On 21-22 April, Brussels hosts a conference to debate grand challenges for basic research in ICT under the EU's seventh framework programme for R&D (FP7 - 2007-2010)

These challenges involve:
  • exploring the new miniaturisation frontiers
  • harnessing the increasing complexity of computing and communication systems spanning from the nano-scale to the planetary-scale (like GRID or Peer to Peer Computing)
  • building more intelligent systems, to meet society’s expectations for ever-improving goods and services that are ever-better tailored to citizens’ needs

Research is expected to address, inter alia, the needs of Europe’s ageing population, health care, and security and the needs of an all-inclusive society. As ICTs move closer to biotechnology and the life sciences, experiments on living material and the notion of “human augmentation” are also raising important ethical and moral concerns that research will need to address. The “New Directions for ICTs in FP7: Grand challenges for basic research” conference will also debate how ICT research under FP7 can further the European Research Area initiative, which aims to ensure free movement of knowledge, researchers and technology, boost co-operation, stimulate competition and improve the allocation of resources. The Commission will announce the main orientations of FP7 in May.

Basic research and innovation are both strategic activities for Europe, ensuring its continuous progress and safeguarding its long-term competitiveness and prosperity. For our ICT industries and particularly our innovative small businesses, becoming and staying competitive in global markets requires continuous access to fresh and sound knowledge. The case for substantially increasing the funding of research and innovation activities under FP7 was set out in the Financial Perspectives 2007 – 2013, as well as the need for specific funding of basic research. EU enlargement is about to boost our human potential by several thousand well-qualified researchers. By encouraging individual competition in research, excellence can be stimulated in a wide range of sectors and disciplines, to the ultimate benefit of all.

Thematic workshops at this event will focus on :

  • Strategy and policy for ICT-based basic research in FP7 Component Research
  • System Research
  • Intelligence and Cognition Research

Overviews of future and emerging technologies will be provided by industry, academia and members of ISTAG, the Advisory Group for the EU Research Programme on Information Society.

ICTs are now at a crossroads and prospects for further breakthroughs increasingly rely on synergies and cross-fertilisation with many other science and technology (S&T) fields. ICTs are no longer seen in isolation, but increasingly as an area, which is both enabling and being enabled by other areas. Examples include the key role of ICTs in science-based predictions and more generally in computational sciences and the combination of ICTs with new materials and with bio- and life sciences. This accelerated integration of many S&T fields is bound to be at the origin of the next revolution(s) in medicine, in energy and in many other application fields.

The widespread diffusion of ICTs in society is also posing complex organisational, societal, ethical and other challenges, as more aspects of business and personal life come to depend on computers and networks. Examples include: usability and social inclusion, privacy, trust and security, and ethics. Research must also address the needs of a longer active working life for people and help to maintain an ageing population in good physical and mental health.

Europe’s productivity and innovation performance lags behind the USA and other industrialised nations due, in part, to the lower levels of research investment in the EU, in particular ICT investment. The EU’s "Investment in Research" action plan outlines plans to raise research and innovation spending to 3% of GDP, and consequently boost the number of researchers working in the EU by several hundreds of thousands.

The Commission’s proposal for the financial perspectives for 2007-2013 stresses the importance of research and innovation, not only by an increase of funding in R&D but also through the development of human resources and the use of structural funds. In mid-May, the Commission will announce the main R&D orientations of FP7 further detailing the plans set out in the financial perspectives. A recent study by the European Science Foundation shows that major technological achievements that have had economic and commercial success and have also improved the quality of life have had basic research as their origin.

More information on the conference