The European Commission has decided to grant funding worth ECU 4,175,000 to six standardization projects linked to the Information Society. In all cases the projects either challenge existing novel standards or develop or specify potential new standards which will be submitted to the appropriate standardization body. Whether data exchange is quick, efficient and cost-effective, depends largely upon compatibility. Standards are, therefore, an important element of the efficient functioning of the emerging information market place. Too few standards means the market will lack the necessary stability that gives users the confidence to invest. Too many standards, particularly if they are trailing product evolution, can suppress innovation, and put the brakes on development. The Commission is currently reviewing European standardization policy, and exploring new methods to ensure that the necessary and sufficient standards are in place on time. Pilot actions have been launched aimed at identifying user and supplier needs for standardization. Areas covered include: - The media industry; - City administration; - Bioinformatics; - Electronic commerce. Feedback from these projects is expected to provide valuable pointers for future lines of action in information and communication technology (ICT) standardization. The six projects approved for funding include: - UNITEL: This project will produce specifications for the design of a universal set-top unit (the device which forms the bridge between data streams from broadcast, cable, or telecom sources and the screen in the home). The European Broadcasting Union will conduct the work in cooperation with consumer groups, city administrations, and standardization fora (ECU 1 million); - EUKIOSK: Initiative of five city administrations (Brescia, Hannover, Linz, Stockholm, Thessaloniki), in partnership with local industry, to provide multimedia information services to their citizens. A network of information kiosks will be established based on a common platform employing a mixture of existing and novel standards (ECU 1,275,000); - EUROMED: Development of visualization suites for images produced by the most recent medical imaging techniques. The project aims at developing standard techniques for fusing and processing images from multiple sources and presenting 3-D models to the specialist. The work will be carried out by a group of European universities and medical research facilities under the coordination of the National Technical University of Athens (ECU 1 million); - BIOSTANDARDS: Project conducted by the European Bioinformatics Institute (a branch of EMBL - the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany) to establish and promote standards - through trial applications using them - for the storage, processing, and exchange of complex biological data. The sort of data objects concerned are DNA fragment sequences and protein structures. The project has the strong support of a number of major European Pharmaceutical companies (ECU 700,000); - SPAN: Activity carried out by Scottish Enterprise targeted at promoting awareness among SMEs in the Highlands region of the benefits of electronic commerce. The project will establish a pilot Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) network making use of Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) according to the UN-EDIFACT standard. An exchange of experience and mutual review will take place with the KALIMEDIA initiative (ECU 100,000); - KALIMEDIA: Activity targeted at promoting awareness among a large network of SMEs in the North of France region of the benefits of electronic commerce. The project will conduct seminars and provide information services to business advising them of the available possibilities for electronic commerce based on the use of EDI according to the UN-EDIFACT standard. An exchange of experience and mutual review will take place with the SPAN initiative (ECU 100,000).