The first calls for proposals for the ACTS, ESPRIT and TELEMATICS Applications programmes, announced in 1994, attracted a total of 2,332 proposals between them. This represented a total request for EU funding of ECU 7.8 billion. The external evaluation process involved nearly 1,000 evaluators in total. Their shortlist of the most highly rated proposals formed the basis for the Commission services' consultation with the three programme committees earlier this year. The final list that emerged from these discussions was endorsed by the Commission in July 1995 and the first projects are now expected to start sometime in the next few months. Following evaluation, a total of 588 projects were selected for EU funding of ECU 1,190 million. The breakdown between the three programmes is as follows: - ACTS: 199 proposals selected for recommended funding of ECU 459 million; - ESPRIT: 179 proposals selected for recommended funding of ECU 307 million; - TELEMATICS: 290 proposals selected for recommended funding of ECU 424 million. The proposals selected cover the following main areas: - Development of advanced communications systems and infrastructures and trials of the new services these make possible (ACTS); - Work on the core underpinning information technologies (software, microelectronics, multimedia) and their integration into systems and applications (ESPRIT); - Applications of information and communications technologies in specific areas such as education and training, healthcare, the environment and transport (TELEMATICS Applications). Commenting on the response to these first calls for the information and communication technology (ICT) programmes, Commissioner Bangemann welcomed the central role of the development of the Information Society in all these proposals. He commented: "This signals that Europe is well placed to help realize the vision of the global information society formulated at February's G7 summit in Brussels." Improved procedures introduced by the three programmes helped proposers and made evaluation faster and more reliable. The ESPRIT programme, for example, now holds calls for proposals every three months, each call focusing on just part of the programme. In addition the programme successfully tried out a two-step proposal submission scheme in two of its domains. These innovations helped to reduce oversubscription and cut the cost of making proposals. The TELEMATICS Applications programme introduced an optional outline proposal scheme and comments and suggestions from Commission staff were sent back to each proposer. Documents were made available via the Internet (E-mail, FTP, World-Wide Web), on diskette and via popular commercial services such as EuroKom and CompuServe. The ACTS programme pioneered the submission of proposals by electronic transfer of encrypted and digitally signed files. Most ACTS proposals were received by this means which considerably speeded up the evaluation process. Reflecting the increasing convergence of information technologies and communications, the three programmes cooperated closely in evaluating the proposals sent to each and exchanged information about their nature and content. Some proposals were transferred from one programme to another according to topic, others were assessed by joint teams of evaluators. The ESPRIT and TELEMATICS Applications programmes carried out a joint evaluation (which will lead to eventual joint funding) of proposals for advanced networks linking universities and research centres throughout the European Union. The three programmes continued to encourage SME participation and user representation.