ERCIM News No.31 - October 1997

Information Society Programme Support for Research Infrastructure

by Jean-Pierre Euzen

The European Commission has been proactive in the area of Research Networking for many years with the support to an International X25 Interconnection (IXI) in the early '90s, to EuropaNET established in 1993 as a 2 Mbit/s IP interconnection, and to TEN-34 which currently provides trans-European IP and ATM high speed interconnectivity between the EU national research networks and beyond. In addition, several other actions are addressing experiments on high-speed networks and developments of advanced applications for distributed group work.

In order to reflect the increased relations between information and telecommunication technologies, the previous Information Technologies, Advanced Communications Technologies and Services and Telematics Applications of Common Interest programmes have been merged in the Vth Framework Programme into one single Information Society Technologies (IST) programme which aims at realizing the benefits of the information society in Europe both by accelerating the emergence of this society and by ensuring that the needs of individuals and enterprises are met by the new technologies and services.

If a cohesive European approach towards collaborative research and education in the 21st century is to be achieved, a pan European network is required that is capable of supporting all research needs, and of keeping pace with these as they evolve in the future. Such a network shall be 'state of the art', as measured against the technologies used, capacities and qualities of service provided by the most advanced national networks in Europe, and with respect to similar facilities in the US and Japan. A specific action dealing with research networking has thus been defined in the IST programme. The first objective of this action is to ensure that European industrial and academic collaborative research and education can benefit from existing and emerging applications and services building on broadband networks. There are large investments being made within the Member States to improve national facilities; interconnectivity at the European level should match these efforts. Another objective of the research networking action is to bring together a critical mass of European actors from industry and academia in the development of future Internet technologies, services and applications by establishing world leading broadband networking testbeds with European coverage. This will be essential for the conduct of leading edge RTD activities in the Key Actions of the Programme.

The EU policy for research networking has been developed in co-operation with the Member-States so that collaborative academic and industrial research in all research domains will benefit from the possibilities of emerging multi-media services to support tele-collaboration, access to knowledge and remote access to expensive or unique research facilities and databases, thus enabling the creation of the 'global research village' and 'virtual laboratories'. The higher education community will also be able to use advanced tools and services across Europe to support the introduction of virtual universities and enable cost-effective distance learning and access to high quality content from a number of European sources. The action will also result in wider downstream benefits to the rest of society since the leading edge users in academic and industrial research and education will collaborate with service and equipment suppliers and network operators to provide future Internet standards and technologies, and validate future tools and services, which will then become accessible to the rest of society.

Please contact:
Jean-Pierre Euzen - European Commission DGXIII - Telematics
Tel: +32 2 296 3447
E-mail: jean_pierre.euzen@bxl.dg13.cec.be

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