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Final Evaluation Committee (FEC)
for the IMPACT 2 programme 1 - 4
Executive Summary

Chapter 2


Contents:

Action line 1: improving the understandig of the market

Action line 2: overcoming legal and administrative barriers

Action line 3: increasing user-friendliness and improving information literacy

Action line 4: strategic information initiatives


Chapter 2 Evaluation of action lines

Action line 1: improving the understanding of the market

Budget

The budget allocation for Action Line 1 over the period of the programme has been 11% of the total budget.

Evaluation and understanding of the market

The first stated objective of IMPACT 2 is 'to establish an internal information service market'. It follows that Action Line 1 should be directed to improving the understanding of the market. This is essential to the strategic direction of all DGXIII activities.

The Final Evaluation Committee (FEC) has found cause for concern in the recognition of this role for DGXIII/E by the senior Commission management. Recent White Papers published by the EC draw attention to the importance of the Information Society and the Information Market in the EU. There appears to be imbalance between this strategic recognition by the EC of the importance of the Information Market in the EU and the funds and resources allocated to the definition and understanding of that market, from which meaningful actions may be implemented. This imbalance is all the more surprising in view of the repeatedly expressed central role of the private sector in bringing about the Information Society. The role of DGXIII/E in articulating the needs of the content industries and information users is badly underestimated. A further cause for concern to the FEC is the change in the Information Marketplace since IMPACT 2 commenced in 1991.

Thus, there are three issues of policy which the FEC brings to the attention of the Council. They are:

Nevertheless, the FEC regards the work undertaken under Action Line 1 as satisfactory and concludes that the budget has been properly spent. It notes, from the strategic studies commissioned by DGXIII/E, a clear call from leading business sectors of the information industry for change under this Action Line. That change may be summarised as enhanced resource and greater articulation of the content industries’ and information users' needs so that this influence may be properly exercised in the development of EC policy overall and towards the development of the Information Society.

Conclusion

The FEC concludes that improving the understanding of the market demands greater awareness of change in that market. The budget reductions by Council have caused constraints in improving the understanding of the market at a time when the development of the Information Society requires stimulation of the user-market.The loss of this resource in DGXIII/E is considered by the Committee to be a strategic error.

The Information Market Observatory (IMO)

By decision of the Council on 26 July 1988 the Information Market Observatory (IMO) was created. The purpose of the IMO is to improve the availability and quality of data on the Information Market. The IMO also undertakes strategic analyses identifying the Community's competitive strengths and weaknesses, and thus assists in drawing-up EC policy. It follows that it is essential for those responsible for the IMO to have a clear and constantly updated definition of what is understood to be embraced within the Information Market. The FEC considers that this needs constant revision by the management of DGXIII/E and this should be encouraged to adapt to fast changing circumstances. Not to do this would be to deprive the IMO of proper leadership.

Industry in the EU (the content owners and information users) find it difficult to obtain reliable information on the European Information Market. The reasons for this are the complex nature of the subject matter, eg information is often embedded in user sectors such as banking, healthcare, construction, travel etc; also the markets are fast evolving and new products are emerging which change the market pattern and balance. Market understanding and transparency are particularly important in the transition to an Information Society. This transition is characterised by change and high levels of uncertainty.

In 1994 – 1995 the IMO continued with its core activities established in previous years. It concentrated on new actions to address strategic issues that are of importance for the development of the information industries and for the creation of an Information Society. So far as resources have permitted, these activities have taken account of the increasing inter-dependency and convergence of the different sectors which form the information industry.

The FEC has noted that the IMO has undertaken work in the following areas:

The IMO should be encouraged to continue surveys of hosts and database producers, but it must increasingly recognise the inter-relationship between hosts for scientific, technical and bibliographic databases, the rapidly growing commercial databases and the inter-connection of these activities to the development of commercial networks and the influence of the Internet.

The brief given to the IMO by senior EC management should reflect the inputs from the strategic studies commissioned by DGXIII/E. These studies are providing recommendations for the enhancement of the communications interface between DGXIII/E, other Directorates-General and with the industrial players who will contribute to building the Information Society in Europe.

While the FEC is satisfied with the work undertaken, it must repeat its criticism that the vision held by the IMO must be constantly updated to keep pace with changes in the marketplace.

The FEC has identified a procedural problem in the work of the IMO. The process of delivering the IMO Annual Report to the Council and the European Parliament is cumbersome. It constrains the primary purpose of the IMO which is to disseminate rapidly information on the fast changing state of the European Information Market. The FEC suggests the two accountabilities for the IMO Annual Report should be separated, as they appear to be in conflict with each other. The scope of the work of the IMO should be enlarged to take full account of the changes taking place in the Information Market; the dissemination of the IMO reports should be speeded up.

The chief purpose of the IMO is to improve the availability and quality of data on the Information Market, the massive challenge of this task should be recognised by EC senior management, the IPC and Council.

Conclusion

The FEC concludes that the work undertaken by the IMO is good but insufficient for the needs of the marketplace. Previously the EC has sought to make the activity a joint venture with a private sector partner. The FEC commends this approach and urges further investigation on how this can be achieved. It is recommended that public funds continue to meet half the costs of this work, but that a partner be engaged to turn this activity into one that has an increasing income stream from the marketplace. The FEC has noted the development of the European Information Technology Observatory (EITO) and suggests this provides an interesting role model. The experience of EITO should be taken into account in considering the future direction of the IMO. At an appropriate time a call for partner bids should be actioned.

Strategic studies

The FEC has noted, under Action Line 1, three strategic studies commissioned by DGXIII/E which have had influence in the emerging European Information Market.

The first of these studies was 'New opportunities for publishers in the information services market'. This study was instrumental in creating a new relationship between DGXIII and the publishing industries – books, magazines, newspapers. It created a focus for discussion and postulated recommendations to the European Commission, Member States and companies in the sectors concerned. It has contributed to the development of the information market.

The second strategic study which the FEC has considered is that on the impact of new media on advertising – ADMEDIA. This study has a number of interesting features which the FEC regards as an exemplar for future emulation. The first of these features is that the study has considered advertising and new media in a comprehensive way and related this subject to the issue of competitiveness in the development of the internal market. This is a good example of DGXIII/E understanding properly its role to articulate comprehensively the views of the information user market and content providers  in this case advertisers and the advertising agencies. The second feature of this study which deserves note is the characteristic of the contractor. The contractor needed to be capable of managing a comprehensive consultative process with the many interested parties. In the case of this study the interested parties were up to twenty European trade associations. All have been involved together with a community of senior industry persons through a project steering committee.

This strategic study has produced explicit recommendations for action which provide input to policy making in the EC. A notable area of its coverage is that of the regulatory framework for the future of advertising in the EU. The work has drawn attention to the importance of Action Line 1 in setting up studies to understand better the Information Market and the process of information transfer from this work to other Action Line activities, in this case the work of the Legal Advisory Board.

The third strategic study which the FEC has considered is the study for ‘Assessing the situation of the markets for electronic information services for professional purposes in the Member States of the European economic area (MSSTUDY)’. One of the basic objectives of the IMPACT 2 programme is to identify the strengths and weaknesses of existing electronic information services in the EU and to stimulate and reinforce the competitive capability of European suppliers of electronic information services. To realise this objective, basic investigations and data collection activities have to be carried out as a pre-condition for effective policy-making and actions. As part of the work programme of the IMO, studies on the structure and performance of the Member States’ national markets of electronic information services (Member States Studies = MSSTUDIES) are needed. This work should be encouraged to develop further co-ordination of results which are comparable and make possible aggregation at European level.

The FEC commends this work. It should be encouraged and developed. The present work concentrates on only one aspect of the Information Market  services for professional purposes  and consideration should be given in future programmes to enlarging the scope of this work. It should be extended to meet private sector needs, particularly among the commercial sectors which depend on embedded information services.

Conclusion

The FEC concludes that Action Line 1 has been implemented satisfactorily but it makes constructive criticisms and recommends change. These relate to the vision of what is the Information Market, the level of resourcing provided for this Action Line, the publication process and the accountabilities. These issues are developed in Chapter 3 of this report.

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Action Line 2: overcoming legal and administrative barriers

Budget

The budget allocation for Action Line 2 over the period of the programme has been 4% of the total budget.

Evaluation  Legal Advisory Board

Overall the FEC is satisfied that the activities under Action Line 2 have been satisfactorily undertaken. However the FEC has identified a number of issues related to this Action Line. They are as follows:

The LAB should be discussing, defining and articulating legal and regulatory issues as they relate to information content owners, information users and other interested parties in the EU Information Market. It is not the job of the LAB to action that which it articulates. Instead it must ensure that such matters are brought to the attention of, and are actioned by the appropriate EC services. The FEC is not convinced that the mandate given to DGXIII/E provides a sufficiently clear view on this vital brief, nor is it convinced that the EC senior management is devoting sufficient attention to this most important activity. The findings of the ADMEDIA study would suggest that higher priority should be given to this work. It has been suggested that the location of the LAB in Luxembourg makes communication with other aspects of legal framework issues difficult, because they are normally activated in Brussels. The FEC concludes that geographic location is not the issue but instead it is a matter of management commitment at the top of the EC to the importance of this subject. This requires correction.

Conclusion

The strategic changes occurring in the Information Market through widespread use of electronic trading and the development of multimedia publishing, make action critical by the EC to overcome legal and administrative barriers in the European Single Market. The FEC appreciates that the operation of the internal market is the responsibility of DGXV. However, DGXIII/E, as the Directorate responsible for the content industries, should set the client requirements for the reduction of legal and administrative barriers on behalf of the content industries. Re-confirmation of the definition of the information industries is required at the highest level in the EC so that the LAB may exercise this role properly and in accordance with the wishes of industry, commerce and consumers which it is there to represent. This re-confirmation may require a re-statement of the mandate distribution between the Directorates-General of the EC concerning definition of user legal and regulatory needs, as opposed to the means of actioning the implementation of those needs, the mechanisms of the Internal Market and the scrutiny of balance.

The budget reduction made by the Council has left DGXIII/E with insufficient resources and expertise to promote its cause as effectively as it should be performed. The loss of this resource in DGXIII/E is considered by the FEC to be a strategic error. Within the constraints of budget and resource, the FEC is satisfied that the LAB has fulfilled its role and objectives satisfactorily. Recommendations are made for change in the activities of the LAB in the appropriate part of this report.

Action Line 3: increasing user-friendliness and improving information literacy

Budget

The budget for Action Line 3 is divided under two headings: application of norms and standards; awareness, user support and training. The budget application for norms and standards over the period of the programme has been 2.5% of the total budget. The budget allocation for awareness, user support and training activities has been 35.5% of the total budget.

Evaluation  application of norms and standards

The FEC has examined the IMPACT 2 work to promote norms and standards. It regards this work as important and a unique activity for the EC. If the Single European Market is to develop into one which captures significant share of global markets, the application of norms and standards for the information industries will be important.

The exchange of information across different information platforms is based on a consistent application of standards (de jure standards) and specifications (de facto standards). The acceptance of standards will depend on the availability of products and their position of influence, or even dominance, in the marketplace. Information on existing and emerging standards and specifications is equally important for the developers of information content products and their client community. The lack of standards has been one of the major global impediments to the development of new media in the marketplace.

Given the range of official standards bodies and industrial groups which are defining standards for the interchange of information in coding text, pictures, sound, video and document structure, it is necessary for DGXIII/E to provide a comprehensive overview and to stimulate the application of standards and specifications.

Quality assurance for information products and services is feasible only if clear measurable targets exist, describing what a service has to offer and what a client may expect. The challenge is therefore for DGXIII/E through the IMPACT programme to define sets of specifications for products and services agreed between users and providers. Thus, the purpose of this Action Line becomes that of a focal point from which to articulate the needs and views of the information content and information user communities, and to ensure these views are actioned, so far as possible, by the appropriate standards or industry organisations.

Under IMPACT 2 a number of activities for standards and specifications have been undertaken. Two initial workshops on Open Information Interchange have been organised in 1993 and an update workshop in 1995. Information has been provided on existing standards and specifications and their applications for the multimedia content market. This was done by initial support for a monthly publication (OII Spectrum) and the production of handbooks published in the latter part of 1995. A list of Standards and Specifications for OII has been maintained and distributed twice a year to a mailing list of some 400 persons. Monthly reports on relevant standardisation meetings and conferences have been produced and distributed. Since May 1995 this list is available on-line on the World Wide Web (WWW). Also, three workshops have been organised.

Quality of information products is a key factor for the wider use of information services. In the context of new media products this is a subject of concern to publishers who are sensitive to the quality of product associated with a particular publishing brand name. Objective information on the content of information products and services will enhance the relationship between producers and users and emphasise the constructive relationship in the supply chain which, in turn, will contribute to the overall enhancement of product quality. Similarly, specifications for information products and services need to be defined to enhance dialogue between the players.

A report describing the main problems of information product quality assurance was discussed in a workshop held in June 1994. A study on user expectations done by EUSIDIC was co-financed and the results presented at a workshop. One of the databases on ECHO (IM-Guide) has been used as a testbed for the implementation of quality systems and procedures. Quality assurance of information products has no Action Line under Info 2000, but activities will continue under different headings, eg encouraging clusters of pan-European users, exploiting Europe's public sector information, developing and exchanging best practice, etc. A list of publications related to norms and standards is given as Appendix 4.

Conclusions

The FEC considers the work done on norms and standards to represent good value for money. The spend on this subject is modest in the context of the total budget. The FEC considers this work to be important and draws attention to the wide range of norms and standards which the EC could, and should, facilitate. This arises from previous comments in this report urging re-definition of the information industries in the context of convergence. For example, the ADMEDIA study investigating new media and advertising has emphasised technology convergence between television – in its many different forms  print media, off-line media eg CD-ROM/CD-I, on-line media  in its many different forms  and emerging technology in digital audio broadcasting (DAB). The work on norms and standards under this Action Line must be comprehensive in defining information content owners and information user needs across many related technologies. Also, the ADMEDIA study has drawn attention to problems such as the measurement of advertising effectiveness and audience response. The FEC notes that this subject alone is a major area for research and coordination. The FEC is concerned that there shall be adequate provision for this activity in the budget and Action Lines for Info2000.

Turning to a different aspect of norms and standards, the FEC has had drawn to its attention a particular aspect of support by the EC to activities which relate to norms and standards which may influence competitiveness in the marketplace. The particular subject of the FEC discussion has been that of BISNET. The FEC recognises that every project supported inevitably produces a degree of market distortion in that public funds are given to a private initiative to increase its chances of success. The FEC also recognises that it is a matter for discussion and policy decision, whether one favours small private initiatives or larger, often public service supported, operations.

The current policy under IMPACT 2 has been to favour the former, as it is suggested that SMEs are more dynamic and likely to increase employment. The question of the needs of the wider market is discussed as a matter of course during evaluation and negotiation, but one important point concerns the standards followed. In the BISNET case the proposers, two publishers of construction materials catalogues, clearly had to decide on the coding conventions to be used, since there is more than one possible solution. The proposer was asked to consult CSTB in France as a body having considerable experience in this domain, and CSTB have participated in the project as advisers. The question in relation to BISNET is the issue of whether support from the EC for the publication of certain norms and standards will cause those national norms and standards to gain dominance in the internal market to the disadvantage of other national norms and standards. The experience of BISNET leads the FEC to recommend the inclusion, in future, of a requirement in Calls for Proposals that there must be consultation with the relevant industry representative bodies and research centres (RTOs) in the EU. Evidence of such consultation would help to overcome the inevitable lack of industry sectoral knowledge on the part of EC evaluators. The FEC is satisfied that the issue of the BISNET project has been properly resolved. It is reported here to emphasise the need for proper widespread consultation whenever specific support is given to the promotion and promulgation of particular standards. However, the FEC recognises that in many instances only the EC can provide the driver and dynamic to create single standards throughout the EU which would facilitate business within the internal market. This recommendation for consultation should be regarded as encouragement for initiatives by DGXIII/E to launch policies in relevant areas of this kind.

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Evaluation  awareness, user support and training

European Commission Host Organisation – ECHO

ECHO has been the first on-line experience for many information specialists. There was a period (in the early ‘90s) when there was a danger of ECHO becoming ‘an old fashioned host’. The FEC is now satisfied that ECHO is again a leading host with modern equipment able to keep up with technological developments. A demonstration of this capability has been in 1994 when ECHO was instrumental in setting up and managing the World Wide Web server (I’M EUROPE).

ECHO has improved and continued to serve a useful purpose in guiding new users who are taking their first steps into the world of electronic information. It has an important instrument for guiding demand, increasing awareness (in conjunction with NAPs) and for providing initial user experience.

At the time of the IMPACT 2 mid-term evaluation, ECHO had some 16,000 clients and averaged 5,000 hours of connection per month. Since then there has been a dramatic increase in the number of users (registered and non-registered) to more than 27,000 in July 1995, and a growth in usage to almost 11,000 connect hours in March 1995. The increased demand has necessitated a review of the existing infrastructure. This has resulted in the establishment of new infrastructure for computer facilities which, from October 1995, has provided a 40%  50% increase in the resources available to ECHO users, over 40% of whom are first-time users of on-line information services.

Much of the increased demand is attributable to the availability of access to ECHO databases via the Internet, as well as the introduction of facilities such as electronic registration (the latter facility enables new users to register and immediately obtain a password on-line without the need for time-consuming form-filling and mailing procedures). Measures to improve user-friendliness of ECHO have included the availability of a Graphical User Interface (GUI), Watch-ECHO, for five of the databases. From November 1995, users have been able to search all ECHO databases using a GUI interface with their WWW browsers via the Internet. A Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) terminal and a generic Common Command Language (CCL) interface have been developed and will be implemented on the I’M EUROPE WWW server. This will dispense with the need for users to learn a command language.

ECHO continues to host, on a non-commercial basis, a range of European databases before they reach market maturity. Furthermore, ECHO plays a continuing role in helping to overcome language barriers by offering menus in all official EU languages, as well as multi-lingual content in many of the databases or at least multi-lingual access to them.

Conclusion

The FEC has noted the comments on ECHO made in the mid-term review. The FEC is satisfied that those responsible for ECHO have responded to these observations. ECHO has returned to being an exemplar activity in database host facilitation and provides a unique role in the European Information Market. Still many people in Europe do not have the experience of an on-line access and badly need a low cost neutral opportunity. Much of the increased demand of access to ECHO is attributable to

The FEC commends these initiatives and is satisfied that ECHO provides a necessary service at good value for money. Its work should thus be continued.

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I’M EUROPE WWW server

An additional function of ECHO has been the development and operation of DGXIII/E’s WWW server, I’M EUROPE. It has been operational since September 1994 and the server has become a major player in the dissemination of information and provision of services to the European electronic information services market. I’M EUROPE complements the other DGXIII World Wide Web servers of the Information Society Project Office (ISPO) and CORDIS and the Commission’s principal server - EUROPA of DGX.

In addition to information on programmes and initiatives of DGXIII/E and a section devoted to ECHO databases and services, I’M EUROPE presently offers three on-line discussion groups, links to other EU WWW sites and pages, and searchable indexes. The server has acquired already an established position in ‘cyberspace’. For example, it headed the list of Web sites presented to delegates at CERN’s ‘World Wide Web Days’  a two-day conference attended by over 200 journalists. Its popularity is exemplified by figures such as total document accesses of approximately 170,000 for the month of June 1995.

A future development which the FEC has noted, for implementation during the final period of IMPACT 2, is the collaboration between I’M EUROPE and individual servers set up by the NAPs. A common image and large number of hyperlinks will be established between the servers. By working together, I’M EUROPE and the NAPs will be able to offer a coherent and homogeneous multi-lingual WWW network across Europe, serving the needs of the main players in the information market in general, and the multimedia sector in particular. Through the NAPs there are experts available in each national language for SMEs as well. Such an initiative will enhance the level of awareness of EU activities in this area. The provision of interactive communication services (on-line conferences, registration forms, e-mail helpdesk) will offer an effective communication platform conducive to free exchange of ideas among the industries concerned.

Conclusion

The FEC commends these initiatives and recommends their continued development under Info2000.

IMPACT 2 - Training actions

The objective of IMPACT 2 training initiatives was to develop experimental pilot actions for the information industries and for all information users in the different economic sectors, particularly from SMEs in LFRs.

These actions have been implemented with the support of the NAPs and in synergy with the COMETT programme of DGXXII and its UETP network (TRAIN-UNI).

In 1994 and 1995 emphasis has been on:

A seminar with some 100 participants was held in Luxembourg in July 1995 to draw conclusions and to provide orientations for future actions. The main conclusions of the seminar were to develop these actions under Info2000 in close liaison with DGXXII according to the following aspects:

Conclusion

The FEC recommends continuation of this work, as stated above, under the Info2000 programme.

National Awareness Partners network

The FEC has taken a particular interest in the work of the National Awareness Partners (NAPs).

The NAPs network was created in September 1992 with the objective of extending awareness of professional electronic information services and their benefits to potential users throughout the Member States of the European Union. At the time of the IMPACT 2 mid-term evaluation, the network had not been long in operation and NAPs had little time to gain an established identity. As we approach the end of 1995 the network has developed . Many NAPs are recognised as centres of information on EU activities in the information market as well as specialists in the provision of advice and know-how on electronic information.

The network has almost doubled in size (expanding from an original 16 to its present 30 organisations) and this should increase its overall effectiveness and strengthen its image. In addition to conducting awareness activities close to the user at the national or regional level, NAPs also engage in an exchange of experience at pan-European level. Networking takes place in an on-going way via e-mail. NAP meetings held three to four times each year provide a forum for discussion among NAPs together with the Commission and the central support team.

The NAP concept has had success within the framework and objectives of the IMPACT 2 programme. This is borne out by the increase in numbers reached by awareness events and the higher visibility of NAPs as indicated in items published in the press of the various Member States. However, to keep pace with the rapidly changing environment in the emerging Information Society, it is clear that the scope of activities and the role of such a network need to adapt and expand in line with current developments. In view of the extended tasks that will be expected of the awareness network within Info2000, and the likelihood of a number of the existing NAP organisations being retained, some preparatory work is already being undertaken. It is logical that this should be done because, while the FEC has some criticisms of the NAPs, it is satisfied that the concept is a rational dissemination structure.

In terms of statistics, over 1000 awareness activities have taken place during 1994-95 (a three-fold increase over 1992-93). This comprises over 700 awareness seminars and almost 200 workshops, supplemented by mailings and participation in conferences and national exhibitions. Almost 33,000 participants attended seminars and workshops alone, representing a high level of extended awareness among potential users throughout the European Union.

Because the FEC regards dissemination as a vital feature of all EC activities, it has investigated the NAP activity in some detail. Six NAPs have been interviewed using a standard questionnaire compiled by the FEC. As a result, a number of issues have arisen and may be summarised in the following paragraphs.

Conclusions

DGXIII/E should set milestones and success criteria against which to measure annually the performance of NAPs. The NAP network should be perceived as an exercise in marketing and a network of consultancy.

Action Line 4: strategic information initiatives

Budget

The budget allocation for Action Line 4 over the period of the programme has been 47% of the total budget. The FEC is satisfied that the budget has been appropriate and properly spent for Action Line 4. It should be noted that 65% of the participating organisations in the Pilot Projects were SMEs.

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Evaluation  call for proposals for interactive multimedia services (IMM)

The interactive multimedia call was the first call under the IMPACT 2 programme and, to date, is the only sector to have completed its action. It is, therefore, possible to look back on this area and reflect on the influence the action has had on the participants and the Information Market.

In total 59 projects received some form of EU financial support, the majority only gaining funding for the six months definition phase. Competition for continued Community support through an implementation phase was fierce, with most projects demonstrating prototype products of a high standard. As a consequence of the limited budget available only 22 projects proceeded to the second phase. This removal of EU finance should not be taken as an indication of failure on the part of non-funded projects, since in 56 cases the projects completed satisfactorily their definition phase.

Several questions were raised by the application of a two phase funding regime, for example:

To answer these and other questions a simple open-ended follow-up telephone interview survey has been carried out of those projects which were not supported beyond the definition phase. A qualitative, and where possible quantitative, analysis of the results of that survey are briefly presented below.

It has not been possible to gain response from all projects within the time available for the survey, but the response of those who were available has provided a broad and informative picture of the outcome of the IMM initiative.

Of the 59 projects three withdrew from the evaluations, stating they did not wish to seek further EU support. These were not contacted further. A further 22 received implementation phase support. Attempts were, therefore, made to contact the remaining 34 projects. Contact was made with 12 projects which were able to provide information. As a starting point each project manager was asked what happened to the project after the EU support ended. In half of the cases the response was that the project either continued to a product (with their own funds), or was still expected to proceed once alternative financing was organised (mainly through consortium revision). It was encouraging to discover that there is a very positive attitude towards the IMM initiative. Project managers on the whole consider the exercise to have been worthwhile and to have enabled them to gain valuable experience in a fast changing field.

Analysis of the results has been largely anecdotal in character. Several managers explained that the concept of a two phase approach to funding was ideal at the time of the call. Many were either new entrants to multimedia publishing, or had only limited experience. The technology and market was developing fast and they were facing a steep learning curve. The definition phase helped to validate their market expectations and to provide a valuable technology test. A feeling emerges from the discussions that the participants believe the IMM initiative had impact in developing the market and certainly provided a stimulus.

On the other hand, they tend to feel that in the present market the past approach might be less valid for the future. There are now far more organisations competent to carry out the technical components of projects and the marketing of products. In essence the feeling is that where technology or markets are changing rapidly, it is sensible both from the EC viewpoint and from the contractor’s perspective to have a definition phase. This finding supports the decision of the Commission to opt for a single phase approach in the Information For Business And Industry Call, where the technology was tested and the target market better understood.

In the case of SME organisations the definition phase approach seems to have had particular relevance. One such start-up company stated that they could not have begun the project without the definition phase, as their turnover was only 300 KECU. Now the same company with turnover four times that level it might be able to consider speculative ventures. Overall, the conclusions to emerge were that:

Conclusions

The work under IMM thus has two distinct aspects. The first is to create exemplars and to reduce risk in experimentation as part of the market learning process. Risk taking means that some projects may not produce the expected commercial outcome. This part of the work is both to be expected and necessary. Many projects are likely to produce healthy commercial results; some even appear to have surpassed expectation.

The second aspect of the work is to develop products which enter the marketplace and build infrastructure. An essential feature of all the projects in a new field is visibility. The IMM programme has contributed to this visibility by presenting products at such events as IDT Paris, On-Line London, the Frankfurt Book Fair and MILIA.

Members of the FEC have followed up interviews with individual IMM coordinators and are satisfied that the above report is correct and valid.

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Call for proposals for geographic information services

The call invited proposals for projects to develop new geographical information services using Geographical Information System (GIS) technology. It was aimed at strategic business applications for end users, not necessarily specialists in GIS nor in the application field. Eight GIS projects, out of 28 projects which obtained first phase co-financing, started their implementation phase in July/August/September 1994 with an eighteen months duration. Final results are expected for the beginning of 1996.

The projects are progressing satisfactorily and it seems they will demonstrate the usefulness of GIS technology for the development of information services in various application areas: data provision, socio-demographic analysis, marine, environment and education, real-estate, travel and tourism. However, some classical application areas of GIS are not represented by the eight projects, for example, utilities organisation including provision of water, sewerage, electricity networks planning and maintenance, communications including telephone, broadcasting and TV; command and control, agriculture, market research etc. Seven projects are sector-specific, whereas OMEGA has an horizontal approach, providing Metadata for the entire GIS-interested community. A workshop took place on April 26 1995 with participants from all the projects and about 25 delegates from various GI organisations representing the European GIS world. The objective was to develop further a European approach in the area of geographic information.

The problems to be solved across the eight projects are reflected in the generic issues identified in the GI2000 strategy development. For example, the need for a European seamless geographic base data to diminish the obstacle of non-availability through pilot and demonstration projects. Other important topics identified as problems are copyright and legal issues, data quality, satellite data and images, systems interoperability etc.

National Mapping Agencies and MEGRIN (Multi-purpose European Ground Related Information Network) are partners in several projects. Since they remain important geographic data owners, they provide significant contributions to both project completion and GI strategy development. Furthermore, such partners create awareness in the Ministries of Member States for the need for a European approach in this subject area.

The projects have been instrumental in the development of a European geographic information infrastructure and they have stimulated discussion about possible solutions for the transfer of geographic data owned and held by public bodies.

Two projects (EUCLID 3040 and PEAQ 3105) did not submit a proposal for the implementation phase. In both cases the reason for withdrawal was based on the lack of commercial viability identified in market research carried out during the definition phase. However, the environmental project PEAQ attracted much interest at governmental institution level, but with no prospect of sufficient revenues for an operational service in the near future.

Of a further eleven projects, six of them are continuing but most of them in different and more restricted ways. The consortia work together at a national level with fewer partners and aim to produce a service for their national market with national data only. Five further consortia do not intend to continue with project work but two of them are likely to exploit the results obtained in the definition phase for another project.

By analysing only the non-selected definition phase projects the following conclusions can be drawn:

It is worth mentioning that the GIS projects have contributed also to visibility of the area through participation in a number of events throughout the programme, for example, GIS/LIS in Budapest in June 1995 and the JEC conference in The Hague in March 1995.

An important feature of the GIS initiative is that it started as a bottom-up ‘grass roots’ approach focusing mainly on support to development projects. Through the interest generated in these projects as well as via the EUROGI and more recently the GI2000 initiatives, the GI area has expanded into one of policy development. The FEC is surprised that this work has not been specifically recognised in Info2000. The mid-term evaluation committee suggested the GIS programme should be more focused. This has been achieved. The GIS work offers an exemplar for emulation. The work started with a generalised call to evoke interest in geographic information services. Subsequently it has been made specific, bringing into being actual business and infrastructure. Also, it is a good example of the multiplier effect. The work has stimulated new coordination in Europe in the form of EUROGI. The initiative has had accepted project work under the Copernicus programme and thus has received support to bring in experts from Central and Eastern Europe. The Committee believes this to be an excellent example of the methodology which DGXIII/E should be encouraged to follow in Info2000.

The FEC has been particularly impressed with the professionalism of the documentation used to promote GIS projects in the IMPACT 2 programme.

Conclusions

The FEC is satisfied that the criticism made of the GIS initiative by the interim review committee has been corrected. The committee is satisfied that the work programme and budget management has been satisfactorily followed for the GIS programme. It would recommend strongly that further consideration be given to additional stimulation to GIS projects in Info2000.

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Information Services for Business and Industry

The Information Services for Business and Industry (BIS) Call For Proposals was the third Call under the IMPACT 2 programme. It followed Calls which were orientated around emerging technology  IMM and GIS. Therefore the EC considered it necessary, prior to announcing a Call, to identify and re-confirm future actions to support the development of the European Information Market. In particular, it sought to clarify the immediate interest and orientation of industry through a Call for Declarations of Interest launched in October 1993. This Call closed on 15 January 1994 but following many requests it was announced on ECHO and via the National Focal Points and National Awareness Partners that responses would continue to be taken into consideration up to March 1994 for the formulation of follow-up actions. These Declarations of Intent formed the basis for defining the scope and conditions for the final IMPACT 2 Call for Proposals.

Interest generated in the Call for Declarations of Intent was substantial. Some 400 proposals were registered by 1 March 1994. These were reviewed by a group of technical experts and recommendations made for the scope of the subsequent Call for Proposals.

There emerged clear evidence of strong interest on the part of respondents to pursue actions which aim to improve information flows in the industrial and business environments. This includes the application of electronic publishing in its broadest sense as a horizontal activity to deliver information in electronic media. This orientation fits well with the philosophy behind the White Paper and its thrust towards improving ‘growth, competitiveness and employment’ in European businesses.

There was definitive evidence that the subject base which could be addressed by new information services for both business and industry was both extensive and diverse. Many of the declarations proposed products or services that are suitable for use by the general public. The most promising proposals, with high strategic value, come from concepts that are directed towards the needs of professional and corporate end users. Such offerings tend to have a wider European dimension(including strong LFR possibilities) and are in many cases specifically suitable for improving the working environments of SMEs.

The BIS Call for Proposals which closed in December 1994, therefore, offered the opportunity to achieve market validation for new concepts and support projects that stimulate the development of electronic information services for application in the workplace. These should be applicable for use by either professional users or non-expert business users. This emphasis should not be seen as axcluding the extension of these services to a broader public where appropriate; however, the oriental indicated by industryy is one that is clearly away from products aimed primarily at the general consumer.

Industry presented good and varied representations of definite interests in information services in a variety of business sectors (eg oil and gas, footwear, furniture, chemicals, automobiles etc) all aiming to establish a better flow of business data. The publishing sector has demonstrated also efforts to extend the information content of their products. Furthermore, it is willing to explore new ways of delivering its products. The telecommunications sector, on the other hand, is in general poorly represented. The involvement of these and other key players in this area could have enhanced the credibility of the proposals.

It is not difficult to ensure an active participation of SMEs in this work, since the great volume of participating organisations are SMEs. The broad character of the Business and Industry Sector leads to a considerable scattering of market sectors. The recommended projects are characterised by incorporating some demonstration aspects thought to be important to the market, for example, the concept of providing a harmonised classification (coding) for materials in the construction industry. Not only has this value in the specific sector but it also has relevance as a catalyst for other sectors. It follows the pattern which the FEC believes to be important in establishing through EC projects exemplars that contribute to infrastructure.

Furthermore, the selected proposals contain examples of projects which represent early demonstrations of ideas which will confirm market responsiveness and might be expected to find further support and development from other Directorates (eg DGIII and DGXXIII) as the market matures. In this manner the mix of projects not only opens up new demonstrations but also helps to reinforce broader European internal market policy objectives further contributing to infrastructure development.

Conclusions

The FEC is satisfied that the work undertaken under the Call for Proposals for Business and Industry Information Services has been properly implemented. It provides a logical starting point for further continuation of this work through Info2000.

International cooperation

DGXIII is responsible for the project management of Copernicus projects in the telecommunication and telematic areas. The objective of the Copernicus programme (Cooperation in Science and Technology with Central and Eastern European Countries) is to support the strengthening and reorientation of the research capacity of Central and Eastern European countries by financing collaborative research and development across Europe.

At the beginning of 1995 six Copernicus projects were initiated in the telecommunication and telematic areas. Through management and guidance of this work it is intended to follow closely each of the six projects to ensure

All six projects are in initial phases. They are running from 15 to 36 months. They all appear to be well managed and to have potential to contribute to the development of the European Information Market. All of them have possibilities to create the first step in a process which could develop networks of cooperation across Europe lasting beyond the end of this single programme. Details of the project title, Copernicus project number, content and participants are given in Appendix 5.

Conclusion

The FEC is satisfied that this international collaboration is proper and is satisfactorily managed. The nature of such work is inevitably speculative and it should be monitored to ensure it does yield benefits of genuine market enhancement. It would be useful to establish measurable success criteria for this purpose of monitoring. Such criteria do not appear to exist at this time. 

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