EU approach towards the Future Internet
As part of the preparatory process leading to the definition of the ICT activities of the 7th Framework Programme of R&D, the European Commission took steps towards the creation of a Future-of-the-Internet Think Tank, which was tasked to provide a position paper that could help framing future co-ordinated actions at EU level. It was indeed felt that the activities under FP7 would benefit from a more systematic and co-ordinated approach notably in what concerned the Future of the Internet.
A number of drivers framing the future technological developments were identified such as:
The approach taken from the outset was to encourage an academic industry partnership leading to coherent industrial research roadmaps in partnership with university research. Four European Technology Platforms active in the domain of networked systems and technologies (eMobility, NEM, NESSI, ISI) were, hence, called upon to assist in the process.
The result of all these efforts is now clearly visible with over 60 research projects having been contracted further to the first ICT Call for proposals. Additional projects arising out of the second Call of FP7 are currently in the negotiation phase. The variety of perspectives taken by these projects is well in line with the technological and societal drivers identified by the Think Tank whilst providing a visible European counter part to Future Internet initiatives started in other regions of the world.
Towards a Collaborative Platform
The magnitude of the effort, much beyond that of other regional initiatives should provide a unique opportunity for Europe to investigate a number of technological and associated policy domains that have a bearing on the network and service infrastructure elements of the Internet of tomorrow. Reaping the maximum benefits of such a comprehensive portfolio of projects however requires the emergence of cross-domain synergies, holding the potential for disruptive and innovative change. Indeed, whilst other “Future Internet” initiatives in the world are primarily focusing on “network architecture” issue, the ICT programme has adopted a holistic approach tightly embedding the network, content, objects, service and security dimensions.
The European Commission has hence called for the launch of an ambitious collaborative platform between the R&D stakeholders representing academia, research institutes and industry, represented notably by the European Technology Platforms active in the field, such as eMobility, NEM, NESSI, ISI and ePOSS. The multiple facets of the issues surrounding the further evolution of the Internet, must be tackled in such a way that Europe's knowledge base and competitiveness are enhanced and bold steps are taken to shape and drive the Future Internet. Amongst the many questions that may be raised in the context of cross-domain research,, the following provide a mere illustration of the issues at stake:
As an initial step towards the setting in place of such a collaborative platform, a conference is currently being organised by the Slovenian Presidency in Bled (31 March – 2 April 2008), which, no doubt, will create the much needed European momentum towards the Future Internet. Opportunities for action at European level will be explored with the intention of further facilitating and mobilising the relevant research constituencies, be them at European or national level.
Figure: EC-funded projects in the Future Internet area
Steps toward the next FP7-ICT Work Programme
As we consider the future FP7-ICT Work Programme, on the basis of which further calls for proposals will be launched, it becomes clear that the research effort in this field will have to be further refocused and reinforced to ensure European leadership in developing the Future Internet.
A federating approach needs to be developed around the following themes:
A wide ranging consultation with the concerned actors has been planned over the First semester of 2008, to devise a Work Programme that best responds to the major transformations expected in the coming decade – notably in what concerns the industrial and business landscape, and in ICT technologies and infrastructures.
The discussion on the elements of the Work Programme that pertain to the Future Internet are clearly of utmost importance in this regard, as tomorrow's networked world, ever more pervasive and more ubiquitous, will have profound economic and social impact while becoming more essential for everyday life. Our response to the globalisation of markets, keener competition, the ever-faster pace of technological change, and new value chains is a key challenge for the EU.
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