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IST 2006 - Strategies for Leadership. Helsinki, Finland, 21 November, 2006

Member of the European Commission responsible for Information Society

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased to take part in the opening of IST 2006. This is indeed one of the most important European events in the field of Information Society Technologies.

This year's event is also a very special one. It coincides with the launch of ICT in FP7. It will be the opportunity not only to provide the details of the first ICT Work Programme and the first Calls for Proposals but also for partnership building and networking.

The event gives us also the opportunity to discuss ICT research and innovation policies. It is indeed a unique occasion on which to reflect on how to shape ICT progress and how to ensure that European citizens and businesses can make the best out of it.

Europe is making progress but more needs to be done

As you know, ICT policy is a key element of the EU’s strategy for growth and jobs in the renewed Lisbon agenda. And, we have framed this policy in the i2010 initiative for a European Information Society.

A number of recent reports show encouraging signs that we are now starting to make progress towards the Lisbon goals.

Last month the World Economic Forum released its annual Global Competitiveness Report. The EU now counts six Member States in the top-ten ranking of countries.

It is worth noting that the host country of this event is the top EU-performer, closely followed by the other two Nordic EU members. Moreover, many of the countries that joined the Union less than three years ago have also made significant progress in the rankings, and Estonia and the Czech Republic are now in the top-thirty world-wide.

What makes these countries more competitive than others? These are the countries that focus their investments on research and technological innovation. They have well-developed infrastructures and institutional frameworks and they have introduced sufficient flexibility to support efficient markets.

There is also consensus that faster growth during the last decade has been related to higher investments in ICT. The highest performing countries have been those that have been more innovative in ICT products and services and more active in adopting such innovations in other sectors of the economy, in particular in the service sectors.

As regards R&D investments, another recent report also shows encouraging signs that the EU is making progress: the latest R&D scoreboard released by the European Commission in October shows that the top 1000 EU companies increased their R&D spending by an average of 5.3% in 2005.

Although this is a major jump in performance compared to the past couple of years, Europe can do certainly more and better. And some of our main competitors are indeed doing more and better. The largest gap with our competitors comes from our limited investment in ICT research and innovation.

It is well-known that Europe spends less than half of what our main competitors spend on ICT research. Less well-known is the fact that public procurement of hi-tech products, or pre-commercial public procurement schemes, plays an important role in innovation in the major Asian economies and in the US where public authorities often act as first buyers for local suppliers.

The demand of public procurers for innovative products and services that require R&D is today 20 times less in Europe than in the US where pre-commercial procurement represents some 50 Billion dollars. This is not only driven by defence related schemes but also by similar schemes applied in civilian sectors such as energy, transport, health and security.

In Europe, I am sure that we have not yet fully explored and exploited such schemes. They would not only bring about more effective solutions for public procurers. They would also lead to more efficient exploitation of research results for the supplier base.

This being said, though, there are many positive signs across the Member States today that Europe is finally putting resources and efforts behind the words when it comes to ICT research and innovation. The shift is starting and the trend is there. It needs to grow, to be sustained and to include all regions.

With a 75% increase in investments in ICT research under FP7 by 2013 we are showing the way. It is true that the next few years will see increases of only 10-15% compared to the investment level in FP6, but the increases will step-up in the last half of FP7 to reach a total of more than 1.7 B€ in 2013.

Europe is well positioned to ride the next wave of innovation

Yes, Europe is changing, but the world around us is changing even more dramatically. Asia’s rapid economic growth continues; China is emerging as a major manufacturing hub; India is becoming a major player in software and other knowledge industries; and the US continues to reap the highest benefits from the production and use of ICT.

Emerging economies' share of world exports has jumped from 20% to 43% over the last three decades. They now make up more than 50% of world GDP. Chinese and Indian universities produce 1.2 million scientists and engineers every year. This is as many as in the EU, America and Japan combined and three times the number ten years ago.

Technology developments are also speeding up. We are seeing a new wave of ICT on the horizon. This next wave of technologies is making systems smaller, cheaper, smarter and friendlier, more centred on users and their needs. It is making ICT more embedded into the things of everyday life. And it is enabling us to be connected at any time, anywhere and to any service.

Unlike previous technology waves, this new wave of ICT touches everyone and everything: ICT no longer just enable us to do new things; it shapes how we do them. It transforms, enriches and becomes an integral part of almost everything we do.

The net effect is a step-change in what ICT is able to deliver for users. New technology allows new ways of doing things – and there are new ways of getting the benefits out of technology.

This makes investment in ICT research and innovation a must. It is not a luxury. ICTs are the generic technologies on which all our other high tech and knowledge industries depend for innovation and added value – such as aerospace, pharmaceuticals or automotive. We have to step up our investment in ICT if we want to stay in the global game in any and all industrial fields.

This was my warning message. This is no time to take a breather.

And a continued effort will pay high dividends because I am convinced that Europe is well positioned to ride the next wave of innovation.

European companies, research centres and universities have a well-recognised capacity to draw on multiple disciplines and develop and integrate technologies into smart and reliable products, services and infrastructures.

Europe has a head start in several technologies that are especially promising. For instance: Photonics, Microsystems, embedded systems and, of course, mobile and broadband communications.

We should not forget that European technology has been at the origin of major recent innovation trends in ICT such as the Web but also "voice over IP" and "open standards for operating systems".

New impetus for ICT in FP7

Over many years, the research and development framework programmes have been helping to build excellence on a European scale. With the launch of the 7th Framework Programme, we will see the launch of a new generation of ICT projects that will raise our research performance to a higher level in the face of increased global competition.

Changes in markets, technology and industry have been reflected in the implementation of the ICT Programme under FP7. On the one hand, it answers current well-identified industrial requirements and, on the other hand, it is sufficiently forward-looking in order to prepare the ground for future markets.

The first ICT Work Programme under FP7 seeks to strike the right balances between playing to Europe’s strengths, enabling Europe to seize the opportunities ahead and recognising European specificities:

First, Europe should reinforce its key technology and industry strongholds. We should leverage technological advance in the ICT sector and help improve the competitive edge of important ICT-intensive sectors. This is through innovative high value ICT-based goods and services.

Second, Europe should ensure that it builds the necessary capabilities to seize new opportunities as they arise. This involves the expansion of the borders of ICT research. In particular, digital convergence within ICT and developments at the cross-roads between ICT and other disciplines are bound to be at the origin of the next revolutions.

Third, Europe should be able to shape the future ICT so that it fits the needs of its businesses and citizens. This means bringing technology closer to people and organisational needs, and paying more attention to issues such as service innovation.

Responding to industry and technology needs

ICT in FP7 will allow us to support strategic research priorities in areas of European industrial and technological strengths such as communication networks, embedded computing, nano-electronics and technologies for audiovisual content:

In this respect the European Technology Platforms have been the cornerstone for our approach to make FP7 act as a key to industry and technology leadership.

So far, nine European Technology Platforms have been launched in the ICT area. They have been instrumental in establishing Strategic Research Agendas that set out what we need to do to make sure that Europe is among the ICT leaders in the next ten years. This, in turn, has played a valuable role in making the ICT Work Programme in FP7 even more strategic and better focused.

First, there is a call for more investment in ICT research to make network and service infrastructures more stable and predictable, more scalable, secure and trustworthy. This is clearly reflected in the Strategic Research Agendas of the Platforms on mobile and satellite communications, software and services, and networked media.

The current Internet, mobile, fixed and broadcasting networks and the related software service infrastructure need to progress considerably in order to offer almost unlimited capacity to users and support a wide variety of devices and services working seamlessly together. European suppliers are well placed to better define and develop these future infrastructures as they generate new economic opportunities with new classes of networked applications.

Second, there is a continuous need to increase the performance and reliability of the underlying electronic systems and components. Research responses to this need have been presented notably by the Platforms covering nano-electronics, photonics, micro-systems, and embedded systems.

European industry has major strengths in supplying hardware and software components, and in integrating and deploying them in intelligent systems – from portable devices to cars, airplanes, health systems and manufacturing plants. Nonetheless, Europe’s position needs to be continually strengthened if we are to remain a leading supplier is this critical area.

Thirdly, ICT systems need to become more intelligent; they need to learn better from observations and experience, adapt better to the context in which they operate, and become more personalised and user-friendly. This can be done by exploiting synergies from the areas of cognitive systems, multimodal interfaces and advanced robotics. In this respect the European Technology Platform on Robotics has given us very valuable input.

Such intelligence is opening up new opportunities for industry in Europe, in healthcare, public safety, environmental monitoring, industrial production, and in emerging sectors such as service robotics. Autonomous surveillance systems can, for example, save crucial time in emergencies or hazardous situations. And they can extend the capabilities of people to perform routine, dangerous or tiring tasks, especially in previously inaccessible, uncharted, or remote spaces.

Confronted with a media-rich world, individuals and organisations need to learn how best to cope with "information overload". For researchers the challenge is to strengthen the link between content, knowledge and learning to improve our ability to master and exploit content and knowledge, and to learn in increasingly dynamic working environments. This requires tools for filtering and classifying information for supporting the capture of knowledge, its sharing and reuse, and ultimately new ways of learning to acquire and exploit this new-found knowledge.

The long-term accessibility and usability of digital content through digital libraries is important for preserving Europe's rich cultural heritage. Our new research priorities firmly establish digital libraries as a key element of digital content infrastructures, allowing content and knowledge to be produced, stored, managed, personalised, transmitted, preserved and used. More personalised and collaborative services will ultimately lead to more creative approaches to content and knowledge production.

Targeting socio-economic goals

Networks, software and services, sensors and devices are the backbone of ICT applications.

They enable patients to connect to points of healthcare from home. With ICT we can improve illness prevention and safety of care, aid active participation of patients and offer personalised care. New simulations and biomedical imaging, combined with a greater knowledge of diseases from molecules to organs, are leading to a new generation of predictive medicine. All this will radically improve the quality and efficiency of our healthcare systems the cost of which currently make up 8.5% of GDP.

New ICT also offers significant opportunities for helping those at risk of exclusion to find new ways of active participation in society. The complexity and lack of accessibility and usability often associated with technology can be overcome with better design. With modern technology, products and services should be able to adapt to the needs and preferences of individuals.

Next generation ICT can also help offset the consequences of Europe's increasing demand for transport: increasing congestion, high energy consumption, pollutant emissions, and above-all accidents causing fatalities and injuries. In particular, ICT-based active safety and intelligent monitoring systems make transport safer, free up traffic and permit more efficient mobility of people and goods.

ICT research also provides powerful tools that improve energy efficiency and that help monitor, predict and manage the environment. These are tools that contribute to optimise the use of natural resources, to design smarter and cleaner processes with minimum waste, and to contain the environmental degradation and related threats on human lives. This is becoming all the more important as the demand increases for natural resources, as waste volumes rise, and as there are higher risk exposures to diverse pollutants.

As well as addressing such concrete challenges for society and the economy today, ICT in FP7 also supports more pioneering research that will explore radical interdisciplinary avenues. Here I am referring to projects under the Future and Emerging Technologies scheme that will demonstrate new possibilities where none were suspected and open up entirely new areas and markets.

In addition to support to trans-national collaborative research, there will also be further support to research infrastructures based on high-capacity and high-performance communication and grid infrastructures and high-end computing capabilities, so-called eInfrastructures.

These infrastructures play an increasingly important role in the advancement of knowledge and its exploitation. Modelling climate change, sending medical images to specialists, searching for new drug treatments against major diseases are just some examples of how these infrastructures are advancing applied science in other fields.

The importance of Collaboration : Europe needs to "team-up" !

The support to collaboration is a key factor for success in future innovations. It is a well recognised European asset because we master it so well. Let’s build on it.

Research conducted by individuals or teams of scientists in ivory towers or remote research labs is no longer the order of the day. Competition among researchers was once how science advanced and technologies were developed in the isolated labs of major corporations.

Today, in our globalised, highly competitive and increasingly complex world, it is collaboration and networking between excellent teams at the top of their game with best equipment and facilities that counts.

It is through coordinated and concerted action that Europe will be able to maximise the benefits of European ICT research and innovation on society and the economy. Aligning our efforts at the European level is the key to staying competitive.

I am impressed by the efforts that we have seen going into the European Technology Platforms - the ETPs. The platforms build open partnerships between industry and academia and between public and private sectors to create a critical mass that otherwise would be missing. ETPs allow Europe to exploit its scale by sharing risks, pooling resources and improving competitivity. They are also literally platforms for nurturing new businesses and new fields. ETPs should aim to speed up innovation, thanks to knowledge and experience sharing, and consensus building around technology development strategies. They provide poles for attracting more investment into research.

They also provide a means to work on removing the barriers to turning research results into technological progress, marketable products and the take-up of new technologies. This is also the central aim of the EU's ICT policy support programme within the Competitiveness and Innovation framework Programme. It will stimulate innovation and competitiveness through the wider uptake and best use of ICT by citizens, governments and businesses and in particular SMEs. In this role, ETPs can help improve the return on public and private research investment, which means better value for money, while boosting industry’s competitiveness and meeting society’s needs.

One month ago, in Lahti about 100 kilometres north of here, the informal EU summit confirmed one of the conclusions of the group chaired by former prime minister of Finland, Mr. Aho, that the ETPs are an excellent instrument for the creation and exploitation of innovation-friendly markets.

Time has now come to fulfil these expectations and turn the visions and the plans into reality by implementing the Strategic Research Agendas. Launching new collaboration R&D projects, co-funded by FP7 and by other financing sources, is only one step in this direction.

The platforms can be instrumental in many other ways to create environments that are more conducive to innovation. They can agree on establishing novel Intellectual Property Rights regimes and support the move towards a more efficient European IPR policy including more effective patent systems. They can identify emerging needs for new standards and speed up their agreements. And, they can provide valuable input for the legislative reforms necessary for markets to emerge based on open competition and efficient and accessible services.

I believe that we must further step up European teamwork in ICT research. Only together, and by overcoming the present fragmentation of European research efforts and spending, we will be able to become sustainably stronger and more competitive.

This is why I'm glad to announce today that, in line with the political conclusions of the Lahti Summit, we are now preparing for a pioneer approach in European research. For the first time ever, we will make use of Article 171 of the EC Treaty to pool private, EU and national research investment in the form of a Joint Technology Initiative (JTI). The first such JTI, the ARTEMIS initiative, which will start in early 2007, will focus on embedded systems, this means on computer-research which is crucial for many industrial sectors.

Some are telling me that this is quite a daring undertaking. But, ladies and gentlemen, without daring and risk there can be no breakthrough, neither in research nor in politics.

The budget of the ARTEMIS initiative will be around 3 billion € over seven years. More than 50 percent of this would come from industry, while the rest would be financed by the European Commission and by the EU Member States and Associated States involved. I expect that this new method of teamwork in European research will leverage 7 euro of overall R&D effort for every euro of Community money spent - and this, ladies and gentlemen, would really be worth the effort and value for money.

Closing remarks

As you can see FP7 offers a new framework for competition, innovation and growth.

I am delighted that the details of the opportunities for ICT research in FP7 are, for the first time, being presented at IST 2006.

Sessions throughout the next three days will reveal the details of the largest Calls for Proposals ever published under more than twenty years of Framework Programmes.

There will be plenty of opportunities to discuss ICTs and the crucial role they play, not just in FP7, but also in moving forward European innovation and growth.