At present, few areas are as fundamentally
important as the field of measurements and testing (M&T). Virtually every
productive endeavour imaginable requires the use of a reliable, standardised
and accurate measurement and verification system, especially as accession
countries now have their sites trained on adopting European standards
Since 1973, with the establishment of the Community
Bureau of Reference (BCR) at the Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC),
the European Union has been closely involved in measurements and testing-related
research. From 1994 to 1998, the original BCR activities were part of
the Standards, Measurements and Testing (SMT) Programme, which was aimed
at improving the competitiveness of European industry, supporting the
implementation of other Community policies and, more generally, meeting
the needs of society vis-à-vis measurements and testing. Activities spanned
a wide variety of areas ranging from European product quality measurements
to research related to written standards and technical support for trade,
health and safety, protection of cultural heritage, environmental monitoring
and the justice system.
||M&T and the Growth
Under the Fifth Framework
Programme (FP5) (1998-2002), research in measurements and testing
has been positioned as a generic activity within the Competitive
and Sustainable Growth Programme. Under 'Growth', the work of M&T
has been vital in supporting the objectives of the programme as
a whole, namely, helping European industry to become more competitive
while preserving the long-term well being of European citizens.
But M&T has also supported other work under the FP5 in a variety
of areas and has facilitated the implementation of numerous EU policies.
The M&T activity has sought to meet three socio-economic
- Pre-normative research and technical support for standardisation
- developing and validating measurement and testing methods and
certified reference materials needed in support of Community policies;
- The fight against fraud - developing measurement and testing
methods for detecting and preventing crime and fraud;
- Quality improvements - developing new and improved measurement
and testing methods, and establishing international 'traceability'
and equivalence of measurements.
In order to address each of these socio-economic
objectives, several specific research objectives have been pursued
- Development of new instrumentation;
- Development of new methodologies;
- Development of new reference materials.
Several means of implementation have been used,
including thematic networks, virtual institutes and concerted actions,
as well as more traditional RTD projects. Furthermore, the Commission
has made an effort through calls for Expressions of Interest and
Dedicated Calls (see page.) to ensure that these specific goals
||A New Framework
Programme and a larger Europe for M&T
By all accounts,
M&T will continue to be an area of crucial importance as we move
into the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) (2002-2006), the primary
instrument through which the objectives of the European Research
Area will be realised.
M&T will be of particular importance with respect
to the issue of Union enlargement. Bringing candidate countries
into the European fold will imply a huge array of standardising
and harmonising activities, not just in terms of legislation but
also in terms of the way trade and product development is carried
out. The upcoming conference, entitled 'Towards an integrated infrastructure
for measurements', to be held in Warsaw in June 2002, will no doubt
highlight the potential contributions of accession countries like
Poland, as well as their special challenges.
According to Professor Krysztof Kurzydlowski
of the State Committee for Scientific Research "With the accession
process moving forward, Polish companies are now taking seriously
the idea of competing on the open European market, and there is
a growing interest among all of the Newly Associated States (NAS)
(see page.) in the codes and practices of EU industry. Many of us
now believe that NAS research institutes can be powerhouses for
EU research and development in the future. We will certainly represent
a major pool of excellent young researchers as a growing number
of our students are now taking courses in science and engineering."
||An expanding source
As for all the Member
States, the increasing support for co-operation presented by EU-funded
research in M&T and many other areas represents an immeasurable
opportunity. An expanding pool of resources, in terms of funding,
political support and the growing number of potential collaborators,
will ensure that Europe can maintain its competitive edge while
offering an increasing and sustainable quality of life to its citizens.