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A joint project team with Italy

Université Bologne-Italie

Inria has just created the first joint project team with a European university - the University of Bologna in Italy. Known by the name of FOCUS (Foundations of Component-based Ubiquitous Systems), this team has been placed under the responsibility of Davide Sangiorgi. The scientific project concerns the semantic foundations of distributed software systems. Gérard Giraudon, Head of the Inria Centre in Sophia Antipolis-Méditerranée, takes a look back at the challenges of this cross-border partnership.

What features are specific to this kind of partnership?

Gérard Giraudon:  Inria conducts its research activities in project teams and interacts with its partners' organisational methods. Under such circumstances, it is a case of building a strong relationship with a university in another European country. This presents a number of difficulties - administrative problems, various legal issues and each party adapting to the other’s work culture, etc. However, the desire to work together and test this moderate-sized project team model in Italy, and moreover in a university, is even greater!

How did the idea of creating the FOCUS project team come about?

G Giraudon:  Davide Sangiorgi, then research director at Inria, left the Institute in 2002 to take up a lecturing position at the University of Bologna. We kept in touch after he left. In 2008, Davide suggested we improve scientific relations between Inria and the University of Bologna centred round the semantic foundations of distributed systems. This is how the objective of setting up a joint team with the University of Bologna came into being, with a view to taking on a research project on this subject. Inria has a wealth of relationships that it maintains with former researchers. For example, a good number of “former doctoral students” who prepared their theses in IPTs and all the foreign national researchers who have spent time at the Institute!

What is expected of this new cross-border team?

G Giraudon:  Inria is a recognised name in this field of research. Its organisation model is based on a team structure where a project is taken on for a set life span. This model has allowed it to build strong relationships with French academic partners (universities, leading higher education institutions and other research organisations). At the beginning of 2010, the Institute created the first joint team with a Dutch research institute (the ATEAMS Team). Today, the FOCUS project team is opening another chapter - that of joint teams with overseas universities. And we are not starting with just any old university. The University of Bologna is the oldest university in the western world! It was founded back in 1088. It is one of the biggest Italian universities both in terms of its size (96,000 students) and its reputation. For Inria’s Sophia-Antipolis research centre, it is also the first step towards building a sound “research network” in the Mediterranean basin. For the centre, the Alpes Maritimes and the region, this new team is a real asset. Davide Sangiorgi is a renowned researcher in the field of ubiquitous and global systems. His FOCUS project is reinforcing a research area in which our centre has a long-standing presence. This area is now crucial, given the place of distributed software systems in our society. It also constitutes a means of improving the mobility of young researchers and PhD students between France and Italy. It also makes it possible for joint proposals to be developed to apply for European funding.


 Today, Davide Sangiorgi’s team is made up of seven research-lecturers from the University of Bologna and roughly as many PhD students and post-doctoral researchers.
 FOCUS (FOundations of Component-based Ubiquitous Systems) examines semantic foundations for distributed systems. These foundations are considered to be the instruments that will allow important behavioural properties of the systems to be formalized and verified as well as linguistic constructions for the latter to be proposed.
 Foundations that will serve all computer sciences which are currently very busy dealing with “ubiquitous system" problems where computer systems are distributed or integrated into everyday activities and objects and on large-scale networks.

Keywords: University of Bologna - Italy Gérard Giraudon European partnerships FOCUS team