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Commission Decision on multimedia content development projects announced on 9 December

INFORMATION NOTE

General background

The Call for proposals for multimedia projects published by the INFO2000 programme on 21 June 1996 aroused considerable interest from companies and organisations throughout Europe. The Commission received 501 proposals, of which 477 arrived by the closing date of 13 September and were eligible for evaluation. The call aimed to stimulate pilot projects that will catalyse the production of high-quality European multimedia content, by building on the wealth of available European content. The proposals were required to show how technological, cultural, market, linguistic and other barriers can be overcome to produce successful multilingual, interactive European information services and products. Four areas were proposed as a focus for developments: the economic exploitation of Europe's cultural heritage; information for business; geographic information; and scientific, technical and medical information.

After an in-depth evaluation by independent experts, a shortlist of 55 projects to be supported by the Commission was drawn up, together with a reserve list in the event that any additional budget should be available by the end of the year. The Commission hopes that, after negotiation of the projects concerned, as many as 80 projects will receive support for an initial definition phase. The formal Commission Decision approving the selection of proposals for these pilot projects was announced on 9 December. The projects will start at the beginning of 1997 and will run for six months to verify the feasibility of their technological, organisational, financial and commercial plans. After this period, an evaluation of the results will be carried out. Subsequently, additional support may be granted to some 15 to 20 of the projects to carry their initial work further.

The selected projects

The projects that the Commission will support all have some feature which the evaluators believed would produce an effect on one or more aspects of multimedia production. This includes, for example, demonstrating innovative ways of handling traditional material, aiming at overcoming barriers to access and exchange of information, making available particularly interesting content resources, or laying the foundations for whole ranges of data to be exchanged and used in the new multimedia publishing environments.

Some projects focus on specific periods of recent or distant history, gathering assets from many sources to present the data in multiple ways. Some productions will incorporate innovative technology such as virtual reality or three-dimensional animation to reconstruct cultural or scientific features. Other services will provide specialised information to industry on subjects as diverse as machinery, timber, textiles, trademarks, broadcasting material and commercial art.

The evaluators’ conclusions: Messages for potential multimedia developers

The evaluators came from a very wide range of industry, academic and commercial backgrounds and examined the projects as a representative sample of the current state of the European multimedia industry. Some of their findings are summarised here so as to help not only future proposers but all potential multimedia developers to focus on issues that seem, on the basis of this sample, to be most important for establishing a competitive multimedia content industry. The great variety of European content was amply demonstrated by the projects proposed. However, considerable advances need to be made in exploiting this content if a new industry is to be created for the benefit of Europe’s workers, citizens and industry.

Among the weaknesses mentioned by evaluators were:

  • the low level of creativity and innovative handling of subjects, which may be attributed to a scarcity of advanced skills;
  • that intellectual property rights (IPR) issues are not adequately handled;
  • the lack of convincing business plans, which were sometimes missing completely;
  • the approaches to marketing and distribution tend to be poorly developed;
  • many projects remain too limited in geographical scope;
  • incomplete partnerships resulting in a lack of expertise and experience;
  • cooperation between public and private sectors needs to be further developed;
  • poor attention to multilingual aspects.

In general, new communication and publishing paradigms are needed to exploit the full potential of multimedia. There is an important need to develop a wider understanding of the practical prospects deriving from the ever changing technical capabilities. A certain number of problem issues require attention by potential multimedia information developers. These include realistic payment mechanisms; the potential effect of IPR on market viability; the rights generated by users adding information in an interactive environment; and personal privacy issues in general.

In conclusion, the new technologies require quite different development and exploitation paradigms, different from those appropriate to conventional "print on paper" productsThe next generation of multimedia information services will require the integration of new technical, publishing and commercialisation skills.

Some facts and figures

Following the Council Decision of 20.5.1996 adopting a multi-annual Community programme to stimulate the development of a European multimedia content industry and to encourage the use of multimedia content in the emerging information society (INFO2000), [Official Journal n° L 129/24 30.5.1996], a Call for Proposals was issued for shared-cost actions that will catalyse high-quality European multimedia content. Community funding is limited to 100,000 ECU per project and may represent up to 40% of development costs (50% in the case of small businesses and less favoured regions).

The Call was published on 21 June 1996 in the Official Journal of the European Communities [OJ N° 178 21.5.1996]. The deadline for receipt of proposals was 13 September 1996.

The Call invited proposals for projects addressing one of the following sectors:

  • Economic exploitation of Europe’s cultural heritage; 223 proposals were received, requesting a total of 21,527,000 ECU in Community funding; 35 projects are to be supported, with a total of 3,272,000 ECU in Community funding.
  • Business services for firms, in particular SMEs; 146 projects were received, requesting a total of 13,710,000 ECU in Community funding; 19 projects are to be supported, with a total of 1,802,000 ECU in Community funding.
  • Geographic Information; 47 proposals were received, requesting a total of 4,412,000 ECU in Community funding; 13 projects are to be supported, with a total of 1,191,000 ECU in Community funding.
  • Scientific, Technical and Medical Information; 61 proposals were received, requesting a total of 5,771,000 ECU in Community funding; 13 projects are to be supported, with a total of 1,204,000 ECU in Community funding.

Overall, the 477 proposals involved over 2400 organisations. The 80 projects expected to be supported involve over 400 organisations. Some two-thirds of organisations, both among proposals received and projects to be supported, are small enterprises with less than 50 employees.

  • Your contact for further information

For further details of the INFO2000 programme in general, and for this Call for proposals in particular, please contact the INFO2000 Central Office, at the following address:

INFO2000 Central Office
European Commission
DG XIII/E
L-2920 Luxembourg
Tel: +352 40 116 2222
Fax: +352 40 116 2234
E-mail: info2000@echo.lu

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