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Specific research and technological development programme in the field of information technologies, 1994-1998

This specific IT programme is one of three elements of the Community's RTD effort in Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) under the First Activity of the Fourth Framework Programme. The other two programmes concern telematics and communications technologies. Activities in the IT programme provide important imputs to both these programmes and are consequently conditioned by their requirements.

RTD actions under the three programmes will collectively contribute to the establishment of a European information infrastructure, the priority of ICT research under the Fourth Framework Programme.

Since 1984, the Community's RTD effort in information technology has conducted within the framework of the ESPRIT programme. The specific programme on Information Technology established under the Fourth Framework Programme builds on the achievements of ESPRIT and proposes new approaches and orientations to meet the requirements of the 1990's.

To facilitate the development of the emerging information structure, the specific IT programme moves away from the "technology push" policies of previous framework programmes and contains new orientations both in terms of implementation and technical content.

In terms of implementation, a greater emphasis is placed on the networks of excellence, which have already been launched as part of ESPRIT in the Third Framework Programme, in order to bring together industry, users, universities and research centres with a common research objective. Greater use is made of supplier-user collaborations, in order to help remove the obstacles faced by high technology companies in reaching customers.

The introduction of streamlined procedures, aimed at simplifying the call and evaluation process and reducing the cost of preparing proposals, is also foreseen.

The programme introduces for the first time a number of focused clusters building on the experience of the Open Microprocessor System Initiative (OMI). This innovative concept consists of a set of activities covering a number of technology areas but with a single well-defined goal in mind.

The technical content of the programme is directed at the more basic or underpinning technologies, and at selected topics which integrate technologies into systems. Emphasis is placed on electronic components and subsystems which are the building blocks of the information infrastructure.

Long-term research is proposed to ensure that concentration of effort on short-term goals does not compromise Europe's technological development in the medium and long term. Long-term research is carried out through thematic networks of excellence (comprising of suppliers, users and researchers) and by upstream RTD projects. The technological areas to be addressed are open-ended and will respond to opportunities and to needs as they arise in other parts of the programme.

The proposed activities are tailored to the demands of users and the market and cover information processing, information storage and retrieval, information transmission and information content.

Preparatory and validation activities are promoted in order to encourage standardization in the field of information technologies.
To contribute towards the construction of a European information infrastructure in order to ensure the future competitiveness of all European industry and to improve the quality of life.
Activities organized under three headings:

RTD activities:

- Software technologies:
To develop and promote the technologies which will enable Europe to produce reliable, correct, efficient and user-friendly software:
. Technology transfer and dissemination of software best practice;
. Methods and tools to promote best practice;
. Develop and experiment with emerging software technologies (e.g. complex, distributed decision intensive applications);
. Development of open distributed computing platforms;
. Advanced technologies for distributed database systems (including large scale object based repositories, knowledge embedding and extraction techniques, interoperability, resilience and recovery of distributed systems);
. Advanced technologies for human-computer interaction;

- Technologies for IT components and subsystems:
To provide European industry with the technologies and capabilities to design and produce components and subsystems in the following three areas:
. Semiconductors (work will concentrate on those semiconductors likely to be in major use by the end of the century including digital CMOS and CMOS-based analog, mixed A/D circuits, smart power and smart sensors, technologies based on III-V materials);
. Microsystems (multidisciplinary design, manufacture and testing of applications for use in the automotive, medical engineering and environmental domains);
. Peripherals (technologies needed for low-cost high-resolution thin screen display components (particularly LCD technology), flat panel displays and memory subsystems required by computers, televisions, and intelligent systems in areas such as avionics, cars, telecommunications, manufacturing and retailing);

- Multimedia systems:
To support strategic RTD in generic information technologies which underpin multimedia end-user systems and applications. Activities will concentrate on the technologies needed for the creation, manipulation, display and storage of multimedia information. Specific work will be undertaken on technologies for integrated personal systems;

Long Term research:

- To ensure, by means of networks of excellence and upstream RTD projects, potential for the "next wave of innovation" is maintained and that scarce expertise underpinning European information technology RTD is replenished in those areas where it is most needed;

Focused clusters:

- Open microprocessor systems initiative (OMI):
To coordinate efforts in microprocessor systems RTD throughout the Community in order to develop the standards and technologies necessary to enable European industry to compete effectively world-wide (to cover the provision of components for use in embedded systems applications and advanced RTD in both hardware and software);

- High performance computing and networking (HPCN):
To exploit the opportunities and expand the application potential of high performance computer networking (activities include the development of software to promote the next generation of HPCN, the creation of a pan-European HPCN infrastructure and measures to demonstrate the economic viability of HPCN);

- Technologies for business processes:
Integration of enterprises into the information infrastructure so as to increase the contribution of IT to the effectiveness of organizations by, first, improving the level of understanding of best practice in the use of IT business processes, and second, to develop the underlying technologies that will support new organizational developments;

- Integration in manufacturing:
Work in the fields of enterprise integration frameworks, integrated product data modelling and intelligent control will concentrate on developing new ICT solutions to be applied in the manufacturing, engineering and process industries.
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 is responsible for drawing up a work programme, detailing the scientific and technological objectives of the action, the stages in the programmes 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 will be issued by the Commission on the basis of the work programme.

The programme is mainly implemented through shared-cost activities, concerted activities and preparatory, accompanying and support measures. Shared-cost activities will normally qualify for a contribution of not more than 50% of the total cost of the RTD project. Concerted actions may qualify for a contribution of up to 100% of the coordination costs whilst, in principle, the costs of direct activities are fully financed by the Community. Specific measures, such as actions to encourage standardization and measures to provide general service tools to research centres, universities and undertakings, may qualify for a contribution of up to 100% of total costs.

The Commission is authorized to negotiate cooperation agreements with European third countries outside the EEA and with international organizations located in Europe, with a view to their partial or full involvement in the programme. The JRC may participate in the indirect activities of the programme. It also contributes to the realization of the specific IT programme's objectives through its own programme of direct activities.

The budget allocated to the programme is divided between the various activities as follows: Software technologies ECU 268 million; Technologies for components and subsystems ECU 487 million; Multimedia technologies ECU 153 million; Long-term research ECU 191 million; Open microprocessor systems initiative ECU 172 million; HPCN ECU 244 million; Technologies for business processes ECU 167 million; Integration in manufacturing ECU 229 million.

These figures include a sum equivalent to 6.9% of the overall programme budget which is reserved for staff and administrative expenditure, a sum equivalent to at least 2% for training activities forming part of the programme, and up to 12% for specific measures in respect of SMEs. A figure of ECU 18 million is earmarked for the dissemination and optimization of results with ECU 21 million being earmarked for direct actions and Scientific and Technical support activities carried out within the framework of a competitive approach.

The programme budget may be increased in 1996, in accordance with the provisions of the Decision establishing the Fourth Framework Programme.

The Commission will continuously review the implementation of the work programme to ensure that its objectives, priorities and financial resources remain appropriate. On the basis of this review process it shall, where necessary, draw up proposals to adapt or supplement the programme. In addition, regular assessments of the activities covered by the specific programme will be conducted by independent experts who, upon completion of the programme, will carry out a final evaluation of the results achieved. A report of this final evaluation will be sent to the Council, the European Parliament and the Economic and Social Committee.