Standardization is a consensus-driven activity serving a number of different purposes, and its importance to industry and society can be seen from several different perspectives. Some of the more important objectives of standardization are the establishment of compatibility and interoperability, the removal of trade barriers through harmonisation, and the safety and health of citizens. As a consequence, the three groups of stakeholders primarily benefiting from standardization processes are industry, consumers and governments.
However, deploying standardization activity is also beneficial to research projects that seek to have a complete and tailored set of instruments, tools and mechanisms for effective promotion of their objectives and results among their main target groups, e.g. other IST research projects, standardization working groups or industry fora. Standardization activity enables projects to build a constituency around their results and strongly supports the dissemination and upgrading of project results and widens the exploitation potential of project output. Moreover, developing new standards can help building a competitive advantage, and it can create an opportunity to test according to internationally agreed principles. Finally, dissemination of project’s results through standards bodies in general brings projects higher international recognition, more collaboration opportunities, and the ability to cooperate with a variety of specialists, thus benefiting from their collective expertise.
In addition to projects benefiting directly, enganging in standards activity can also generate specific benefits to its consortium partners, such as academia or research institutes, industry and SME companies, and public authorities. However, not every single project partner is necessarily aware of the strategic benefits of standards. These may be best understood by those partners involved in standards work, and by their technical experts participating in standards development on a regular basis. Moreover, despite these benefits, not all research results are appropriate to be passed through standardization and not all types of partners in a project consortium may benefit in exactly the same way from standardization: different backgrounds may trigger different interests in and benefits from standardization processes and some of these may be more relevant than others to specific consortium partners. In general however, each project partner can benefit from interfacing with standards bodies, although certain benefits can be specific to a particular type of partner, such as industry & SME companies, research institutes & academia or governments and public authorities.
Governments and public authorities recognize the importance and impact of standards on their economies. Pre-competitive standardization work has significant positive effects on economy and society, such as increased product availability and lower prices, as standardized products are interoperable, and take into account aspects such as consumer safety. Countries that are leaders in developing standards provide their economy with a competitive advantage, and a higher international trade potential.
In addition to recognizing the economic benefits of standard-setting activities, governments and public authorities also have an interest in standard setting in their capacity as purchasers of large quantities of goods and services, hence they share with other consumers the desire for a wide variety of interoperable high quality solutions.
However, while the benefits of standards are widely recognized, standards setting activities that are improperly conducted can discourage or even eliminate competition, giving rise to antitrust concerns. Participating in standardization processes therefore provides governments with an opportunity to monitor activities and to safeguard standards setting processes against abuse, thus taking an active role in mapping the ongoing processes with the developing regulatory and legislative environment (e.g. antitrust regulation).
Industry & service providers as well as SME companies accrue two kinds of benefits by participating in the development of standards: immediate and deferred. The immediate benefits come about through access to technical resources, communication and interacting with peers in industry, the ability to influence the development of the standard, and recognition for participation. The deferred benefits come about when the standard is released and accepted by its user community. Although some of these benefits will apply to all users of the new standard, companies that participated in the development process generally have a lead in the market and typically gain from them.
Academics are already engaged in professional qualification, and are in the best position to assess the role standards (and conformity assessment & accreditation) play in social-economic development. However, academics usually adhere to the basic principles and ethics of science and do not serve particular interests or interest groups. Those universities, research institutes and professional bodies that are actively involved in standardization processes, typically gain from the following benefits:
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