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Specific programme of research, technological development and demonstration in the area of advanced communications technologies and services, 1994-1998

The specific programme is one of three elements of the Community's RTD effort in the field of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) under the Fourth Framework Programme. The other two programmes cover information technologies and telematics. Activities within all three programmes are closely coordinated and will collectively contribute to the establishment of a European information infrastructure, which is the priority of ICT research under the Fourth Framework Programme.

RTD activities under the specific programme will build on the achievements of both phases of the RACE programme and contribute to the further success of European actions in the area of advanced communications technologies. In particular, there will be a stronger focus on stimulating "innovative use" and closing the gap between the potential of technology and the reality of applications.

The programme promotes a multi-disciplinary approach and contains measures to strengthen collaboration between users of advanced communications applications, in both the public and private sectors. A number of horizontal measures are included to support RTD in the six vertical or sectoral areas and to coordinate activities carried out at regional, national and international level.

In all areas, technology and service demonstrators will allow users of generic advanced communications services to evaluate the applicability of new technologies and to focus technology developments on their needs and on key areas for Europe's economic and social development. The lead given by users will further ensure that the technology development activities respond quickly to changes in socio-economic conditions and to new scientific discoveries and breakthroughs.

Continued emphasis is placed on common functional specifications and technical standardization. Measures are included to promote greater concertation between RTD projects and European standardization and strategic planning bodies, such as ETSI, CEN/CENELEC, EURESCOM and ETNO. Where appropriate, RTD activities will be coordinated with those undertaken within the framework of COST and EUREKA.

Special actions to support international cooperation in the areas of applications and network management are included in the programme. Particular attention is given to developing synergies with the National Information Infrastructure initiative in the USA and with similiar activities in Japan.

Great emphasis is placed on establishing a framework for stronger cooperation with initiatives in the countries of east and central Europe and with the independent states of the ex-USSR. Where appropriate, links should be established with related projects funded under the PHARE and TACIS programmes and with initiatives financed by the ERBD.

Measures to promote technology use stimulation, based on feasibility grants, are included to encourage and facilitate the participation of SMEs in the programmes activities.
To develop advanced communication systems and services for economic development and social cohesion in Europe, taking account of the rapid evolution in technologies, the changing regulatory situation and opportunities for the development of advanced trans-European networks and services.
Six areas:

- Interactive digital multimedia services:
Development of new services ranging from specialized telework and professional tools to entertainment services for the general public, with a view to the wide-spread introduction of European interactive digital multimedia communication services from the year 2000. RTD work will focus in particular on the interoperability of broadband services with existing digital switched public services (ISDN and GSM) and the development of advanced image compression systems (e.g. 3D-video communication and "Virtual Presence");

- Photonic technologies:
Introduction of integrated photonic systems, to include the development of the technological basis necessary for the deployment of fully optical networks ("Transparent Highways") in Europe by the year 2000. RTD covers the development of technology to enable the use of optics throughout the network, for both switching and transmission, and methods to avoid unnecessary conversions between photonics and electronics:

- High-speed networking:
Provision of integrated high-speed multi-gigabit networks for leading-edge users in European industry and research organizations. RTD will support broadband services (e.g. videophones and teleworking) and cover customer premises networks, public networks and corporate networks;

- Mobility and personal communications networks:
RTD covers mobile broadband systems and services (including miniaturisation and component integration techniques for low-power portable transceivers) and the development of a "Personal Communications Space" (personal authentication, security and privacy through voice recognition schemes and smart card techniques);

- Intelligence in networks and service engineering:
To equip communication networks with the built-in features required for real-time communications, including networks, services and user access. RTD will provide the basis for cheaper, quicker and more responsive network services;

- Quality, security and safety of communication services and systems:
Development of new technologies providing economically viable and operationally satisfactory solutions for services and systems. RTD includes investigations, demonstrations, experiments and trials of integrated systems;

- Horizontal actions:
Consensus development and concertation of national and regional activities; international cooperation; dissemination and exploitation of results; and, professional training in advanced communications technologies and service management.
The Commission is responsible for the implementation of the programme, assisted by a Committee consisting of representatives of the Member States and chaired by a representative of the Commission. The Commission will draw up an initial work programme, detailing the scientific and technological objectives of the action, the steps in the programme's implementation and the corresponding financial arrangements. The work programme may provide for participation in certain activities within the EUREKA framework. Calls for proposals for RTD projects are issued by the Commission on the basis of the work programme.

The programme is principally carried out through shared-cost actions, concerted actions, specific measures, and various preparatory, accompanying and support measures. The financial contribution of the Community for shared-cost RTD projects does not exceed 50% of total costs. Other shared-cost activities, such as networking, training, feasibility studies, and accompanying measures, may receive up to 100% support. Concerted actions may also qualify for up to 100% of total costs whilst, in principle, the costs of direct actions are fully financed by the Community. The rules covering the financial participation of the Community are set out in detail in the Decision establishing the Fourth Framework Programme.

The indicative breakdown of the programme budget is as follows: Interactive digital multimedia services - ECU 162 million; Photonic technologies - ECU 104 million; High-speed networking - ECU 75 million; Mobility and personal communications networks - ECU 115 million; Intelligence in networks and service engineering - ECU 100 million; Quality, security and safety of communication services and systems - ECU 43 million; and horizontal actions - ECU 31 million.

A sum equivalent to not more than 6.3% of the programme budget is set aside for staff and administrative expenditure. In addition, 3.3% of the programme budget is earmarked for operational support to concerted actions, concertation networks and interconnection of trials, 10% for basic research to be carried out in Area 2 (Photonic technologies), and up to 10% for activities in respect of SMEs. The budget allocated to horizontal actions includes a sum of ECU 9 million for coordination and concertation activities (including special actions in international cooperation) and a sum of ECU 22 million for preparatory, accompanying and support measures. Of this ECU 22 million, a sum of ECU 6 million is reserved for the dissemination and exploitation of results. This action complements the activities of the specific programme on the dissemination and utilization of RTD results and is closely coordinated with it.

The budget granted to the programme may increase before the end of 1996 in accordance with the provisions of the Fourth Framework Programme.

The Commission is authorized to negotiate cooperation agreements with European third countries with a view to their partial or full involvement in the programme. The Joint Research Centre may participate in the indirect actions covered by the programme.

The Commission is responsible for continuously monitoring the implementation of the programme to ensure that its objectives, priorities and financial resources remain appropriate. On the basis of this review process it shall, where appropriate, submit proposals to adapt or supplement the programme.

Regular assessments of the activities covered by the specific programme are to be conducted by independent experts who, upon completion of the programme, will carry out a final evaluation of the results achieved compared to the initial objectives. A report of this final evaluation will be communicated to the Council, the Parliament and the Economic and Social Committee.