywhere... : Mobile and wireless systems is the area receiving the largest support with an allocation of more than 105 M€ . In addition to building the technologies and enabling the services that will accelerate the wider roll out of 3G networks, projects will also explore what comes next. They will also seek to position Europe in all emerging fields of wireless technologies such as wireless LANs. Experts tend to agree that the next decade is the "wireless decade". Europe can not miss this opportunity to strengthen its leadership in this field.
    New wireless systems will offer full multimedia capability on the move, personalised services, seamless access across heterogeneous networks, and increased security and Quality of Service. Location and timing aware services will be based on user-defined preferences and they will be globally portable.
  • ... and broader band for all : 85 M€ are devoted to the technologies that will bring broadband to every home and every business. This includes re-configurable systems, networks and terminals and cross-domain end-to-end network management ensuring secure delivery of dynamic content to any device. With features and functionalities like these in place we can look forward to be optimally connected - anywhere, anytime - with access to any service from any device.
  • Context awareness and multi sensorial interactions, adding more "intelligence" : Most visible in the above examples of health and transport applications are the 'smart' shirt and the 'intelligent' symbols in the dashboards, for which new multi-modal interfaces and advanced interaction techniques need to be built. Interfaces and interaction are supported with 75 M€ of projects. In addition to that, more than 65 M€ are devoted to semantic Web and context based knowledge handling. This will enable the development of far more "intelligent" search engines and knowledge sharing tools that are based on content and context.
  • These projects will help make technology almost invisible and hide, from the user, what is behind the scene i.e. complex IT systems, communication networks, knowledge bases, chips, microsystems and sensors that play together to provide a constant awareness - of the patient and the driver and his or her capabilities - and of the context. The 'smartness', or 'intelligence', is judged on how well the system reacts and adapts in anticipation of user needs and context.

Exploring what is at the frontier of knowledge

Beyond what is currently foreseen in the next 5 to 10 years, there are new paradigms and concepts to be explored and that will become the mainstream research themes of tomorrow . This is what the Future and Emerging technologies field in the IST priority is aiming at. More than 60 M€ are devoted to areas like "complex systems", "beyond robotics" and "the disappearing computer". The selected projects will explore what is at the frontier of knowledge today and what is at the convergence of various disciplines, notably the bioano-cogno world. Selected work on complex systems will be key to understanding very large heterogeneous evolvable systems such as communication networks, ecosystems, transportation systems, organisations etc.; studying and taking inspiration from living organisms and social systems holds promise for new paradigms in artificial perception, cognition, intelligence and in the construction of self-regulating, robust IT systems.

Building the research infrastructure

FP6 also supports the provision of computer and communications infrastructures of the highest quality and performance to Europe's researchers. Projects in the first Call for such research infrastructures will pave the way towards the pioneering deployment of pan-European Grid-empowered e-Infrastructures. They will provide a new impetus to the establishment of virtual communities of researchers in various fields of research. Selected projects will build the largest international Grid infrastructure with the combined capacity of over 20.000 CPU's federating 70 institutions in 20 countries as well as by deploying an European distributed terascale supercomputing facility.

What will make it happen: Concentration, critical mass and building on private and public effort

The investment of more than 1 B€ from the Framework Programme promises to deliver considerable progress towards the key objectives of the IST priority in FP6. With a large project participation from private organisations, the total investment includes a part of the more than 20 B€ that the private sector spends every year on ICT research. The EU funding also triggers part of the 7-8 B€ that is spent on ICT research across the Union by public finances .

There is a noticeable increase in visible links to public national and multinational research programmes and initiatives and to on-going trials and deployment actions. Close interactions and synergies are embedded in the selected projects and, in some cases, it is shown how the EU funding acts as a catalyst of diverse funds and/or how the European funding integrates into an overall investment plan.

It is clear today that beyond the downturns and upturns in business cycles, we are still far from taking full advantage of the opportunities that advances in ICT will offer to the society and economy. It is always in times when progress in ICT seems to be saturating that innovation and breakthroughs emerge. Today these are emerging on the foundations of today's Web, Internet and mobile devices. And Europe needs to be well positioned to shape these innovations and make the best use of them. The first IST call contributes to achieving this and helps bring the pieces of the European ICT research puzzle together.

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