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Future and Emerging Technologies

By Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) it is meant here the search of new ideas and themes of disruptive long-term research in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), with the aim of promoting high risk research with the potential to lead to results with high technological and social impacts.

The European research in FET – Future and Emerging Technologies was launched in 1989 and it is seen as a pathfinder to for identifying and shaping radically new information technologies. It assumes that radical discoveries of high potential in ICT increasingly result from a strong interaction with other disciplines, such as biology, chemistry, nanoscience, neuroscience and cognitive science, social sciences, arts and humanities. Therefore, new attitudes and forms of innovative collaboration between a wide range of stakeholders are needed. Thus, research on FET promises to be transformative and, in addition to producing results of exceptional scientific and technological consequences, it is expected that it creates new practices and transforms disciplines.

The European Commission published in April 2009 the Communication "Moving the Frontiers of ICT - a strategy for research on future emerging technologies in Europe”.

The European scheme of FET research was developed to uniquely blend the following characteristics:

  • Foundational. It lays new foundations for future ICT by exploring new unconventional ideas and scientific paradigms that are too long-term or risky for industrial research.
  • Transformative. It is driven by ideas that challenge and can radically change our understanding of the scientific concepts behind existing information technologies.
  • High-risk. But it balances these risks against high potential returns and the chance of revolutionary breakthroughs.
  • Purpose-driven. It aims to make an impact on future industrial ICT research agendas.
  • Multidisciplinary. It builds on synergies and cross-fertilisation between different disciplines such as biology, chemistry, nano-, neuro- and cognitive science, ethology, social science or economics.
  • Collaborative. It rallies the best teams in Europe and increasingly worldwide to collaborate on common research topics.

The FET scheme is implemented by means of thematic research in emerging areas ("FET Pro-active"), open unconstrained exploration of new ideas ("FET Open") and "FET Flagship Initiatives".

FET Flagship Initiatives" are visionary large scale research science driven initiatives with the aim of leading to decisive scientific contributions, with the potential to constitute a broad basis for future technological innovation and economic exploitation in several areas, and to bring new benefits to society. These initiatives should be built on the strengths of European research, be conceived as long-term initiatives, of the order of 10 years, each one with an annual budget of around 100 million euros. Due to their size, these initiatives can only be achieved through the federation of the research community efforts, national and regional funding agencies, the European Union, and, where appropriate, involving the participation of global partners and industry.

The following criteria should characterize a “FET Flagship Initiative":

  • Ambition: the goal should be a breakthrough involving major challenges in science and technology, requiring a large federated effort, and justified via comparison with existing activities and state of the art.
  • Impact: a clear leverage effect, substantial progress and major innovation in science and technology; affecting European competitiveness, industry, society, governance and sustainability.
  • Integration: an operational framework describing why and how relevant disciplines, stakeholders and resources will be brought together at European or larger scale, and how they can be coordinated in an efficient way.
  • Plausibility: the different areas of research should be at appropriate level to be assembled into a well-defined roadmap with reasonable milestones.

The President of the Knowledge Society Agency (UMIC) participates in the National ICT Research Directors Working Group on FET Flagship that was created to align the Commission's program and national research priorities of Member States and Associates in the relevant areas, namely to:

  • To support the interaction of the RTD authorities and the Member and Associate States funding agencies with the scientific community and the European Commission in the process of creation of the FET Flagship Initiatives.
  • To enquire on how the FET Flagship Initiatives could be a means to achieve joint planning and alignment of policies of Member States in long-term basic research.
  • To identify how the ideas of the FET Flagship Initiatives in could contribute to research priorities of Member States, funding agencies, European Union and, where appropriate, industry.
  • To identify potential sources of contribution from national programs.
  • To assess which financial instruments (existing or new) could be more appropriate to fund FET Flagship Initiatives. To contribute to discussions on implementation schemes / governance.
  • To facilitate the dialogue between stakeholders, to promote the sharing of relevant information, the European cooperation and the identification of synergies.
  • To expand the group of areas benefiting from ICT support to cover other relevant areas of national research programs.

See also:
European Challanges and Flagships – 2020 and Beyond, Report of the ICT Advisory Group (ISTAG), Commission of the European Communities, Information Society and Media Directorate-General, July 2009.
FET Flagships: Large-scale long-term initiatives leveraging excellence around a unifying scientific goal, Flyer, Commission of the European Report: FET Flagship Infoday 22 January 2010 – Brussels, Commission of the European Communities, Information Society and Media Directorate-General, 2010
Communities, Information Society and Media Directorate-General.
Contributions to the online FET Flagship Consultation status 30 April 2010, Commission of the European Communities, Information Society and Media Directorate-General, May 2010.
Future and Emerging Technologies Information and Communication Technologies under FP7 Extract from Work Programme 2011-12 for ICT, Information sheet, Commission of the European Communities, Information Society and Media Directorate-General.
Analysis of Flagship-like Examples, Interim Public Report, edited by Erich Prem, eutema for the study team authors: Mark Milutinovich (AAAS), Stefan Lasser and Thomas Zergoi (FFG), Erich Prem (eutema), eutema Technology Management GmbH (Austria) and Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG) in cooperation with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Vienna, June 2010.
Report on Science and Policy Forum on FET Flagships, Brussels, 9-10 June, 2010, Rapporteur: Mark Buchanan, science writer, Commission of the European Communities, Information Society and Media Directorate-General.
Draft FET Flagship Pilot Descriptions,Commission of the European Communities, Information Society and Media Directorate-General, 1 October 2010.

Last updated ( 24/10/2011 )