A new strategy for funding technology research in the European Union calls for the EU to pool its vast resources with those from private industry and individual member states in a public-private partnership.
Under the plan announced Tuesday, technology companies and research institutes will be able to marry their own research and development (R&D) investments with additional funds from the member states and the EU through new Joint Technology Initiatives (JTIs).
With the JTIs, which can be established as independent legal entities and accept funding from any source, the EU hopes to unite - and focus - the region's widely fragmented R&D efforts and make more efficient use of research funding.
The first JTI, called Artemis, will focus on embedded systems, an area signalled by European ministers as being of strategic importance for Europe's economy. European industry's own research investment in this area is estimated at around €15 billion to €20 billion per year, according to the E.U.
Artemis is expected to be operational by 2008, and will have a budget of €3 billion over seven years, more than half of it from industry. Several European companies have expressed interested in joining the initiative, including car marker DaimlerChrysler, mobile phone manufacturer Nokia and consumer electronics manufacturer Koninklijke Philips Electronics.
Another JTI in the pipeline is Eniac, which will focus on nanoelectronics.
The JTIs will benefit from the €9 billion the EU has approved for its ICT (information and communications technologies) budget, to run until 2013. The money will go to fundamental and applied R&D projects in areas where Europe has competitive advantages and established strengths, such as communications, electronics, photonics and software systems.
"With the €9 billion, we're challenging member states, industry and academia to join us in the fight for a more competitive Europe," said European Commission for Information Society and Media Viviane Reding in a statement. "But we don't just need more research; we need better focused research, too."