Research that is carried out under European Framework Programmes is often closely connected to standardization. Projects addressing technical or scientific issues in many cases will produce results that can be used to develop a new standard, to improve an existing one, or to anticipate a future standard.
Even projects that do not primarily aim at developing standards, may contain elements supporting ongoing or new standardisation processes and may benefit from interfacing with standards bodies for the dissemination of their results. Research projects are therefore required to keep standards bodies informed on contributions they could make to standardization processes.
The Cooperation Platform for Research and Standards (COPRAS) addresses this close connection between IST research projects and standardization and aims to provide research projects with the means to fulfil this obligation in the most efficient way.
Standardisation processes are carried out for a number of different reasons, such as the establishment of compatibility and interoperability, the removal of trade barriers through harmonisation or the safety and health of citizens. The three groups of stakeholders generally benefiting from standards are industry, consumers and governments.
However, although sometimes neglected, standardization is also beneficial to research projects desiring to upgrade their results and wishing to better exploit their output. For example, developing new standards can help to increase the quality of a product or even build a competitive advantage; it can create the ability to test according to internationally agreed principles or it may in some cases enable the exploitation of intellectual property.
In addition, participating in standardization processes may bring projects higher international recognition, networking opportunities, or the ability to cooperate with a variety of specialists, thus benefiting from their collective expertise. This may be specifically relevant when standardization work proves to be expensive and time consuming, and cooperation with outside experts may provide projects the leverage needed when their budgets are insufficient.
Major standards bodies have now initiated the Cooperation Platform for Research and Standards to facilitate cooperation between the research community and standards bodies and provide research projects with information on standardisation processes. COPRAS is an FP6 Specific Support Action project serving as a platform for research projects seeking to upgrade their results through interfacing with standards bodies. The project was launched 1st February 2004 by the European Standards Organizations CEN, CENELEC and ETSI together with The Open Group and the World Wide Web Consortium, and will run for 3 years.
COPRAS addresses Thematic Priority Area number 2: «Information Society technologies» (IST) and is linked to the eEurope initiative. One of the objectives of the IST Programme for 2003-2004 is to ensure European leadership in the generic and applied technologies at the heart of the knowledge economy. In this respect the Programme also states that «experience has shown that the development of common visions and consensus building is a key element of European successes in IST». The COPRAS project will bring together the research and standardization aspects of the eEurope activity and optimise the interface between FP6 IST projects and standardization. In doing so, it will speed up industry and market adoption of research results, and generate feedback on their acceptance and usage.
The five consortium partners participating in the COPRAS project are all members of the ICT Standards Board (ICTSB), the coordinating forum for ICT standardization in Europe. Through the ICTSB they offer the research community an entry point to ongoing or planned standardisation activities and access to (technical) groups focusing on standardisation of the many different aspects of IST. In addition, the three standardisation organisations CEN, CENELEC and ETSI have liaisons and arrangements in place with ISO, IEC and ITU for cooperation and standardisation on a global level. The Members of the ICT Standards Board are listed in the table below:
Through COPRAS, its partners have adapted their processes and deliverables in ways which optimise the interface with Research and Technology Development (RTD) and specifically facilitate the participation of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs). Consequently, they can provide a rapid, open consensus building process, involving direct participation of interested parties and resulting in consensus publications, which are upwardly compatible to full European Standards where necessary and have a proven track-record of acceptability as the basis for International Standards.
The interface between standards and research is crucial to the success of both activities, and experience shows that standards emerging from co-operative research have a higher rate of success in international consensus building processes. Therefore, the way to optimise this interface has been considered at length under successive Framework Programmes, so far with varying degrees of success. COPRAS" objective is to act as a platform for FP6 IST projects, wishing to upgrade their deliverables through standardization during the course of their research. Also, it will generate generic information and guidelines on the interfacing between research and standardization, supporting those proposing projects in subsequent calls or Framework Programmes.
One of the essential aspects of this interfacing process is to ensure that standardization and research proceed in parallel enabling cross-fertilization. This will ensure that the standards community can rapidly receive contributions from the research community and that research projects are familiar with the latest developments in standardization. However, in ICT standardization activities are spread out over hundreds of organizations and consortia, not encouraging interoperability in any of the key areas. By providing a catalytic focal point for standardization activities, COPRAS enables research projects to overcome a potential barrier to standard-based solutions by allowing them to avoid the workload of trying to find which of these organizations are most relevant to them, consequently giving them a high control over the output of these processes. It thus provides research projects with a cost-effective way of meeting their contractual obligation of setting up an interface with the standards world and gives them a means to validate their work with a wider audience.
Moreover, during the course of their activities, projects may find themselves producing a considerably larger amount of standards related deliverables than originally anticipated and consequently may not have sufficient resources for passing all output through standards bodies. In addition projects often deliver most of their standards related towards the end of their lifespan, and find themselves confronted with a relatively narrow window of opportunity to promote the results in standardization processes. COPRAS aims to address these issues as well by interfacing with projects at a relatively early point in time during the course of their activities.
Nevertheless, not all IST projects may generate standards related output and not all projects - for various reasons - may be capable to cooperate with COPRAS. To determine this, COPRAS will survey all FP6 IST projects for potentially standards related issues and standards related output, and will analyse the information gathered. As far as call 2 is concerned, COPRAS will focus on gathering information from projects in the following Strategic Objectives:
To ensure that projects with standards-related output in these areas are actually addressed and invited to participate in the platform, COPRAS will ask all projects in these Strategic Objectives to provide information by filling in a questionnaire. The results of the questionnaire and the information gathering process will be published March 2005.
As a second step in the process, all information will be analysed and projects with relevant standards related output will be selected and invited to participate in a kick-off meeting focusing on the development of tailor-made Standardization Action Plans for each of the projects. These Plans will serve as a «Memorandum of Understanding» between research projects and COPRAS, and will for example define milestones, deliverables, target dates and mutual responsibilities. In this way, projects" participation in relevant standardization working groups can be ensured and - where considered necessary - new standardization activities can be promoted or initiated.
Contributions from research projects are expected to be made on a voluntary basis and may for example include technical specifications, guideline documents or «best practice» statements. Moreover, contributions may contain complete drafts, may address parts of standards already in the process of being drafted, or may even focus on new areas of work.
In addition to research projects" contributions to standardisation, the Action Plans will also indicate necessary contributions from the standardisation community to research projects. This will ensure that projects requiring advice with respect to the most relevant standardization activities are adequately informed on the »state of the art« in those areas most relevant to them. Moreover, when appropriate, Standardization Action Plans will include the provision of support to projects facilitating the drafting of contributions to standardization work.
An overview of the planned methodological steps leading to the definition of Standardization Action Plans for projects in call 2 is displayed in the diagram below:
To take the implementation of Standardization Action Plans forward, COPRAS will structure and maintain cooperation and communication between relevant standardization groups and research projects by implementing and maintain adequate tools and mechanisms. Where necessary it will initiate meetings and organise presentations from research projects in standards bodies. It will arrange and maintain exchange of information between the various participating research projects, and it will make available overall information on the progress and deliverables of the COPRAS platform.
COPRAS will address FP6 IST projects across most of the Strategic Objectives areas and define ways to provide a permanent improvement and optimisation of the interface between research and standardisation. Therefore communication, information and promotion activities are of specific importance to ensure COPRAS" goals can be successfully achieved, and that research projects can actually add value to their results through cooperating via the platform.
A variety of promotional activities will therefore be deployed to further improve contacts and communication between the IST research community and standardisation bodies. In addition, these activities will support the dissemination of the project"s results beyond the research and standardisation domains, thus enhancing the visibility of both the COPRAS project and the individual selected research projects in the «outside» world.
Towards the end of the project"s lifetime, overall results and relevant deliverables of the COPRAS platform will be presented at an Open Meeting in that will address both the standardisation and the IST research community.
Many research projects may find it difficult to find the right point in time or the right way to consolidate their research efforts: while there is the need to build momentum for interfacing with standards bodies throughout the project"s life time, standardisation processes take time and drafting standards is generally being done on a voluntary basis. Resources for these activities may not always be foreseen in project budgets and - specifically for SMEs - standardization processes may therefore be considered a significant burden.
COPRAS will help research projects to define the right momentum for starting these processes and will facilitate the interface between research and standardisation in such a way that the time gap between the availability of research projects" final deliverables and the availability of standards resulting from them will be shortened significantly.
This will make standards available earlier to industry and the general public. COPRAS will therefore support furthering European leadership in the generic and applied technologies at the heart of the knowledge economy. Moreover, it will help research projects upgrade their results in the most cost effective way and will help standards bodies reduce overlap and better organise the flow of relevant material.
Through COPRAS, the standards bodies have taken the initiative to address the requirement that is upon research projects to interface with the standards community, and to optimise processes involved with this requirement. This initiative, however, should not prevent research projects from pre-empting the sequential steps COPRAS intends to follow and from contacting the project either directly, or through other standards bodies that they feel could be relevant to their specific activities. For this purpose, additional information on the COPRAS project can be obtained from the COPRAS web site or from the project management as indicated below.
An online form for projects in call2 is available to gather further feedback.
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