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Commission aims for greater consideration of standards in Community research projects

The European Commission has published a working document on "research and standardization" in which it considers how to ensure greater consideration of the prenormative dimension in Community research programmes, in order to foster the sustainable growth, competitiveness and i...
The European Commission has published a working document on "research and standardization" in which it considers how to ensure greater consideration of the prenormative dimension in Community research programmes, in order to foster the sustainable growth, competitiveness and interoperability of products and services emerging from research.

The Commission emphasizes the importance of standards as a measure of quality and, therefore, a strong factor in promoting the competitiveness and interoperability of products and services. Standards provide a bridge between the technical domain and the regulatory and economic framework. Whilst prenormative research promotes the development of new standards, these standards create the conditions for better dissemination of the results of research.

Standards have proved to be of benefit both economically and to society, providing a platform for good working practices, protecting consumers, and the health, safety and environment of citizens. They also provide economies of scale for manufacturers and facilitate the interoperability of products and services. Common standards facilitate international trade, therefore extending European companies' markets.

Standards in Europe are set mainly by three organizations - CEN, CENELEC and ETSI - which cover general industry, electro-technical fields and telecommunications, respectively. New standards may be established at the request of industry, or of the European Commission, or may aim to establish a consistent level of quality. Standards relating to the development of new technologies may serve to favour European approaches at global level. For example, the GSM mobile phone developed in Europe is now in prime position throughout the world. Whilst Europe can point to the economic benefits secured from successes such as GSM, it is not possible to quantify the economic benefits accruing from standards.

The document outlines the prenormative research carried out within the specific programmes of the Fourth RTD Framework Programme, not least in the Standards, Measurement and Testing (SMT) programme. Within SMT, the Commission, in cooperation with the three European standards bodies, has published dedicated calls for proposals for research on specific standards identified as priority needs by the standardization bodies.

The Commission proposes measures to increase coordination between the specific programmes and the Joint Research Centre (JRC) in respect of the standards bodies, and to make potential proposers more aware of the standards dimension, including environmental factors, in all research programmes. In respect of intellectual property rights, the Commission notes the need to ensure protection of intellectual property rights when research results are transferred to standards bodies, and calls on Member States to encourage the adoption of voluntary standards to facilitate innovation.

In order to make best use of the results of Community research, the Commission wants to ensure consideration of standards questions from the earliest stages in projects, and that projects would guarantee to transfer their results to standards bodies. Prenormative research projects might also need to be opened up to non-European partners, in order to ensure the acceptance of standards at global level.

The main priorities identified by the Commission are:

- To set up a mechanism to improve coordination and communication between the specific programmes, the JRC and other organizations concerned with standardization;

- To provide capability within the specific programmes of the Fifth Framework Programme and, if necessary, within the Key Actions for the monitoring of prenormative research;

- To encourage Member States to step up their information activities to highlight the role played by standards in optimizing and disseminating the results of research.

Source: European Commission, General Secretariat

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