- Published on 08 Jan 2018
EFECS 2017 - A game changer
Steered by the theme of ‘Our Digital Future’, this three-day event held in Brussels from 5-7 December provided an excellent opportunity for stakeholders to share their knowledge and vision as well as explore new collaborative initiatives and ideas. Across the three days, the organisers of this event, AENEAS, ARTEMIS-IA, EPoSS, ECSEL Joint Undertaking and the European Commission, received very positive feedback from their communities.
More than 500 highly motivated participants attended EFECS 2017, ranging from public authorities and the European Commission to innovative industrial players and research organisations. These numbers bear witness to the level of interest in, and commitment to, developing and exploiting the digital technologies along the Electronic Components & Systems value chain in a way that can bring economic leadership and societal benefits to Europe.
Strategic Research Agenda
The event wasted no time in getting down to business, with a focus on the very important matter of the Electronic Components & Systems Strategic Research Agenda (ECS SRA), a document designed to stimulate and drive RD&I in the Digital Economy. The new SRA was introduced by Laila Gide, chair of the ECS SRA editing board, who suggested that the holistic approach of the SRA should be considered “a source of inspiration not only for the ECSEL JU members but also for other programmes like H2020.” Through till lunch on day two, the various guiding principles and chapters of the SRA came under scrutiny as the finishing touches are being put to the ‘canvas’ so that the final version can be readied for publishing in January 2018. As Bert de Colvenaer, Executive Director of the ECSEL Joint Undertaking, put it: “We are the brush that connects the palette of innovation with the artist of exploitation.” In many respects this was the purpose of this EFECS event; it gave brushes to those present to paint a picture of the digital future together, and through the different chapter discussions, the brushstrokes became more distinct and the future direction clearer.
Illuminating the route to the future
Following the breakout sessions that explored the ins and outs of the SRA, a series of keynote presentations illuminated the route to the future. In his keynote address on ‘Our Digital Future’, Carmelo Papa, CEO of STMicroelectronics, emphasised the explosive growth in connectivity. He also pointed to the tremendous role that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is playing in both accelerating and shaping this growth as the process of digitisation, or data generation, increasingly becomes a world of data exploitation, or digitalisation. ECSEL has come up with the Lighthouse Initiative notion, and this concept was considered in subsequent panels on Mobility and Industry (the lighthouses defined so far). It is a notion whereby all the related technical and non-technical aspects of this highly complex digital shift can be illuminated and ‘found’ to enable the incorporation of additional projects to solve the challenges and bring innovative impactful solutions efficiently and effectively. The presentations also highlighted both the impact of digitalisation on the market – for example, the shift from mobility as a product to mobility as a service – and the need for collaborative research to tackle the challenges that lie ahead.
The aim of this collaborative research is, of course, to generate impact in both economic and societal terms. The importance of publically funded European programmes – ECSEL JU, EUREKA, Horizon 2020 and the forthcoming FP9 – are vital in tackling the major challenges facing society in the coming years. In his address to the conference, Heikki Uusi-Honko, Chairperson of EUREKA High Level Group, highlighted “the impact of the transnational, market-driven innovative research and development projects labelled by EUREKA and supported by the Public Authorities that represent EUREKA in each of its 40+ member countries.” The message that impact – on both industry and society – is the measure of a programme’s success. This was evident in every address, and in every project present in the exhibition hall.
Of course, funding has a crucial role in facilitating all of this. It was reassuring to note in the addresses by representatives from the public authorities and the European Commission that there is full backing for the collaborative initiatives being taken by the different funding programmes in the field of Electronic Components & Systems. Indeed, in her video address, the EU’s commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, Mariya Gabriel, underlined that “we simply have to work together – industry, member states and the European Union – and for this, the ECSEL JU has already been a game changer. This is a time for opportunity and ECSEL is there to help us seize these opportunities. We are in this together and together we can make it a success. I count on your commitment …… and enjoy the conference.”