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A strategy for research on future and emerging technologies in Europe

The European Union (EU) has many challenges to meet in the area of research on future and emerging technologies (FET) in Europe. In order to become a leader in this field, it is important that Europe moves beyond the economic crisis and launches bold initiatives, which involve young researchers from all over the world.

ACT

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 20 April 2009 - Moving the ICT frontiers: a strategy for research on future and emerging technologies in Europe [COM(2009) 184 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

This Communication highlights the key role of future and emerging technologies (FET) in the area of research and establishes the benchmarks for a long-term strategy which aims at increasing competitiveness and innovation in Europe.

Presentation of the FET scheme

Since its launch in 1989, the FET scheme has made it possible for radically new information technologies to be discovered and developed.

This scheme mainly funds research activities in innovative fields and contributes to the emergence of new practices in the research sector. It is based on multidisciplinarity and fosters cooperation between European research teams.

Challenges to be met in the area of research on future and emerging technologies

In view of the economic crisis, Europe is investing little in high-risk transformative research on information and communication technologies (ICT). Public and private investment in high-risk research should be increased.

Furthermore, many societal challenges such as sustainable development, climate change, health, the ageing population, security, as well as social and economic inclusion necessitate innovative solutions in the area of ICT. Researchers should be encouraged to develop such solutions freely through transformative foundational research.

It is also important that Europe fosters multidisciplinary cooperation. The Virtual Physiological Human (VPH) initiative which aims at a personalised simulation of the human body constitutes one of the first examples of such cooperation.

Foundational research is still too fragmented, which creates duplication of effort, diverging priorities and untapped potential. A joint strategy should be developed to avoid this fragmentation of research.

Moreover, Europe suffers from a serious shortage of skilled researchers and from international competition. To bridge this gap, talented young researchers should be offered more attractive career opportunities.

Industrial needs are not sufficiently taken into account by the strategic research agendas of the European Technological Platforms. Once programmes are completed, results should be systematically communicated to businesses so that they may apply the results.

The FET scheme does not value international cooperation highly enough. It is important that researchers pool their resources in order to improve the level of excellence at global level.

Proposed strategy

The Commission proposes to reinforce FET under the ICT theme. In this regard, the portion of the Seventh Framework Programme budget allocated to FET research will be increased by 20 % per year from 2011 to 2013.

Flagship initiatives should be launched in the area of FET. One of these would consist of modelling the way in which nature processes information in order to design future biocomputers in the long term.

Europe should coordinate national and community action in order to identify and support shared priorities, particularly in quantum and neuro-information technologies in order to combat the fragmentation of research. Calls for proposals will be launched between 2010 and 2013 in FET domains of common interest.

Measures will be introduced to increase young researchers’ engagement in FET. The take-up of new curricula should be progressed and facilitated by national and regional authorities.

In order to strengthen cooperation between research and business, researchers are invited to improve the dissemination of results of their work. In addition, the Commission plans to encourage high-tech SMEs to carry out research work themselves.

In order to attract researchers from all countries, the European Commission will contact third country funding agencies (United States, China and Russia, in particular) to establish closer links in the field of research.

Context

This Communication addresses some of the findings of the Aho Report on R & D and Innovation. The conclusions of this report stress the necessity, for centres of excellence, of building up a critical mass of activity in strategic areas.

This summary is for information only. It is not designed to interpret or replace the reference document, which remains the only binding legal text.

Last updated: 25.09.2009
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