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Information Society Technologies: thematic priority under the specific programme "Integrating and strengthening the European research area" (2002-2006).

The IST thematic priority area falls under the "Focusing and Integrating Community Research" title of the programme in "Integrating and strengthening the European research area".

Information society technologies are transforming the economy and society by creating new ways of working and new types of business. They also provide solutions to major societal challenges such as healthcare, environment, safety, mobility and employment, and have far reaching implications on our everyday life.

Although substantial advances have been made, Europe is still far from taking full advantage of the potential of knowledge-based services in real life. Products and services are still hard to use and out of reach for many people, and the "digital divide" is widening across the world. Research will focus on the future generation of technologies in which computers and networks will be integrated into the everyday environment, rendering accessible a multitude of services and applications through easy-to-use human interfaces. This vision of "ambient intelligence" places the user at the centre of future developments for an inclusive knowledge-based society for all.

The IST priority in support of the eEurope action plan will help build an information and knowledge based society across Europe, encouraging the participation of the least developed regions. It will also include activities linking the EU effort to the international context. The aim is to further integrate the research of the new Member States within the EU effort and to facilitate cooperation with developing countries.

The IST priority will also support research to investigate and experiment future visions and emerging technologies at the frontier of knowledge in the IST field, and will include activities relating to the further development of the Géant and GRIDs initiatives.

The strategic objectives of the IST thematic priority are updated regularly. The objectives for 2005-06 have been updated in a revised version of the work programme. They have been defined in a changing environment for undertaking research in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT):
- ICT research is increasingly organised on an international scale, as firms seek to relocate their R&D activities in the face of accelerating competition in global markets,
- innovation processes are more open, with wider and faster exchange of ideas, people and resources,
- technology chains are increasingly complex, making it more difficult for any single player to establish industrial leadership in any ICT field,
- new promising fields are emerging at the cross-over between ICT and other disciplines such as biotechnologies, materials and cognitive sciences.

At the same time, ICT are becoming more pervasive: we see their growing impact all around us, in the way we live, work, play and interact with each other. New ways of using ICT are at the origin of innovations in most products, services and processes.
For the economy, ICT are central for boosting productivity and improving the competitiveness of all businesses and industries. The ICT industry itself is one of Europe's largest economic sectors, and ICT innovations underpin progress in all other major science fields. In the public sector, ICT enable services to be delivered more efficiently, as well as new services that correspond to people's evolving needs. For society at large, ICT offer new solutions to meet societal demands.
The Information Society Technologies (IST) thematic priority aims to increase innovation and competitiveness in European businesses and industry and to help all European citizens so that they can fully benefit from the development of the knowledge-based society.
The Community research activities carried out under Information Society Technologies address the following aspects:

1. Strategic objectives

a) Applied IST research addressing major societal and economic challenges: Applied IST research aims to extend the scope and efficiency of IST-based solutions addressing major societal and economic challenges, and to make them accessible in the most trusted and natural way to citizens, businesses and organisations. The applied research therefore focuses on:

- Technologies for trust and security to develop technologies for key security challenges posed by the "all-digital" world and to secure the rights of individuals and communities. Research will namely focus on basic security mechanisms and their interoperability, dynamic security processes, advanced cryptography, privacy enhancing technologies, technologies to handle digital assets and technologies for dependability to support business and organisational functions in dynamic and mobile systems.

-"Ambient intelligence" for a broader inclusion of citizens in the Information Society, for more effective health, security, mobility and environment management and support systems. Preservation of cultural heritage and integration of multiple functionalities across these different domains will also be supported.

- Research activities on "e-inclusion" will mainstream accessibility in consumer goods and services, including public services, through applied research and development of advanced technologies. This will help ensure equal access, independent living and participation for all in the Information Society. Activities will aim to develop next generation assistive systems that help persons with disabilities (in particular cognitive) and aging citizens to play a full role in society and to increase their autonomy.
In the area of health, the research will focus on developing intelligent ICT systems and services that process, integrate and use all relevant biomedical information for improving health knowledge and processes related to prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and personalisation of health care.

Research will also aim to develop and demonstrate cooperative systems for road transport that will make transport more efficient, effective, safe and environmentally friendly. Cooperative Systems, in which the vehicles communicate with each other and with the infrastructure, have the potential to greatly increase the quality and reliability of information available about the vehicles, their location and the road environment. This enables improved and new services for the road users.
Research in the area of environment will focus on knowledge-based systems for natural resources management, risk prevention and crisis management. ICT for environmental risk management covers ICT aspects of services for Global Monitoring for the Environment and Security (GMES) end-users and those aspects that are relevant to the monitoring, preparation and response phases of environmental risk/crisis management coordinated at European level.
In the framework of access to and preservation of cultural and scientific resources, the aim is to develop systems and tools which will support the accessibility and use of digital cultural and scientific resources.

- Research addressing work and business challenges to provide businesses, individuals, public administrations and other organisations with the means to fully contribute to, and benefit from, the development of a trusted knowledge-based economy. At the same time, the quality of work and working life will be improved, and life-long learning will be supported to improve work skills. Research will also aim at a better understanding of the socio-economic drivers and the impact of IST development.
Research in e-business will focus on providing European organisations, private and public, and especially local/regional SMEs, with interoperable systems and services to enhance innovation capacities and competitive performance in the knowledge economy. New business ecosystems will be supported as well. The aim is also to explore how ambient intelligence technologies and the vision of duality of existence, in the real world and in cyberspace, can result in innovative products, services and business environments.
Research in e-government aims to modernise and innovate public administrations at all levels, to foster good governance, to provide citizens and industries with innovative government services and the possibility to participate in decision making processes.
Research into eWork systems will focus on new workplace designs incorporating innovative technologies to boost creativity and collaboration. The aim is to develop next generation collaborative working environments, which would provide collaboration services and make possible the development of worker-centric tools and applications. This will enable seamless and natural collaboration amongst a diversity of agents (humans, machines, etc.) within distributed, knowledge-rich and virtualised working environments.
Work on eLearning aims to enhance learning through technologies. Interactions between the learning of the individual and that of the organization will be explored, as well as the links between human learning, cognition and technologies.

- Complex problem solving in science, engineering, businesses and for society to develop technologies for harnessing computing and storage resources which are distributed in geographically dispersed locations, and to make them accessible for complex problem solving in science, industry, business and society. Application fields include environment, energy, health, transport, industrial engineering, finance and new media. The current generation of Grids will be advanced towards the 'knowledge Grid'. The virtualisation of Grid resources will be completed and the uptake and use of Grids will be fostered in business and society. Further, the complexity of Grid-based systems will be reduced.

b) Communication, computing and software technologies: Research on these technologies aims to consolidate and further develop European strengths in areas such as mobile communications, consumer electronics and embedded software and systems. It also aims to improve the performance, cost-efficiency, functionality and adaptive capabilities of communications and computing technologies. Work is also set to lead to the next version of the Internet Protocol.

- Work on communication and network technologies aims to develop the new generations of mobile and wireless systems and networks that allow optimal service connection anytime, anywhere. Objectives include developing network technologies and architectures allowing a generalised and affordable availability of broadband access to European users, including those in less developed regions, peripheral and rural areas.
Research in all optical networks will focus on the management of optical wavelength channels enabling flexibility and speed in service deployment and provisioning and solutions for fibre to the LAN. Research on interoperable network solutions, including end-to-end network management will support generic services provision and inter-working, and interoperation between heterogeneous networks and platforms. It will include programmable networks to provide adaptive and real-time allocation of network resources and enhanced service management capabilities by customers. Research will also address the enabling technologies for personalised access to networked audio-visual systems and applications as well as cross-media service platforms and networks, trusted digital TV architectures and appliances able to process, encode, store, sense and display hybrid 3D multimedia signals and objects.

- Software technologies embedded systems and distributed systems aim to support the competitive position of European software industry (notably SMEs) in more globalised and service-oriented markets. This requires advanced capabilities in the engineering and management of software systems, services and applications and is to be addressed by creating and extending open and interoperable platforms, methodologies, middleware, standards and tools. The results will enable the design and management of complex software systems and, particularly, the simple and low cost creation of new types of services and applications, including those for the mobile user.
Work will include networked embedded systems, distributed sensing, computing, storage resources and related intercommunication. The aim is to develop the next generation of technologies, methods and tools for modelling, design, implementation and operation of hardware/software systems embedded in intelligent devices.

c) Components and Microsystems:

- Micro, nano and opto-electronics strive to reduce the transistor size into the nano-scale, to radically transform the process technologies through the integration of a large number of new materials. They aim to master the design technologies for achieving competitive systems-on-chip and systems-in-package with increased functionality, performance and complexity.
Work on optical, opto-electronic, and photonic functional components, will address devices and systems for information processing, communication, switching, storage, sensing and imaging. Research will focus on developing advanced materials, solid-state sources and micro- and nano-scale photonic devices, and on integrating photonic functions in micro/nanoelectronics components ('Photonic system on a chip').

- Micro and nano technologies, microsystems and displays improve the cost-efficiency, performance and functionality of subsystems and microsystems and increase the level of integration and miniaturisation. This allows improved interfacing with their surroundings and networked services and systems. Micro/nano based sub-systems aim to validate integrated micro/nano systems technology for new products and services in key application fields such as miniaturised autonomous robotic systems, mass storage systems and visualisation systems. Micro/nano-based integrated medical systems are also targeted to explore the many opportunities offered by combining bio-, nano- and information-related technologies.

d) Knowledge and interface technologies: These technologies aim to improve the usability of IST applications and services and access to the knowledge they embody in order to encourage their wider adoption and faster deployment.

- Knowledge technologies and digital content provide automated solutions for creating and organising virtual knowledge spaces (e.g. collective memories) to stimulate radically new content and media services and applications. Semantic-based Knowledge and Content Systems develop semantic-based and context-aware systems to acquire, organise, personalise, share and use the knowledge embedded in web and multimedia content. Research will aim to maximise automation of the knowledge lifecycle and to achieve semantic interoperability between heterogeneous information resources and services. Research on Cognitive Systems will also develop artificial systems that can interpret data arising from real-world events and processes.

- Intelligent interfaces and surfaces: Multimodal Interfaces aim to develop natural and easy to use interfaces that communicate intelligently via several modalities or with multilingual capabilities. The aim is to hide the complexity of technology by supporting a seamless human interaction between humans and with devices, virtual and physical objects and the knowledge embedded in everyday environments. This includes research on virtual and augmented reality.
Work will also address technologies for multilingual and multicultural access and communication that support timely and cost effective provisions of interactive information-rich services meeting the personal, professional and business requirements of all members of linguistically and culturally diverse communities.

2. Future and emerging technologies (FET)

Future and emerging technologies complement the other objectives of IST with research from a more visionary and exploratory perspective. The objective is to help new IST related science and technology fields and communities to emerge and mature. Some of the fields will become strategic for economic and social development in the future. The research aims at opening up new possibilities and setting trends for future research programmes. To ensure openness to unforeseeable ideas, FET uses two complementary approaches: one receptive and open - the other proactive.

a) FET open scheme:
The open and receptive approach supports research on new ideas involving high risk, such as embryonic research, proof-of-concept and high quality long-term research of foundational nature. Such research is implemented through Specific Targeted Research Projects (STREPS).
It also supports the shaping, consolidation and emergence of research communities and the coordination of national research programmes or activities in any IST-relevant area of advanced and longer term research. Such activities are implemented through Coordinated Actions (CA) and Specific Support Actions (SSA).

b) FET proactive scheme:
Proactive FET initiatives aim at focusing resources on visionary and challenging long-term goals that are timely and have strong potential for future impact. These long-term goals as such do not necessarily need to be reached during the lifetime of projects. They provide mainly a common strategic perspective for all research work within the initiative and a focal point around which critical mass can be built and synergies developed. Calls for proposals for proactive initiatives may be preceded by invitations to submit 'expressions of interest'.