Standardization guidelines
for IST research projects interfacing
with ICT standards organizations

For many research projects interfacing with standardization processes is a true challenge, as finding the way through a maze of standardization bodies and processes is not always an easy job. This often makes it difficult to decide whether or not to dedicate work packages and resources to a projects standards related activities.

For this purpose, COPRAS has developed a set of Standardization guidelines helping projects building their standardization activities already into their project proposals and work plans, allowing them to exploit their research results to their maximum potential during as well as after their lifespan.

The guidelines demonstrate the benefits of standardization for IST project and help determining whether or not a project should plan to interface with standardization. Also, they provide an overview of the most common processes in standardization and assist research projects selecting the standards organization that best matches their requirements.

There is also a PDF-Version of this document

Copras has also developed Interactive Standardization Guidelines that shows the interdependencies between all the points that you can also find below.


  1. Introduction
  2. Benefits of standards and standardization
    1. ICT standards, industry society what standards are and why standards are important
    2. Disseminating your projects results through standardization
    3. What does my project get out of interfacing with standards bodies
      1. Industry and service providers SME companies
      2. Academia, research institutes and professional bodies
      3. Governments and public authorities
      4. Consumers and society
  3. Your project and interfacing with standards bodies
    1. Determining whether your project should plan to interface with standards bodies
    2. Identifying possibilities for cooperation with standards bodies
    3. When should my project think about standardization?
    4. Planning your projects interfacing with standards bodies
      1. What stage to start thinking about interfacing with standardization
      2. Participate in standardization processes as a project or as a project partner
    5. Planning resources and work packages for standardization activity
    6. Continuing standardization processes beyond the scope of your projects lifespan
  4. Standardization processes
    1. General process characteristics
    2. Different organization, different approaches different results
      1. Different types of standards bodies
      2. Formal and non-formal standardization processes
      3. Different types of standardization deliverables results
    3. When and how to contact targeted standardization working groups?
  5. Selecting the standards bodies that best fit your projects needs
    1. Thematic focus area
    2. Timing
    3. Open standardization processes
    4. Geographic focus areas
    5. Confidentiality Intellectual Property
    6. Membership of standards bodies
    7. What if I cant find an organization to address my projects output
  6. Summary


As Europe is gradually progressing from a predominantly industrial society to an Information Society, technology becomes more challenging every day, and an increased recognition of the need to work together in order to exploit this development to its fullest potential for industry and society. In this context, both ICT standardization and IST research are playing a key role, and cooperation between these two domains is strongly encouraged by the European Commission.

Despite this encouragement, and the fact that projects are often required to interface with standards organizations, many IST research project results that could establish valuable contributions as standards still do not find their way through standardization processes. This happens for many reasons such as projects were not able to find the right organization to interface with, or projects were not able to synchronize with standardization processes, or projects did not allocate sufficient resources to their activities with standards bodies.

Apart from standardization being an effective route for IST research results to reach industry and society, it also represents a good but often overlooked opportunity for projects seeking to disseminate and exploit their research results. Not only does standardization work provide the opportunity to create exposure among a huge community of external experts, it may also lead to technologies developed by a project and its partners being embedded in future standards.

This guideline document was developed by COPRAS: The Cooperation Platform for Research and Standards, an IST project under the 6 th Framework Programme, initiated by the three European standards bodies CEN, CENELEC and ETSI, together with the World Wide Web Consortium and The Open Group, and with the backing of the ICT Standards Board. COPRAS aims to assist researchers in planning their interfacing with standardization in order to implement, disseminate and exploit their research through standards, and to achieve maximum benefit from their work.

Table1: ICTSB members & observers
Organization website Status







The Open Group












ECMA International








Liberty Alliance










TeleManagement Forum


European Commission


EFTA secretariat






These guidelines will elaborate what the benefits from interfacing with standardization can be, both for your project and for your individual project partners. Furthermore, they will help you in determining whether or not your project should actually plan to interface with standardization, how to reflect this within your project work plan, and how best to allocate work packages and resources to standardization.

These guidelines will also provide you with an overview of the most common processes and procedures in standardization and their relationship with specific standardization deliverables, and they list a set of transparent and comprehensive criteria that will assist you in selecting the standards organization that best match the working methods, background and objectives of your project. All together, they provide you with the basic information you will need to determine whether you should choose to exploit certain research results through the development of standards, and if so, how this should be structured.

2. Benefits of standards and standardization

Standardization is a consensus-driven activity, carried out by – and for – the interested parties themselves. It is based on openness and transparency within independent organizations, and aims to establish the voluntary adoption of, and compliance with standards. Despite its voluntary and independent character, standardization however many times has an effect on a number of areas of public concern, such as the competitiveness of industry or the functioning of a single market environment. Therefore standardization can also play a role in regulatory policy.

Standards and standardization processes serve a number of different purposes and their 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.

Standardization is also quite beneficial to research projects. For example, it strongly supports the dissemination and upgrading of project results, it widens the exploitation potential of project output, and it provides projects with access to a large pool of external expertise. Moreover, developing new standards can help to build a competitive advantage and it can create the ability to test according to internationally agreed principles. In addition, participating in standardization processes may bring projects higher international recognition and new opportunities for collaboration.

Standards bodies and industry consortia welcome contributions from IST research projects, as they provide them with information on the latest developmentsin ICTtechnology, and help them to coordinate their resources in a more effective way, avoiding overlap between organizations.

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. The different backgrounds that academia and research institutes, Small and Medium-size Enterprises (SMEs), industry and services providers or governmental bodies come from, also trigger their different interests in and benefits from standardization processes.

As one of the first steps in the process of defining whether and how to interface with standardization, your project as well as its consortium partners should evaluate which particular results can be obtained from cooperation with standards bodies. The benefits may prove to be well worth the effort and resources involved.

2.1 ICT standards, industry & society – what standards are and why standards are important

Just as there are many participants to the standardization process, there are also several definitions for standards and standardization. However, within the context of these guidelines, standardization can best be understood as the process aiming to define common and mutually agreed (technical) solutions between relevant stakeholders, for the benefit of all involved.

The primary aim of standardization in the current social and economic context is to help encouraging the free movement of goods. Standardization will help to remove technical barriers, open up new markets, and enable new economic models. It helps to create economies of scale while at the same time increasing opportunities for product differentiation and competition and services. Consequently, standardization may help establish compatibility and interoperability, it may enable market self-regulation, and guard the safety and health of citizens.

These general descriptions can be applied to most everyday standards that define, for example, the design of road signs or the way to apply bar coding. However, when looking at their purpose, four major categories of standards can be identified:

2.2 Disseminating your project's results through standardization

The objective of a project's dissemination and exploitation activities is to define a complete and tailored set of instruments, tools and mechanisms for effective promotion of a project, its objectives and its results, in conjunction with an effective and coherent strategy. Promotional efforts aim to create maximum awareness of a project's objectives, goals and benefits among its main target groups: IST research projects, standardization working groups and relevant industrial organisations.

Dissemination of project's results through standards bodies in general brings projects higher international recognition, collaboration opportunities, and 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 budgets are constrained.

2.3 What does my project get out of interfacing with standards bodies

Not every single project result can be standardized and 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. Projects should therefore benefit from their partners' participation in their consortium when defining which parts of their output and results could be standardized.

Input into standardization processes, as discussed and agreed within your consortium and validated by your technical experts, will benefit from an additional validation process by a wider expert audience that may be closer to the market. These experts well understand standards' key role in encouraging innovation, improving markets and creating competitive opportunities. Also, outside expertise may provide your project's deliverables with additional value, e.g. by upgrading the reliability, safety, accessibility or quality of the solutions proposed (technologies, services, guidelines, etc.), and thus increasing future product efficiency and safety of consumers.

Although interfacing with standardization provides a range of benefits, some of these may be more relevant than others. Project consortia many times include different types of participants such as industry & service providers, SME companies, research institutes & academia or public authorities. In general, each project partner will benefit from interfacing with standards bodies, although certain benefits can be specific to a particular type of partner.

2.3.1 Industry & service providers and SME companies

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. Examples of immediate benefits include:

The deferred benefits come about when the standard is released and accepted by its user community. Although some of the 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 the following benefits:

2.3.2 Academia, research institutes and professional bodies

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.

Universities, research institutes and professional bodies that are actively involved in standardization processes, typically gain from the following benefits:

2.3.3 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).

2.3.4 Consumers and society

Standardization generates a considerable number of benefits for consumers. It does not only provide them the ability to use, purchase and choose from a large variety of different but interoperable products, but it also gives them a level of assurance on compatibility with existing or future products or services.

In addition, several aspects of the standardization process, such as conformance testing, will help to ensure the safety and health of consumers purchasing tested, and subsequently certified products. Moreover, cooperation between standards bodies and consumer organizations provides better guarantees for the accessibility of products and services to all citizens.

3. Your project and interfacing with standards bodies

The challenge for an IST project in addressing standardization is in the diverse set of tasks that are required to be successful. Standardization involves an unusual combination of interdependent project activities. Some are research and development related such as defining specifications, interfaces or methodologies that result from research and development, while others are more aligned with dissemination, such as creating awareness and getting industry to agree your project results should be a standard.

An IST project that intends to impact or contribute to standards needs to address this diverse set of tasks in its project plans, and consider which partners are most appropriate to lead each task. If properly planned and structured, standardisation activities can be a very effective dissemination path for achieving broad awareness and take-up of project results. The following sections identify the key questions that should be asked when preparing a project proposal or negotiating a new project contract, and indicate some common approaches to standardisation that have proven effective for IST projects.

3.1 Determining whether your project should plan to interface with standards bodies

Sometimes a project from the early proposal stages has a clear objective that research results will be proposed as new standards for industry. But, not all IST projects that eventually include standardisation activities start with a specific objective of creating a new industry standard. Some see standardisation as less important because they are developing innovations above the technology layer where standards exist, while others see their role as only assembling and integrating standards-based technologies to create new platforms or frameworks.

Even without a specific goal of contributing to standards, a project may still find that broad dissemination and take-up of research results requires interfacing with standards bodies. Given the tasks and the resources involved to interface with standards bodies, it can be a major challenge for the project partners to accommodate standardisation activities within an existing project programme or budget, if not planned for in advance.

In determining whether your project should include plans to interface with standards bodies, there are no simple rules or formulas. However, there are some common characteristics that can help identify if an IST project is likely to need activities related to standardisation. Consider if your project has one or more of the following characteristics:

If any of the above characteristics apply , it is likely that your project will eventually need to interface with standards bodies. Including some provisions in the original planning for the project will avoid problems later on when the project is well underway and resources difficult to reallocate.

3.2 Identifying possibilities for cooperation with standards bodies

Determining if your project should cooperate with standards bodies can be especially challenging when consortium partners are not already active in standardisation activities. Partners in project consortia comprised of smaller or regional organisations may not have resources to regularly participate in standards activities. Identifying areas for possible cooperation with standards bodies should be done early, best at the proposal stage of the project, but certainly not later than during negotiations of the project contract with the European Commission. The approach that is recommended is to use a structured analysis of the project outputs.

The structured analysis is organised according to the set of work packages within the project. The work packages represent a logical grouping of tasks and each work package normally will have one or more deliverables. Some deliverables will be for formal submission to the European Commission for approval, while others are outputs from the work package used by the project partners, or as inputs to other work packages. The first step is to identify for each work package what are all of the outputs. Then, for each output, ask the following questions:

  1. Does the output rely on an existing standard?
  2. Will the output be exploited by organisations already using standards for their products or services?
  3. If an industry standard changed, would the output need to be modified?
  4. Is the output a basis for commercial companies to develop new products or services
  5. Does the output need to be used consistently by industry for the project to deliver expected benefits?
  6. Is the output intended to encourage many other organisations to create compatible technologies?
  7. Will products from multiple suppliers utilise the output?
  8. Is the output essential for the correct operations of higher level features and capabilities?
  9. Will the output fill a gap or address an area only partially covered by an existing standard?

If one or more answers to the above are affirmative for one of the outputs, then it is likely that some interactions with standards bodies should be planned within the project. The level of interaction will vary according to which of the questions were answered in the affirmative.

If the questions that were affirmative were in the bottom half of the list, then it is likely that contributions to standards will be an important element of the project if it is to achieve good results. Proactive participation and significant interactions with standards bodies will likely be required. If the questions that were affirmative were in the top half, then it is likely that the project will mainly need to monitor activities of relevant standards bodies.

3.3 When should my project think about standardization?

A project that intends for project results to contribute to standards needs to view standardisation 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. There are several important project milestones within a project lifespan where standardisation should be considered:

Milestone 1:
Proposal preparation stage -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 standardisation. 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 standardisation 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.
Milestone 2:
Start of the project contract- At the start of the contract it's important that the responsibilities for standardisation 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.
Milestone 3:
Requirements defined- 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.
Milestone 4:
Results available for submission to standards bodies - 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.
Milestone 5:
Project contract termination - 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 standardisation 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.
An underlying principle for the project is that when planning and actions for standardisation occur earlier within a project, the results lead to more effective use of project resources and greater likelihood of meeting project objectives for standardisation.

3.4 Planning your project's interfacing with standards bodies

Once you have decided your project should interface with standards bodies, it becomes important to include activities for these interactions as part of the project work plan. There are different aspects to be considered such as timing of interactions, the formal mechanisms that enable interactions, and the tasks that are needed to effectively contribute to standards.

3.4.1 What stage to start thinking about interfacing with standardization

Progressing your project's deliverables through the standardization process can be a time-consuming process. Although there may be – depending on the nature of the input you intend to deliver, as well as on the type of standard you decide to pursue – ways to achieve your goals within 6-12 months, mostly standardisation processes will take longer and require between 1 and 3 years.

Your project will however have a limited lifespan and will most likely not be able to allocate resources to standards work beyond that lifespan. In order to safeguard ongoing standardization work from falling apart after the completion of your project contract, you will either have to:

For these reasons it is recommended to plan interfacing with standards organizations at the beginning of your project's activities. Even though your deliverables will not be available yet, it will help you synchronize with relevant ongoing standardization processes, and start the process of building the consensus required in order to achieve the goals you are pursuing.

Postponing this interfacing until your standardization deliverables are completed – usually towards the end of your project – will delay the standardization process and increase the «standardization gap» between the end of your project and the availability of standards resulting from it.

3.4.2 Participate in standardization processes as a project or as a project partner

To influence the standards making process, one must be able to make submissions and encourage progress towards reaching consensus. Generally, this is done through being a member of the targeted standards organization. This means that either the partners or the project itself must become a member or participant. Sometimes, you will find that one of your project partners is already a member, which will make interfacing relatively easy.

There are different aspects to consider when creating a formal membership link between the standards body and the project, but in the end, the decision must be driven by which is the best way to influence the standardisation process towards consensus that project results should be an industry standard. Some aspects that are common to both approaches to membership are:

All of the aspects can usually be addressed and since most standards organizations are open towards contributions from research projects, contacts should be established with them to discuss the various options, and how to best proceed. Some upfront discussions amongst the partners concerning how the project will participate in standards bodies and what restrictions might exist for some partners is however needed to avoid surprises later on, such as having to reallocate resources because a partner is prevented from becoming a member and undertaking planned standardisation tasks.

There are also pros and cons to each type of membership with regard to achieving consensus for research results becoming standards.

Table 2: Pros and cons of standards body membership as a project
Membership as a project
Easier to share standards information amongst partners
Opinions or positions may carry greater weight as a project position
Participation in standards body meetings more cost effective for travelling, etc.
Extra process needed for the partners to establish common positions in advance of voting in the standards body
May not always be a consensus amongst partners for standards body decisions
A single project vote will have less ability to influence formal decision-making
Table 3: Pros and cons of standards body membership as an individual project partner
Membership as individual partners
Partners can express their own views rather than only the consensus of the project
Multiple votes will have more ability to influence decision making
A mix of support from different types of organizations can be seen as a stronger endorsement of project proposals
There may be restrictions for sharing detailed standards body information amongst project partners who are not members
Individual partner opinions or positions may carry less weight than a project position
Participation in standards body meetings more expensive due to more partner participants

Regardless of whether the project or the partners join the standards body, it is important to have a lead individual who will coordinate the activities towards the standards body and ensure that any issues concerning project proposals are addressed.

3.5 Planning resources and work packages for standardization activity

The amount of resources that need to be included in the work plan depends on the degree to which the project has standardisation of project results as an objective. If one of the main results is intended to become an industry standard then a specific work package for addressing standardisation is recommended. The type of tasks that might be included in a standardisation work package are the following:

Formal submission preparation
understanding the required format for submissions utilised by the target standards body and preparing the research results as a formal submission to the standards body. The actual content of the submission would be developed in one of the other technical work packages.
Constituency building
identifying the various constituencies that will have an opinion or position with regard to the proposals from the project and to meet with them to understand their interests and positions.
Consensus building
organising meetings and briefings with those individuals or organisations that are important for the decision making within the standards body. This is an essential part of achieving acceptance of the project submission from as an industry standard.
Conflict resolution
there will likely be questions, challenges, and alternative approaches from the members of the standards bodies concerning the proposals made by the project. These will often require technical resources to investigate and respond in order for the standardisation process to move forward, but may also require further business or market data, or collection of additional and user needs and requirements.
Accelerating standards take-up
there are actions that can be taken that can accelerate the take-up of new standards. Some of these include creation of a trust-mark or brand that gives assurance that products conform to standards, others might involve certification using test technologies or working with a certification organisation to put in place a conformance programme.
Dissemination and awareness
creating awareness amongst important constituencies of those that might exploit and those that might benefit from related technologies can build momentum within the standardisation process. This task can be part of a broader dissemination programme within the project.

Carefully consider which of the tasks outlined above should be part of your project and how much resources are appropriate for each task, given the specific technologies from your project and the standards bodies you intend to target.

3.6 Continuing standardization processes beyond the scope of your project's lifespan

The fact that European Commission funded projects are addressing advanced research often leads to the creation of a standards gap. The work within the project must be pre-competitive basic research that will benefit European society as a whole. This means projects are usually completed long before commercial products are available and before the standardisation process has reached a consensus that project results should be become industry standards.

While this is a challenging structural issue for European Commission programmes, there are some techniques that a project can take to reduce the likelihood that the standardisation process will stop prematurely when the formal project contract is completed:

All of these techniques become more viable the earlier the process of standardisation starts within the project, so that substantial progress is made towards consensus before the project contract is completed. Waiting until late in the project to commence the standardisation process will make the standards gap much larger and less likely that it can be bridged by any of the above actions.

4. Standardization Processes

ICT standardization processes are carried out in many different organizations on a national, regional (e.g. European) or global level, by many different types of organizations. In most of these organizations, standardization is conducted following a number of identical process steps. In order to interface with standards bodies in the most efficient way, your project should take these steps into account when determining work packages, when allocating resources, and when planning the timing of your deliverables.

Despite these general process characteristics there are also differences between organizations, for example in the approach they take, or with respect to the results they seek to achieve. Standards bodies do not always have the same objectives and therefore do not always produce the same type of output. Some organizations may for example pursue results more fit for legislative purposes, e.g. through emphasizing the thoroughness of their formal and public approval processes, while others just seek to produce guidelines addressing immanent market needs, e.g. through consensus among their participants.

When planning to submit your project's output to standards bodies, you should determine which standardization results you will be pursuing, as this will influence the type of process as well as the type of deliverable you produce, and in certain cases, the type of organization you should interface with.

Once you have determined the standardization results and subsequently the types of processes, and the results and organizations with which you seek to interface, you are able to start the planning of your standardization work, define concrete activities and work packages, and allocate resources.

4.1 General process characteristics

Although not all standardization processes follow exactly the same steps, in exactly the same order, a number of commonalities can be identified that characterise a typical standardization process:

  1. First, a market need for a new standard or standardization activity has to be identified and recognized among a sufficient number of members of a standards organization;

  2. Subsequently, a set of requirements has to be drafted, underlying the actual technical specification work (usually referred to as commercial, user or functional requirements);

  3. Based on consensus reached among the organization's members on these requirements, a specification is drafted by a group of technical experts;

  4. Once the draft specification is finalized, a formal approval process is conducted; this may be limited to the organization and its members, but may also invite a wider audience, e.g. to broaden the support for, or impact of the future standard;

  5. After its approval, arrangements are made for testing or (self-) certification by the industry, in order to guarantee interoperability between different implementations; this may also encompass developing reference implementations or implementation guidelines;

  6. Finally, a maintenance or periodic review process will be embedded in the organizations procedures to ensure the standard will remain in sync with market requirements.

When planning its standardization activities and goals, your project should determine which of the process steps it seeks to address, and in how many sequential steps it aims to participate.

For example, when setting out at the commercial requirements stage, it may take considerable time and resources, before the standards body you're interfacing with can start its work on reference implementations, even though your project may in fact be producing these reference implementations within a much shorter timeframe itself. If the latter aspect is your prime focus, you should synchronize this with your project planning as well as with the organizations you aim to interface with.

4.2 Different organizations, different approaches & different results

Many standardization processes in principle follow the same sequential steps, but they do not necessarily generate the same results. This may be due to differences between the nature of organizations, or due to a specific approach (e.g. formal or non-formal) towards standardization processes. Also, it can be a result of an organization's members aiming at specific standardization deliverables (e.g. guidelines documents or test-specifications).

When mapping your project's standardization goals with standards bodies and processes, you should consider the differences between types of standards bodies, as well as differences between the standardization processes they support and between standardization deliverables they produce.

4.2.1 Different types of standards bodies

On a European level, there are three formal standards organizations: CEN, CENELEC and ETSI. These are recognized by the EU and meet the WTO criteria for standards setting. All three have cooperation arrangements in place with their global counterparts: ISO, IEC and ITU. In addition, there are several formal standards bodies working on a national level, which also have wider impact (e.g. DIN, ANSI or BSI ).

In case your project or project partners are aiming to set standards that ultimately should have a more legal (or mandatory) character, choosing a formal standards body could be the best route. This however implies that consequences associated with formal standardization processes (e.g. the relatively long periods required for formal approval processes) have to be taken into account.

Many aspects of ICT standardization are however covered by other forums (e.g. W3C for the Web and the IETF for the Internet), industry consortia and trade organizations rather than by formal standards bodies. Industry consortia do not primarily aim at producing formal standards, and many times set out to address or resolve only a limited number of specific issues. Usually they have a lifespan between 5 and 15 years, as their activities tend to terminate once their original standardization goals have been accomplished. Despite the less formal character of the industry standards they produce, their focus on specific market segments often proves to be an efficient way for generating critical mass among stakeholders, necessary for successfully completing standardization processes.

Standards bodies' and industry consortia's activities sometimes seem to overlap. Although this is occasionally unavoidable due to the dynamics of ICT developments, industry consortia may also address only specific elements within standardization processes; for example: while one organization may concentrate on the development and maintenance of the actual specification, others may be involved in developing implementation guidelines, reference implementations or test and certification procedures.

4.2.2 Formal and non-formal standardization processes

Formal standards bodies are often associated with formal – and time consuming – processes. Industry consortia on the other hand are often regarded as providing quicker routes to standardization, and may not always be seen as an obvious choice when pursuing formal standards.

In this respect it should be taken into account that there is little difference between formal standards bodies and industry consortia as far as the timing and effort involved in the actual technical work is concerned. The approval process resulting in a specification becoming a formal standard however, can take a considerable period due to the legal and regulatory implications involved.

Formal standards bodies or industry consortia should however not be automatically associated with formal or non-formal standardization processes. Formal standards bodies often have short path processes (e.g. Workshop Agreements) in place, which lead to voluntary industry specifications. Industry consortia often pass their specifications through formal standards bodies, giving their output a more formal status as well.

When translating standardization goals for your project into cooperation objectives, you should not automatically associate formal process and standards with formal standards bodies, or vice versa. Both formal standards bodies and industry consortia may be able to provide the processes that best fit your project objectives, regardless of the actual standardization deliverable you're pursuing.

4.2.3 Different types of standardization deliverables & results

The ICT standardization environment is characterized by a large number of standards bodies, generating an even larger number of standardization activities. Even with these differences however, the deliverables resulting from these activities can be grouped as follows:

Both formal standards and industry specifications that are developed in an open process and are publicly available under so called Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRaND) terms, can be regarded as open standards. Nevertheless, there can be a trade-off between the formal impact of a standard, and the amount of time (and in some cases also resources) it takes to produce.

While in some cases the establishment of an industry specification (or even a formal standard) may indeed be your project's goal, many times shorter processes may serve your needs better (for example if your aiming to define technologies for a relatively small constituency). When planning your activities in detail, you should determine what the nature or type of deliverables that you will – or could – contribute to standardization, as it will help you to save time and resources.

4.3 When & how to contact targeted standardization working groups?

In order to plan your project's interfacing with standardization, you will need feedback from standards bodies' working groups, technical committees or ad-hoc groups you've selected, because some of the specifics of their processes may not match the overall planning of your project. Feedback from those groupings your project is targeting should best be obtained early, preferably before the launch, or during the early days of your project. Contacts can best be established with those responsible for conducting the core activities of a technical body or working group. Depending on the standards body your project plans to interface with, this could be the chairperson, the secretary, the convenor, the technical officer, or the moderator of a group.

Information on how to contact these formal representatives of standardization working groups can be obtained from standards bodies' secretariats, project offices, or directly through the web portals of the organizations.

5 Selecting the standards bodies that best fit your project's needs

Process characteristics and the nature of deliverables play an important role in selecting the organization that best fits the standardization requirements of your project. However, the specific characteristics of individual standards bodies often play a more decisive role: when selecting standards organizations to interface with, your project should consider the following aspects:

5.1 Thematic focus area

Finding the standards body best covering the thematic scope of your project's activities may seem a relatively easy part of the selection process. Nevertheless, it can be quite complicated to point out a single organization, because you may find that several standards bodies are in fact addressing the specific standardization area your project is targeting. Consequently, it may be necessary to define in much more detail the specifics of the envisaged results, which may not always be possible in the early stages of your project. On the other hand, your project's output may indeed be relevant to several standards bodies, but you may not have anticipated the resources required to interface with all of them.

Narrowing down, and focusing your envisaged standardization output, while simultaneously matching it with the thematic scope of targeted standards bodies, should therefore be done at the earliest possible point in time, e.g. when preparing the initial project proposal. This will provide greater assurance that your project will be able to pursue all its standardization goals, and generate feedback from an outside expert community in the most efficient way.

5.2 Timing

Standardization processes are market driven and usually start when market players have identified the need to initiate a process of capturing user, commercial or functional requirements for what is to become a new, or improved specification or standard. Timing is often an essential aspect in these processes as standards bodies consequently have to focus on the momentum in the market.

When putting forward output for standardization, your project should ensure that the issue or area addressed is actually on the agenda of the targeted standards body, and that there is sufficient critical mass among the target standards body's members to work on the issue.

If this is not the case, additional constituency or consensus building may be required first, but if there is little perspective that this situation can and will be changed within a reasonable amount of time, it may be preferable to look for alternative organizations for which the agenda provides a better match with your project's standardization objectives.

5.3 Open standardization processes

Standards organizations do not all have the same background. Moreover, their structure, working methods and principles have developed over the years and mostly reflect a balanced result of the positions and considerations of their founding members.

There are a number of commonalities between processes adopted by most organizations that have proven to be essential to conducting voluntary, open, and market driven standardization processes. When choosing standards bodies to cooperate with, research projects should verify that:

5.4 Geographic focus areas

Generally speaking, projects pursuing standardization of their results should take a global focus. This will maximize exposure of research results to the industry and consequently widen dissemination opportunities. In addition it will help to prevent competing regional standards from emerging, which may cause barriers to trade.

However, there may be specific reasons to pursue standardization at a regional level:

Regional and global standardization systems can be complementary and several standards bodies have arrangements in place for addressing this. Nevertheless cooperation and exchange between globally and regionally oriented standards organizations is mostly organized on an ad-hoc basis. Consequently projects should determine whether the organization they intend to interface with actually matches the scope they have defined, prior to starting their standardization activities.

5.5 Confidentiality & Intellectual Property

Standards organizations do not always have the same rules with respect to confidentiality and intellectual property rights (IPR). While there are organizations that require its members and/or participants to submit their contributions and technologies or specifications for free (i.e. without obligations for users of this technology to pay license fees), other organizations may work under an IPR regime offering their contributors opportunities for exploiting standardized technology through licensing.

Regardless of the IPR regime a standards body is working under, most standardization processes are open, i.e. documents discussed are accessible to all the organization's members and in principle considered being in the public domain. Nevertheless, in specific situations, mechanisms usually exist for keeping contributions confidential, or to discuss issues in a confidential environment.

Before deciding which standards body to interface with, you should ensure that the IPR regime of the organization chosen, as well as its confidentiality policy match your project's and – when applicable – also your project consortium partner's requirements.

5.6 Membership of standards bodies

With the exception of two of the three European formal standards bodies (CEN and CENELEC), who's membership is through national standards organizations, most standards bodies offer their membership to a variety of organizations, encompassing individual companies, non-profit organizations, institutions, governmental bodies, etc. Although research projects are usually not excluded from membership, there can be several reasons (e.g. the financial consequences, or the limitations of a project's lifespan) for not applying.

There are also some organizations where membership is not strictly necessary for participating in at least part of the technical development process. Taking part in the decision making process on the other hand usually does require membership.

In those situations where a project's membership is not an option, the following alternatives may be considered:

In case none of these options provides sufficient means for your project to participate in standardization processes of particular organizations, you may want to consider solely focusing on those standards bodies that have membership requirement better matching your project's specific background.

5.7 What if I can't find an organization to address my project's output

Despite the large number of ICT standards bodies and what sometimes seems like an infinite number of technical committees and working groups, there is no guarantee that your project will actually be able to have its output passed through standardization.

This may for example be the case when the subject or technology you're addressing is so advanced that it is not yet possible to build a constituency of market players around it. For these situations, some standards bodies have installed incubator facilities, allowing projects or other contributors of advanced – but not yet standardizable – technology or concepts to continue their work towards standardization and constituency building until the level of maturity is sufficient to initiate more formal processes.

The nature of your project or its standardization deliverables may require you to specifically focus on those organizations that offer incubator-like facilities.

6 Summary

Standards and standardization processes generate a lot of benefits for stakeholders in industry and society, and although mutual cooperation may occasionally require some effort on the side of standards bodies as well as on the side of research projects, in most cases it will turn out to be beneficial for both.

Moreover, although standards bodies follow their specific procedures and will generally stay within the boundaries of the areas of work their members have defined, there is great interest among them to work with IST research projects and to address findings that could improve the European and global framework of standards.

Projects are therefore strongly encouraged to evaluate the possibilities of passing their output through standardization and use the guidelines provided in this document to define and establish their interfacing and cooperation processes with standards bodies at an early point in time during their lifespan. This will not only upgrade their output and provide them with additional means to disseminate their results, but it will also support the overall goals of the eEurope programme and bring research and standardization closer together.

Although this document provides your project and your consortium partners with a number of helpful guidelines on how to determine, initiate and structure your cooperation with standards bodies, many questions may still rise, that have not yet been addressed. Therefore – and because standardization is a dynamic and evolving environment – additional information and tools will be made available on

Bart Brusse, Rigo Wenning
Created: 31 July 2005; modified: $Date: 2010/07/12 18:39:12 $