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Encouraging international cooperation at IST99

The IST99 exhibition at the Helsinki Fair Centre provided an ideal opportunity for countries outside the EU to show off their research activities in the information society with a view to future collaboration. Judging by the activity surrounding the stands they provoked a sign...
The IST99 exhibition at the Helsinki Fair Centre provided an ideal opportunity for countries outside the EU to show off their research activities in the information society with a view to future collaboration. Judging by the activity surrounding the stands they provoked a significant degree of interest.

There were eleven newly associated countries and seven other international stands, demonstrating the results of previous RTD projects, providing information on organisations active in the RTD sphere, and looking for potential partnerships.

The newly associated countries present included Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. These countries are all candidates for EU membership and may therefore participate with Community funding.

There were also other international contributions from non-associated countries including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Israel, South Africa and Turkey. With the exception of Israel who has an association agreement in force, these countries may participate on a project by project basis without Community funding in order to further international cooperation.

In preparation for IST99, representatives on the Slovakian stand had prepared a database of enterprises and institutions wishing to collaborate within the IST programme. Visitors could also obtain information on technology trends, the requirements and potential in Slovakia, as well as the national infrastructure for promoting and supporting the IST programme.

Professor Daniel Donoval, Head of Department in the department of microelectronics at the Slovak University of Technology said the event was an opportunity to improve the rate of acceptance of Slovakian partners in IST projects. He said: 'We have got to establish more contacts. I do not think there has been enough information about Slovakian countries available as there has been little demand from Western partners. At this event we have had some fruitful discussions with the Commission and exchanged our experiences with other partners.'

Marian Vesely, Vice Rector of the Slovak University of Technology said they had collected 20 business cards from people interested in collaboration during the course of the event, which he hopes 'will lead to projects being submitted with more success in the next round of calls.' He will also be bringing some advice home to the national contact points who he believes 'must work more systematically for encouraging projects'.

At the Cypriot stand, the demand for participation had been so great that Dr Soulla Louca of the Research Promotion Foundation said she was running out of business cards. 'We submitted a lot of proposals in the first round, and we are hoping to build on this success rate,' she said. 'It has been good to get in touch with other researchers, and promote our researchers also.'

On show at the Bulgarian stand were demonstrations of several projects, including an integrated system for local network administration presented by project leader Anastassia Kolchacova of the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company. She said: 'It has been very useful to be here in Helsinki, to present our software which is in a stage of implementation now, and to meet with other people and discuss the ideas and problems we share. I have met a lot of interesting people'.

The Israeli stand received added attention, benefiting from the presence of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who made several presentations at IST99 and the European Investment Forum. His aim was to promote collaboration between Israel and the EU in his new capacity as advisor to the Israeli company BATM Advanced Communications.

Representatives from ISERD, a non-profit organisation established in 1996 to implement the RTD cooperation agreement between Israel and the EU, said they had received a lot of interest. Director of the IST programme with ISERD, Myer Morron, said cooperation in research projects with Israel more frequently occurs with US companies, and he hoped the event would go some way to redress the balance. He said: 'We are paying a lot of money to participate in the Fifth Framework Programme, so we want to make sure we are going to get the most we can out of it. It also gives Europe a chance to benefit from our skills.'

There were also a series of plenary sessions and workshops throughout the three-day event dedicated to support measures for newly associated countries, the effect of the information society and e-commerce on Central and Eastern European Countries, building partnerships and strategic issues in multinational collaboration.

Source: IST99

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