The proposals that have been received, comprised 2347 research proposals for the fixed deadline of 16 June 1999, and 172 received, up to 1 July, under continuous submission for the future and emerging technologies open scheme, SME awards, Marie Curie industrial host fellowships, and accompanying measures. A representative of the Commission's Information Society Directorate-General said the response was good, covering all areas well, with proposals on average of high quality.
The received proposals were fairly evenly spread across the four Key Actions of the IST programme. However, the quality of proposals was higher under the Key Action for "Essential technologies and infrastructures", reflected in the fact that almost double the number of these proposals were retained for negotiation than for any other Key Action. A source close to the evaluation suggested this might be because Europeans are typically stronger in developing technologies, but less good at translating their research efforts into applications.
Although the overall response was strong, certain parts of the Key Actions were weaker than had been expected. One special area of concern related to proposals for the disabled and elderly which were poor in contrast to the high quality of research in this area being carried out in the United States. The Commission is considering measures to improve the response in this area.
Proposals were weakest in application-oriented areas where it appeared that the criteria of innovation and exploitation of results were poorly understood. Sources in the Commission said a large amount of proposals which aimed at service and application development scored low on these criteria. As a result, the Commission intends to tighten up its definitions of these concepts in the second call for proposals and also make information available as to what is meant in order to strengthen calls in the future.
As with all European Union research programmes, cross-border co-operation is a fundamental element. This first round of calls has resulted in a total of 18.000 participants, well spread over the EU and associated countries. The response from the Central and Eastern European countries which recently signed up to the Fifth Framework Programme was enthusiastic, but some EC sources said several measures need to be enforced to improve the number and quality of participations.
These include extending research networks to these countries, establishing channels of information dissemination and encouraging other European researchers to take partners from the East. The second call for proposals opened on October 1st 1999, and for the RTD proposals, the deadline is 18 January 2000. For more news on the quality of the first IST call for proposals, please read the VMW article in the issue of last November: Lack of innovative inspiration kills over one third of first call IST proposals.