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Member of the European Commission responsible for Enterprise and the Information Society

"Information Society Technologies and Innovation in the next RTD Framework programme of the European Community"

Research Council

Luxembourg, 26 June 2001

A year ago, at the European Council in Lisbon, the Union set itself an ambitious goal: to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world. The eEurope action plan 2002 is the flagship of the Union's strategy to achieve this target.

Within the eEurope action plan, research and technological development have a decisive role. Although there has recently been negative developments in the stock market, the European industry has during the past years achieved major successes in the ICT sector. Key examples are mobile communications and digital tv, but also software. These successes can be attributed to an EU policy combining support to R&D and a proper regulatory framework.

Our strategic objective with the 6th Framework programme must be not only to maintain but also to improve our competitive position in the economy, old and new. To attain this, we have to invest in the future of Information society technologies and to improve our innovation and entrepreneurial performance.

Why invest in IST:

First, information society technologies underpin the competitiveness of all our industries. The use of these technologies not only opens new and innovative market opportunities but also provides substantial productivity gains, contributing to a merge between new and old economies. And in consequence, they have significant effects on growth and employment.

And, secondly, we are at a crossroads. The key developments that lie ahead are the move towards a new generations of wireless technologies (beyond 3G) and the next generation Internet, Internet protocol v.6.

At the same time information society technologies offer important tools to bridge the digital gap, to keep the society inclusive. There are major societal challenges which confront us today and where the markets alone will not offer solutions: eHealth, applications for people with disablilities, elderly, eTransport, eLearning etc..

How do we intend to achieve this in the 6th Framework program ?

By ensuring that Information Society Technologies are a key priority of our R&D efforts, and by focusing this priority on 3 critical aspects:

  • Investing in the longer-term, pre-competitive R&D and there as priorities maintaining our leadership in mobile technologies beyond the 3rd Generation and promotion of the development of ambient intelligence. We must put the people in the center and create them technologies which are easy to use anywhere, anytime.

  • Inclusiveness must be at the center of our efforts. Societal applications are needed in the areas where there is a market failure and therefore we have to intervene to support research efforts in this area.

  • Focusing on the role of information society technologies as enabling technologies for many other industrial or service sectors and also for research. Bioinformatics is for instance a good example of the underpinning role of information society technologies in the area of biotechnology.

Another important area for focusing our efforts are the research infrastructures, in particular the continuation of the work initiated in the framework of the GEANT project to develop high-speed communication networks for European researchers.

After consultation with all interested parties (industry, academic world) we have concluded that our future activities have to be built around these cornerstones. We are happy to see that in the run-up to today's Council, Member States and CREST have indicated their support for this approach.

We also appreciate the importance that has been given to innovation in the preparatory discussions of the Council. It is essential that the longer-term R&D efforts are combined with stimulation of technological innovation, better utilisation of research results and transfer of knowledge and technologies. We need to support strong, entrepreneurial spirit in Europe.

Finally, we need to maintain the EU's competitive position vis-à-vis our main trading partners (USA, Japan, Canada) in this crucial sector for our economy. We need to keep R&D for Information Society Technologies including the support for policies and to high-speed communication networks, at the present level and increase the efficiency. Only thus can we give our industry and researchers a good chance of making wireless internet or the next generation internet European success stories like GSM or as DTV will become. And in this way we can also work for an information society which is genuinely inclusive.

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