European coordination in smart-systems research
5 September 2006
Smart systems based on microtechnology and
nanotechnology hold great promise for future systems integration, with a
variety of potential applications especially in medicine, automotive safety
and aeronautics. However, lack of coordination among European research
institutions, industry and government means that research and product
innovation are not advancing as fast as they could.
Commission's Information Society Technologies (IST)-sponsored EraPilot
project is working to improve coordination among the various players
involved in European smart-systems research. It aims to develop new policy
support tools, models and formats to boost interdisciplinary research and
innovative design in these systems.
"We want to bring more cohesion into
European policies for smart systems research at the various administrative
levels, so that research turns into innovative products faster," says
project coordinator Wolfgang Gessner of VDI/VDE Innovation + Technik in
Berlin. Better coordination will allow European research to attain a more
European scale, he says.
Potential for miniature-scale integration
Microtechnology (with features near one micrometer) and nanotechnology (tens
of thousands of times finer than a human hair) have the potential to
integrate optical, electronic and mechanical functions on a miniature scale
for a wide range of applications.
"Smart microsystems are already used in
automotive braking systems and medical equipment," says Gessner. "Future
systems will be able to diagnose complex situations and help humans make
decisions. For example, driver-status monitoring systems could help prevent
In aircraft, "Smart systems will increase power efficiency and
reduce emissions," says Gessner. "In the healthcare sector, they will open
up new possibilities for personalised health monitoring of patients outside
the hospital, long-distance surgery, and integrated delivery of care at
home." In healthcare, smart systems will open up to personalised health
Facing differing rules and requirements
possibilities are impressive, but to ensure a leading role for European
industry in this field, efficiency needs to be improved within the various
European structures, stresses Gessner. Companies and organisations that want
to participate in research projects can face very different rules and
requirements for regional, national, and Commission research projects, he
says. Compounding these differences is a free-for-all competition for
research money. "The result is that there is confusion," says Gessner.
EraPilot is consulting European industry representatives to define industry
requirements for future research in Europe. "We call this a road-mapping
process for technology priorities," says Gessner.
The project, which began
in July 2005 and ends in July 2007, is a Coordination Action, so its main
goal is to bring key people and groups together to improve support for
research and design activities. The partners include programme management
agencies from a number of EU countries, as well as the EUREKA initiatives
Eurimus and Pidea.
"These organisations manage public R&D programmes and
initiatives and assist governmental authorities in designing policies in
this sector. The EraPilot project aims to intensify their communication and
suggest concerted policy approaches," explains Gessner.
partners had themselves to coordinate with another European initiative with
similar goals. Originally named ERA Pilot MiNa TSI, the project renamed
itself to EraPilot Smart Systems Integration to reflect its link with the
European Technology Platform on Smart Systems Integration (EpoSS).
clear that this technology platform was crucial for the success of
EraPilot,” says Gessner. With EPoSS, EraPilot jointly published a Strategic
Research Agenda (SRA) in July 2006.
Future research paths
"This is an important milestone for the project. We haven't finished working
out the cohesion part of our mission yet. But we do have the SRA in hand
now, which is an indispensable basis for our project's future activities,
since it lays out the future paths of research on smart systems
integration," he says.
EraPilot is now working out the details of an
expected merger for two overlapping EUREKA clusters, Eurimus and Pidea.
Gessner adds, “This is a major step toward better cohesion among the
research organisations. The efficiency gained will be a great thing, a step
forward for smart systems research."
Source: IST Results