| he substance of the debates at IST 2000 - which drew more than 3,000 delegates from over 70 countries to Nice - took place in four parallel strands. These dealt both with applications, including participative democracy, education, health, transport, e-commerce, the workplace, the environment, crime, international co-operation and more, and with specific technologies such as imaging, broadband, micro-optical networks and security. |
In addition to the 20 winners of the IST prize (see 'Megabits and Megabucks'), a further 70 projects from the IST programme mounted stands at the event, grouped into four clusters:
- 'E-economy for all' covered the workplace and security as well as e-commerce
- 'Technology for all' included nanotechnology and robotics
- 'Vision for all' addressed interactive entertainment and multimedia
- 'Open access for all' dealt with health, accessibility, education and administration
A French pavilion displayed a further 30 projects, while international participation included stands from Brazil, Canada, Australia, Israel, South Africa and China, as well as from the EU accession countries. Transnational organisations such as Eureka, TEN-Telecom, the International Telecommunications Union, and Commission services such as the Intellectual Property Rights and LIFT (innovation financing) Helpdesks, were also presented.
EUROPEAN IST PRIZE
Megabits and Megabucks
The European IST Prize is designed to stimulate competition and give the very best new ideas a flying start. IST 2000 saw the announcement of the three 2001 European IST Grand Prize winners.
This prestigious contest, worth a total of 700,000 each year, is open to information technology products created in any of the 31 participating countries. This year, there were 200 applications from 26 countries. The 20 shortlisted projects each won 5,000 and the chance to compete for one of three grand prizes of
"Our criteria are technical excellence, innovative content, market potential, job-creating capacity and social benefit," says Alain Mongon of Eurocase, the non-profit association which runs the contest. "The quality is improving each year, so winning is becoming more difficult." Karl-Heinz Robrock of the European Commission points out that through the Prize the IST programme gives recognition to groundbreaking innovative products in the IST domain irrespective of whether these result from the Programme's direct support for RTD and Demonstration projects. "Large and small firms are involved, but around 80% of applicants are SMEs," he adds.
Digging for gold
Medical applications won two of this year's three Grand Prizes - a portable three-dimensional ultrasound scanner for third-world use and a 'flight simulator' for surgeons.
The third went to Mine-It, a young Belfast company that has developed a valuable marketing tool for electronic business people. Website owners can use Easy Miner to build up a picture of how people use their site. It can tell them how many people visit which pages, for how long, and in which order. By analysing usage patterns, internet marketers can work out how to design more attractive and effective sites.
"Lots of sites actually deter purchases, and 80% of electronic purchases fail," claims Maurice Mulkenny, Chief Executive of Easy Miner. "The product is based on artificial intelligence and data-mining technologies, and the marketing innovation is to wrap these in an easy-to-use wizard-driven interface. The idea is that you should not need a PhD in statistics to use it."
Mine-It grew out of the MIMIC project, a European collaboration between France, Britain and Ireland. Mulkenny himself was a lecturer at the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland, and created the spin-off company in late 1998. Mine-It now has 20 employees and plans to have 50 in six months. "We expect the publicity to be worth millions of euros to us," he says.