I just wrote the final chapter of the CROSSROAD roadmap and would welcome comments. Here it is:
The research challenges presented here also question the viability of existing research instruments in addressing them. It is increasingly recognized that the determining variables for successful ICT innovation do not lie in the domains and areas to be funded (the what), but in the nature of the mechanisms in place (the how). No matter how well formulated and agreed the research challenges are, they will not be met if we don’t design the appropriate funding instruments to support research.
In particular, the research challenges presented above present features which are not always fully compatible with FP7 type of
research. In particular they are:
– user-driven and demand-driven: the tools are developed by people directly involved and interested. In the field of computational science, it is the scientist who develop the model and the algorithm; on collaborative governance, it is citizens and civil society
organisations who develop innovative applications, often as open source.
– highly multidisciplinary, with particular involvement of non-technological disciplines. Psychology, political
sciences, art, design are fundamental component of research in fields such as visual analytics and serious games.
– Not clearly divided between research and innovation: the agile development of these applications benefits from new re-compositions of existing tools as well as development of new functionalities. Market release (in beta) is not the end of the research process but a part of it. Rigid border between what is research and what is not are simply meaningless in this context and likely to be counterproductive in terms of marketable innovation.
– serendipitous innovation: research in fastly developing, complex and demand-driven applied research fields cannot be planned linearly, three years in advance, but are necessarily adjusted iteratively in order to respond to new needs, unforeseen technological opportunities and market development. How can the three years funding model of typical FP7 project be compatible to the one week-end development time of a typical barcamp? In such a context, open and more flexible funding models are to be applied therefore not only to basic research (as in the case of the European Research Council and Future and Emerging Technologies), but also to applied research.
These features are not “by definition” incompatible with current research programmes, but they are “de facto” very marginally present. One particular challenge is that most of the research challenges (such as agent-based modelling, participatory sensing, visual analytics) are building on research currently being developed in the contest of the FET (Future and Emerging Technologies) area, which is itself designed
somewhat differently, in terms of funding instruments, from other FP7 ICT research themes. Will the research community of FET be able to thrive under a different model?
Deliverable T4.4 will directly look into the possible research instruments to be used, taking into account alternative models for research funding such as FET, ERC and prizes.