A project that intends for project results to contribute to standards needs to view standardization as a process that begins at the concept stage of a proposal, and continues throughout the entire life of the project, and often beyond. The mindset should be one of a programme that involves a sequence of actions to achieve a specific result, much like a research programme that passes through different phases starting with an initial concept and ultimately leads to development and dissemination of new technologies. Among the important project milestones within a project lifespan where standardization should be considered are the presentation of the proposal, the start of the contract, the definition of requirements, the availability of results, and the termination of the contract. A general principle is that when planning and actions for standardization occur earlier within a project, the results lead to more effective use of project resources and greater likelihood of meeting project objectives for standardization.
It is important to identify and plan for contributions to standards when preparing the project proposal. Projects that start off at the proposal stage with a specific intention to create a new standard or modify an existing standard normally allocate a minimum of 6 person month’s effort to the specific procedural tasks of standardization. However, the average for these types of projects is 12 person month’s effort, usually spread over 18 to 36 months of a project. This does not include the research work related to defining the standard, only managing the process of standardization within appropriate standards bodies. Therefore, it is important to allocate sufficient resources during the proposal stage and to maintain those resources during contract negotiations with the European Commission.
At the start of the contract it’s important that the responsibilities for standardization be discussed amongst the partners. At least one partner should be identified to participate in the standards bodies where the project expects to eventually make a contribution. The reason for this early participation is that it will later be important that at least one partner is familiar with the procedures within the target standards bodies, has contacts with the member organisations, and is able to identify who are the members that are influential or set the pace for the decisions within the standards bodies.
Research projects generally start with the specification of requirements and designs of the technologies that will be developed. These requirements can be the basis for a first check of whether the research results are aligned with the work within the standards body. On more than one occasion, projects have learned by presenting their requirements and expected results that some standards already exist that address part of the technologies being developed. Sharing requirements and expected results within the standards body is also an important step in building awareness and support for the contributions to standards that will eventually be developed by the project. It can also be beneficial to the project for obtaining additional requirements as the representatives within the standards bodies might come from a broader set of industries of types of organisations than the project partners.
The milestone where the project partners feel comfortable submitting a specific proposal to a standards bodies varies depending on the technologies and their maturity. Sometimes it is earlier in the project while research and development is underway, other times it is later in the project after the project has completed some validation with pilots or demonstrators. The misconception that many projects have is that submissions to standards bodies need to be very complete or exhaustive. What is actually essential is that the core components of the submission are stable, clear and fully defendable in meeting specific needs, even if some surrounding elements are not yet finalised. The process of consensus will likely result in changes and additions from other members of the standards bodies, which can strengthen the submission and also benefit the project.
This is an important milestone because often the timing of the standardisation process extends beyond the duration of the project. Therefore, as the European Commission project contract is approaching closure, it’s important to identify how the standardisation process will continue. With some planning and foresight, the time and effort invested during the project towards stan-dardisation will lead to the project work becoming an industry standard, and in so doing, deliver expected benefits and broader opportunities for exploitation by the project partners.
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