A new one billion euro Eureka cluster project has been established, bringing together the biggest names in telecommunications in order to safeguard Europe's leadership in the sector. The CELTIC cluster was launched on 23 October, and its founding members include Alcatel, BT, Ericsson, France Télécom, Nokia and Telecom Italia. The cluster is also open to other large companies, small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), research institutes and universities. Jean-Paul Jacamon, chair of the Eureka high-level group, said: 'Telecommunications is already top of the list for investment in innovation as one of Europe's most strategically important sectors and a key business enabler and employer. The fact that it is battling a business downturn [...] has, however, prompted the urgent initiation of this new Eureka cluster project.' The one billion euro budget that has been allocated for 2004 to 2008 will be spent on advanced research projects that address challenges such as the convergence of technologies and the development of new business models and services. Up to 50 per cent of the funding will come from governments, and the rest from private investments. Projects will take a short to medium term perspective, and the first initiatives under the CELTIC cluster are expected to start in March 2004.