« Consolidating its key role at European level in the field of computational sciences »
© Inria / D.R.
As the Seventh European Framework Programme for Research and Innovation draws to a close, and preparations are underway for Horizon 2020, the next few years promise to be exciting and eventful for the European Partnerships Department and its Director Thierry Priol. He reflects on these projects, and on the EIT ICT Labs venture, and hails the success of Inria researchers with ERC grants.
What are Inria's ambitions in Europe?
Inria's ambition is to consolidate its key role, recognised at European level in the field of computational sciences, as an important driver of development and innovation. This ambition is being realised by the significant, active participation of our researchers in various initiatives funded by the European Commission, especially in the four specific programmes of the Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Development (FP7). These are: Cooperation, Ideas, People and Capacities. Today, Inria researchers can participate in European activities, whatever research they are undertaking. There are no longer any "good" reasons for not being "present in Europe". It is one of the missions of the European Partnership Department to encourage and support our researchers in becoming involved in European programmes to promote research and innovation.
Today, Inria researchers can participate in European activities, whatever research they are undertaking.
To supplement the programmes funded by the European Commission, Inria is also developing its own partnership activities at European level. For example, we could mention our two joint teams: Ateams with the CWI (Netherlands), and Focus with the University of Bologna (Italy). Then there is the LIRA Laboratory, in partnership with the CWI, Fraunhofer Institute and Philips, and also the collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute around a virtual reality platform.
FP7 is entering its final year. What is your first assessment of this programme?
The final calls for the Seventh Programme Framework will occur in 2013; no doubt those calls will be highly selective. We can now make an initial assessment of Inria's participation in FP7. Inria has participated in over 170 projects, including 90 on the theme of "Information and Communication Technologies" within the Cooperation programme. In addition, we have secured 24 ERC grants "hosted" by Inria. While this assessment is very positive, our contributions to the Cooperation programme have been concerned mainly with technological challenges and to a much lesser extent with societal challenges. Nevertheless, we are involved in some projects in the fields of health and transport. These societal challenges are going to have an increasingly important role in funding for research and innovation in Europe in the years ahead, especially in the forthcoming framework programme "Horizon 2020".
Can you remind us of the Horizon 2020 objectives? What is Inria's involvement in this area?
Horizon 2020 is the European Commission's next framework programme. It will be launched in 2014 for a period of seven years. We are following this great work in progress very closely as this framework programme will be structured differently from the previous ones with the themes of Research, Innovation and Societal Impact incorporated more clearly. It will rest on three pillars: scientific excellence, development of European industrial leadership and societal challenges. Inria intends to participate actively in all these areas.
What does the success of its researchers with the ERC (European Research Council) mean for Inria?
These successes contribute to the prestige of the Institute, not only in Europe but throughout the world. This is because the ERC is a programme for excellence which enjoys a fantastic international reputation. Our 24 successful applicants (18 in IT and six in mathematics) are living proof, as if it were needed, of the quality and renown of our researchers at European and international level. Inria is in the European "vanguard" in information technology. The European Partnership Department will continue to support future ERC candidates. I would like to take this opportunity to thank my predecessor, Jean-Pierre Banâtre, who was an enthusiastic promoter of the ERC at Inria. He will continue to advise our researchers and share his great knowledge of the ERC.
A word on EIT ICT Labs?
The EIT ICT Labs KIC was selected at the end of 2009 by the EIT and will soon be entering its third year. As I was EIT ICT Labs' first Research Director, I was able to follow its progress. Today, EIT ICT Labs is a unique tool in the field of information technologies in that it comprises three elements: research, education and innovation. Inria is very prominent in promoting and running the French node (Paris and the satellite nodes of Rennes and Nice). Several Inria teams take part in activities co-funded by EIT ICT Labs. We also organised a summer school in September 2012 entitled "Imagine the future in ICT" focused on "Data Management". This was a great success with some 30 participants including PHD students, post-doctoral researchers, engineers and entrepreneurs who came from the six nodes of the KIC. They were able to share the passion of high level researchers, especially successful ERC grant applicants, and entrepreneurs. We hope that this scientific event will be the first IN a long series.
Furthermore, Michel Cosnard is a member of the EIT ICT Labs Executive Committee. Olivier Festor, researcher at Inria and manager of the Madynes project team in Nancy, is now Research Director.