Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are critical to creating jobs and improving quality of life across Europe.
Although the ICT sector is itself worth 6-8% of the EU’s GDP, their importance goes well beyond that - ICTs are also vital to:
- meeting the globalization challenge by boosting innovation, creativity and competitiveness throughout the economy;
- delivering cutting-edge science in all scientific and technological areas;
- making Europe’s large public sector more efficient, and modernising sectors ranging from education to energy;
- tackling social challenges, improving quality of life and meeting the challenge of an ageing society.
Europe must therefore master these technologies to remain competitive and safeguard its quality of life, which is why ICT research is one of the key themes of the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) for Research and Technological Development, which will fund research across Europe from 2007-2013.
EU research funding is deliberately focused on seven key Research Challenges to ensure Europe becomes a world leader in ICTs. Three Challenges aim at industrial leadership in key ICT sectors, while four are driven by socio-economic targets. Within each Challenge, the Programme will fund an array of collaborative research projects, each bringing together public and private organisations across Europe to help the EU pool its scientific, industrial, financial and human resources. Small and medium-sized enterprises are actively encouraged due to their vital role in innovation and economic growth. Research partnerships will also be forged with advanced and developing countries, supporting European competitiveness and helping international development.
Challenge 1 - Pervasive and Trustworthy Network and Service Infrastructures
Tomorrow's information infrastructure will connect together billions of people, countless organisations and literally trillions of devices - PCs, mobile phones, servers, sensors and much more. This infrastructure will underpin economic development in all EU regions, and will be at the origin of new services and business opportunities throughout the economy. Mastering the development of this infrastructure is essential to reaping the benefits of ICTs in areas as diverse as manufacturing and home healthcare. It is an immense challenge to make this network and service infrastructure more robust, resilient and secure.
Challenge 2 - Cognitive Systems, Interaction, Robotics
Providing the next generations of ICTs with more intelligence will create many new opportunities in a range of sectors. Research here will focus on developing ICT systems that are more aware of what is going on around them, and will be able to learn, reason and interact with people more naturally. These robots and "smart artefacts" will thus better serve our needs in the real world.
Instead of forcing users to learn how to use the machines, the machines will learn how best to work with us. Applications in areas as diverse as manufacturing, education, healthcare, public safety, environmental protection and service robotics are expected.
Challenge 3 - Components, systems, engineering
European firms are currently among the world's leaders in supplying electronic components to industries as varied as transport, telecoms, consumer electronics and medical equipment. Europe also enjoys leading positions in technologies such as photonics, plastic electronics, flexible displays and micro/nanosystems. Europe is well positioned in the global race to develop these technologies and to embed intelligence into products, services and processes. This Challenge will support European industry and academic researchers in this strategic field and ensure that these new technologies meet the needs of European business & society.
Challenge 4 - Digital Libraries and Content
ICTs enable us to access, create and share content widely. They also allow us to learn better, and to preserve and enrich our cultural heritage. Every day, however, brings us face to face with the shortcomings of current technologies, and the way they are used. We are often overwhelmed w