The enthusiastic response to the first call for proposals of the new Information Technologies (IT) programme of the Fourth Framework Programme demonstrates Europe's strong R&D activity in the field of information technologies, a necessary step for the transition to the information society. Over 900 proposals were received, as follows: - 161 proposals for software technologies (ST); - 181 for technologies for components and subsystems (TCS); - 92 for multimedia systems (MMS); - 131 for long-term research (LTR); - 52 for the open microprocessor systems initiative (OMI); - 111 for high performance computing and networking (HPCN); - 88 for technologies for business processes (TBP); - 93 for integration in manufacturing (IiM). The total funds allocated to this first call are ECU 322 million. The IT programme is one of the specific programmes of the Fourth Framework Programme for research and technological development and demonstration (1994-1998). It has a budget of nearly ECU 2 billion for the next four years which will mostly be spent on supporting R&D, training, and disseminating technological competence. The programme is contributing centrally to the building of the information society and aims at improving the competitiveness of all European industry. The current work plan was developed in very close cooperation with industry and users so that a strong market orientation was achieved. The first call was published on 15 December 1994 and had a closing date of 15 March 1995 (the domains of HPCN and LTR closed on 15 February 1995). The second call for proposals was published on 15 March 1995. The current scheme envisages up to four calls per year with each call having a particular focus. The new programme has a strong market and user orientation and the new rolling system of multiple focused calls enables more flexibility and responsiveness to changes in both technologies and the market. The current programme also introduces measures to make the programme more user-friendly and to lower the cost of preparing proposals, especially for SMEs. In the domains of LTR and HPCN for instance, proposals are submitted in two steps. In the first step proposers are invited to submit an easy-to-prepare, short proposal. Successful applicants are then invited to submit a full proposal where the chances of success are significantly greater. If this scheme proves successful, it may be extended to the other domains. The new programme also tries to help SMEs by means of the introduction of the SME exploratory award scheme. Proposals for these awards can be submitted at any time. Following the technical evaluation by independent experts of the proposals, a shortlist of the most highly rated ones will form the basis, in May and June, for the Commission services' consultation and the consultation with the Information Technology Committee. This committee is composed of representatives of each EU Member State and associated country. Results of these consultations will be presented to the Commission for a formal decision in July. Subject to the outcome of contract negotiations, the first projects will start soon afterwards.