European Commission launches problem solving Grid-based approach across application sectors

Lyon 17 January 2003In view of the Sixth Framework Programme, the European Commission (EC) has created a fresh unit which will particularly focus on Grid-based systems for complex problem solving. Dr. Max Lemke, who is responsible for this unit, gave a short overview of its objectives and direction to the participants of the HealthGrid conference. Although the new unit is not specifically health-related, the EC changed her policy in such a way to enhance multi-disciplinarity and have synergies exploited across different sectors, allowing Grid-enabling application technologies to enter the field of the health care sector as well.

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With integrated projects and networks of excellence, the EC has forged two new instruments which have to materialise the underlying principle to move from project thinking to initiative thinking with strong objectives, visionary and long-term planning. After a long process of consultation and preparatory work in the form of internal reflections and expressions of interest, the Grids-for-Complex-Problem-Solving Unit saw the light, as the speaker explained.

Grid research and deployment has been split up into four areas within the Sixth Framework Programme. Dr. Lemke's unit has a budget of 120 million euro to address the architecture, design and development of the next generation Grid and to deal with the enabling application technologies. The research infrastructure unit is more focused on deployment of specific high performance Grids and research networking testbeds for 150 million euro, and the upgrade of the Géant network for 100 million euro. The technology-oriented strategic objectives are directed towards software engineering for distributed systems and semantic based knowledge systems whereas the application-oriented R&D domain is more targeted at deploying the technologies for specific purposes like for instance e-health.

The results from the expression of interest's analysis show two major fields of interest being the development of Grid and peer-to-peer (P2P) environments and the use of those environments for customised applications, as Dr. Lemke stated. In this regard, it is important for all project consortia to aggregate and for the stakeholders to be involved at all relevant levels. Ideally, new proposals should be centred around various groups of enabling technologies while the available tools and Grid infrastructures should be shared among the different teams.

Within the two-folded objective of the Grids-for-Complex-Problem-Solving Unit, Grid and P2P approaches will be applied to solve complex problems that cannot be addressed with current technologies in application fields such as industrial design, engineering and manufacturing; health, genomics and drug design, and environment; critical infrastructures, energy and new media; and business and finance.

In addition, the present architectural and design limitations which hamper the use and wider deployment of both computing and knowledge Grid and P2P-based approaches will have to be overcome. Dr. Lemke stressed the necessity to move from machine-centric computing and data Grids for research to knowledge Grids based on a meaning-oriented information model and to enrich Grid capabilities by including new functionalities required for complex problem solving.

From the architectural point of view, this involves open standards and security built in at all levels, programming environments, customisable middleware, and resource management, and the creation of economic and business models for new services. Dr. Lemke also insisted on interoperability with existing Grid and Web services. The enabling application technologies part consists in delivering tools and environments for modelling, simulation, visualisation, data mining; in process control and remote operation; and in collaborative work in dynamic virtual organisations. All efforts should be targeted at exploiting synergies across different application sectors.

Dr. Lemke ended his talk by announcing that the second call for proposals which addresses the Grids-for-Complex-Problem-Solving Unit will be launched June 17, 2003 and will close October 15, 2003. The indicative budget will amount to 45 million euro.


Leslie Versweyveld

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