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ACARE stresses joint efforts at European Technology Platforms event

On 4-5 May 2006, more than 500 participants met in Vienna, Austria, to compare knowledge and experiences of the European Technology Platform (ETP) process. ACARE, the air transport ETP, presented its views on effective, goal-oriented European co-operation.

Image of François Quentin
François Quentin

“We may be one of the oldest ETPs,” said ACARE Co-Chairman François Quentin of Thales Aerospace, “but we are still working very hard today to make progress on a number of fronts. For the first time, we have managed to get all the important players together, representing the complete process of air transport, from the moment a passenger sets foot in one airport to the moment he or she leaves the other at the final destination. We are talking about the whole collection of stakeholders covering the entire supply chain, from the big airplane manufacturers to the smallest SMEs providing component parts and ground-based services.”

According to conference organisers, European Technology Platforms offer an effective means of defining research priorities, timeframes and action plans on a number of strategically important issues where achieving European growth, competitiveness, and sustainability is dependant on major technological advances.

“ETPs represent the best way forward for Europe,” said EU Research Commissioner Janez Poto─Źnik. “They have now been recognised at the highest political levels as crucial instruments for achieving a more strategic approach to research activities. We believe it is very important that industry has taken a leading role in this process, ensuring a real focus on important market applications.”

Speaking on behalf of the Austrian Presidency of the EU, Martin Bartenstein, Minister of Economics and Labour, said, “The Austrian Presidency has defined jobs and growth as a priority and we believe the ETPs are a powerful approach to achieving the EU’s Lisbon Strategy. There are still some important questions to be answered, about openness and transparency, and about the inclusion of SMEs in the process, but we do believe that the ETPs are flagship initiatives that can lead to a better European future.”

Effective tools for meeting EU research objectives

Image of roundtable discussion
Roundtable discussion

The ETP conference, organised by the European Commission and the Austrian Research Promotion Agency, under the aegis of the Austrian Presidency, gathered over 500 participants from around Europe and beyond to discuss the theme of European competitiveness. It was the first time all of the existing ETPs were present at a single event. Importantly, this gave members of the different ETPs, representing widely dispersed areas of industrial research, to compare their knowledge and experiences of the ETP process.

ACARE (the Advisory Council for Aeronautics Research in Europe), launched in 2001 by then European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin, is one of the oldest ETPs. It has 39 members, including representatives from EU Member States, EUROCONTROL, the European Commission, the European aeronautics industry and air transport operators. Like the other ETPs, ACARE’s primary mission has been to define a Strategic Research Agenda (SRA).

ACARE formally unveiled its comprehensive SRA in November 2002, addressing the challenges facing the European aeronautics industry. They include ever-increasing air traffic, with its associated increase in noise, emissions, congestion, and delays, as well as heightened security concerns in the aftermath of 11 September 2001. In March 2005, ACARE presented the second edition of its SRA, looking 20 years into the future and presenting expected or potential technology requirements in the air transport sector, based on a series of possible scenarios for the coming decades.

“The reality is that individual European stakeholders can no longer afford to fund research on their own,” said Quentin. “We need to take a joint approach. After all, air transport is a global industry; this is about Airbus versus Boeing, and there is no single country or company that can fund the necessary research in a market of this scale. Competition is indeed a key word for ACARE. We are constantly looking for new ways of including more players who can contribute to increasing efficiency and innovation. The SMEs and New European Member States are very relevant in this sense, with a lot to offer and still many unidentified potential partners out there.”

Setting clear priorities

Image of ACARE exhibit
Interest at ACARE stand

ACARE has been and remains a key guiding force in the planning of research under public, private, national and EU programmes. Its SRA has also served as a major source of input in the formulation of the aeronautics work programme of the Union’s next Research Framework Programme (FP7). Major priorities remain the ‘greening’ of transport, strengthening competitiveness and efficiency, and responding to the increasing demand for mobility and higher safety standards.

The conference in Vienna gave many of the newer ETPs a chance to learn from the best, providing ample opportunities to review approaches and practices with the likes of ACARE, ERTRAC and ERRAC.

Speaking at the closing session, José Manuel Silva Rodríguez, Director-General of Research at the European Commission, said, “You are all helping to focus efforts on clear European challenges. Of course, there need not be a single approach for all; each ETP will decide for itself how best to deal with its specific problems in its specific sector, but increasing interaction among you is important. This kind of exchange can help to identify areas of common, cross-platform interest, and with the ETPs playing an increasing role in the development of national, regional and European research strategies, your SRAs will have a big impact on our future plans and on our prosperity.”