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Integrating Research and Standardisation

Final Report Summary - INTEREST (Integrating Research and Standardisation)

Standards play a vital role in the European market by promoting competitiveness and interoperability of products and services. They also serve to protect consumers and the health, safety and environment of citizens. The development of new and improved European standards requires high quality technical information. It is therefore important to ensure that standards are developed in an objective and timely manner and that their usage is free from obstacles. Otherwise, there is a risk that interests at national, industrial or technical level will bias standards in their favour, or delay their implementation.

The overall objective of INTEREST was to develop taxonomies of standards, of research outputs and of research-standards relationships and to contribute to the improvement of the interface between research and standardisation, and thus contribute to the effective diffusion and utilisation of research which is being performed in Europe. Moreover, the specifics of the link between research and standardisation is elaborated using a multitude of methods ranging from qualitative case studies to quantitative analyses using indicator based approaches and survey analysis.

The broad approach of the INTEREST project employing both qualitative and quantitative information at both the micro-level of the research organisation and the individual researcher as well as on the macro-level identifying relations between the research and standardisation realm led to a number of new insights regarding the role of standards in research as well as the role of standardisation organisations and policy makers. In the following, a number of recommendations will be assembled that can help to close the gap between research and standardisation. The recommendations are aimed at policy makers, standardisation or research organisations. Some of the recommendations require that actors from multiple stakeholder groups have to interact.

The lack of resources is one of the strongest barriers to standardisation work. The problem to obtain and justify adequate resources for standardisation work is especially common in universities and applied research organisations with limited base funding and strong project-based and contract research orientation. Most funding agencies are still unaware of the benefits of standards for the economy and society. Judging by the level of support for standards-setting activities as part of research and development (R&D0 projects, hardly any research funding organisation considers standards as a legitimate and valuable tool for dissemination, or for the production of sustainable results (the EU being half an exception). Policy makers should therefore integrate standards-related aspects into their funding principles and promote standards as part of project evaluation and in calls for proposals for funding. Also, the allocation of resources researcher organisations plan to allocate to standardisation work in a research project should be realistic. Additionally, standardisation aspects may be part of the evaluation criteria of the proposal. Here, policy makers and decision makers in funding matters should network with relevant SSBs as well as R&D organisations participating in standardisation is required to estimate such related cost.

Low awareness of standards in parts of the research community is a problem which has a number of negative effects on the research standardisation link. Most notably, low awareness leads to a low participation of researchers in standardisation as standardisation is not actively perceived as a potential field of activity. Raising the awareness of standards and standardisation cannot be achieved solely by providing adequate funding. To raise awareness of standards research organisations and standardisation organisations should both try to highlight benefits of standardisation work.

Standardisation is currently only featured in very few curricula. The knowledge about standards imparted in the education system is therefore rather low. The absence of standards-related topics from the curricula leads to the effects of low awareness which we discussed above. Moreover, researchers are not educated with relevant knowledge about standardisation processes and procedures. Integrating standardisation in curricula should be encouraged as such knowledge is a pre-condition for awareness in future generations of researchers. Training researchers in what active participation entails, and possibly how to co-ordinate standardisation activities in their project is the second step. Many organisations involved in standardisation already have effective mechanisms in place how to organise the transfer of research results into standardisation. Best practice examples could be communicated to others by policy makers or standardisation organisations.

Currently, research and standardisation are in most cases distinct realms. There are few organisations that integrate both the production of knowledge in research and the work of standardisation organisations, namely achieving consensus on future technology paths. On the one hand, the functional differentiation of organisations can have beneficial effects and increase efficiency in both realms. On the other hand, a closer integration of research and standardisation while maintaining the division of labour between research organisations and standardisation organisations can increase knowledge flows in both directions and produce valuable knowledge spillovers. In cases where the cost of transforming standardisation organisations is very high, mechanisms of integration can help to reduce frictions between research and standardisation.

Exchange of personnel between research organisations and standardisation organisations should intensify the relationship between research and standardisation. On the one hand, this should enable research organisation to acquire process knowledge of standardisation processes that can then be the basis to inform other researchers and developers interested in standardisation work. On the other hand, hiring researchers by standardisation bodies even on a part-time level will give the chance that new trends in research and technology will be acknowledged earlier and collaboration with research organisations becomes more effective.