Outcomes of the Workshop: Connecting European innovators to ICT test facilities + photo gallery

The workshop, Connecting European innovators to ICT test facilities, on 27 June 2014 in Paris was co-hosted by CI-FIRE, EIT ICT Labs and its FanTaaStic project. It brought together representatives from the business community, ICT test facilities and the European Commission for an honest appraisal of the sustainability of test facilities funded through the Commission's Future Internet Research and Experimentation initiative, commonly referred to as FIRE. Views from small businesses like Digital Worx, HiKoB and the Support Action FUSION drove home the importance of clearly stating benefits of FIRE for SMEs. Of course, the FIRE initiatives also need to make the benefits clearer for all potential users, whether they come from research or education, with a view to building a user community and ensuring the best possible sustainable use of the facilities based on European excellence.

FanTaaStic (an initiaitive of EIT ICT Labs) presented its pioneering approach to sustainability by offering a one-stop shopping of federated European test beds. FUSECO and OneLab have already come on board but there are opportunities for other FIRE facilities to join and advertise their services. FanTaaStic has broken new ground by first defining a business and operational plan and is currently offering SMEs a free trial as part of its pilot phase.

Main Discussion Points

Stefano de Panfilis, who is Chief Innovation Officer at Engineering, plays a key role in not only in the future internet as Chair of the FI steering board, but also as project coordinator at EIT ICT Labs in Trento, helping connect small business to the future internet. He believes that the FIRE value add is the availability of resources for complex systems. Collaboration with EIT ICT Labs can bring direct interaction with SMEs, for example, through local events. Stefano also believes that the involvement of large companies is also important to show how FIRE can move beyond the experimentation phase towards innovative services in the marketplace.

FUSION focuses on SME engagement and requirements. Jean-Charles Point from JCP-Connect coordinates the project. He also highlighted the need to advertise the benefits of testing more effectively with tailored support and free training. The interface with SMEs has to be specialised in business. Mirko Ross from Digital Worx sees two barriers that FIRE needs to overcome before it becomes attractive to SMEs: marketing and product portfolio, identifying which test beds work best and who for and a better definition of the target group. This is important because SMEs cover many different sectors. One of the activities of CI-FIRE is benchmarking FIRE facilities, which is key to creating an ecosystem that is competitive and sustainable.  

FORGE can support FIRE in 2 ways from an educational service perspective - packaging and PR, explaing FIRE to people not familiar with it and by ensuring sustainability  through the educational market where institutions have funding for new investments.

Session Summary

Nikos Isaris, Deputy Head of Unit, Experimental Platforms, DG CONNECT, European Commission

The role of Future Internet Research and Experimentation in promoting Innovation and Competitiveness in Europe
This keynote offered insights into ICT 12 – Call 2 – 2015 "Integrating experiments & facilities in FIRE+", with its main focus on technically mature experiments on top of FIRE+ facilities for close-to-market products, applications or services. The main policy focus is on 5G PPP, IoT and Cloud, especially smart cities, data and media and technologies like software defined networking.

There should be at least one SME participating in the consortium to foster clear innovation and business perspective (new business models, startups, SMEs). The programme will see the support and/or participation of National or European Agencies, in particular EIT ICT Labs. Sustainability is essential and of strategic importance, with CI-FIRE providing guidelines on FIRE facility sustainability. The collaboration between FanTaaStic (FUSECO and OneLab facilities) and FIRE will also bring a use case of a sustainable model.  Scaling up this model will need a "broker" between facilities and user communities.

Stefano de Panfilis, Engineering, Chair of the FI-PPP and EIT ICT Labs Trento

Promoting innovation and competitiveness
Stefano offered business and market perspectives for the future internet.

Platform-based businesses on any possible device are outperforming in sales and in profits any other ICT business. ICT applications are changing radically as we move towards the internet of everything, connecting people, knowledge, things, networks, services. Customers increasingly strive for individualised/on-demand solutions and services. This represents a major shift away from “traditional” systems, which are designed for a multitude of end-users belonging to the same class and thus following the same or similar processes. Regarding Big data, the future internet will bring about huge changes in very short time frames within business ecosystems and technology fostering the emergence of new business models and opportunities. Smart Cities are very strategic in paving the way for innovation and ultimately boosting productivity and growth. It's where the new services and apps will be deployed. The concept of Living Labs is based on a systematic user co-creation approach integrating research and innovation processes. While the results of the European future internet public private partnership (FI-PPP) will be turned into a new ecosystem of services leveraging open source and integrated into smart cities.

Florian Schreiner, COO, FanTaaStic

FanTaaStic, One-Stop-Shopping of Federated European Testbeds
The strategic goal common to both FIRE and EIT ICT Labs is to support the sustainable use of test beds. FanTaaStic is tasked with driving the sustainable use of test beds, supporting the best possible use for research, education or business. To make FanTaaStic efficient, effective and agile, the team has used eTom, an industry business process framework. This has helped implement a set of services currently missing from FIRE, spanning a One-stop-shop (Billing, Payment, Legal Contracts) services; Matchmaker (Discovery and Assignment of Resources) services; Advisor (Expert advice on Testbed/resource usage/Experimentation & Testing) services + Consultation on Business Model, Feasibility. The framework can be used as a check list to verify the market readiness of test beds, which need a "seal of approval" before integration into FanTaaStic.

Florian also touched on SME requirements. Small businesses typically need support in many different product development phases. Testing support is particularlty important because SMEs typically lack the know-how to set up multi-tech testbeds and need to be enabled to primarily focus on their product development. FanTaaStic is currently running a free trial open call for SMEs for its on-going pilot phase.

FIRE facilities: David Margery, BonFIRE, Serge Fdida, OneLab and John Domingue, FORGE

David Margery, INRIA, BonFIRE Benefits and Open Access Approach

BonFIRE has dedicated a lot of effort to define sustainability with the support of a board of advisors. It is now running an open access programme. Being part of ECO2CLOUDS and Fed4FIRE means BonFIRE can continue to improve its offer. David Margery presented best practices in defining a sustainability strategy, including for his institution, Inria, which supports collaborative research where test beds are needed.

Serge Fdida, UPMC Sorbonne University, OneLab 'An Internet of Test Beds'
Serge presented OneLab as a campion of the sustainable use of test beds, with particular reference to the transition of OneLab to EIT ICT Labs. In FanTaaStic, it provides IoT and wireless services for both research and businesses.

John Domingue, The Open University, Bringing FIRE and the eLearning spheres together

A different set of opportunities for FIRE came from FORGE, which is deploying eduational services on FIRE facilities. John Domingue, the Open University and FORGE coordinator explained that the goal is to inject into the higher education learning sphere the FIRE portfolio of facilities and tools; introduce the learning community to the concepts of Experimentally Driven Research). Market potential is signficant and the Open University (UK) is playing a leading role with its  Future Learn that has nearly 400,000 course sign-ups and over 200,000 registered users. Its iBook embeds educational courses and videos, a cool tool for both tutors and students.

SME Perspectives

Mirko Ross, Digital Worx, CEO: Mirko Ross runs a business based in Stuttgart that works with large German companies. FIRE is an interesting proposition to test new products using funds from client projects. However, getting to grips with FIRE and its offer is a major challenge for SMEs. With so much information, it is not easy for SME to understand what the actual benefits are and how to get started. Having a certified test bed is important to demonstrate quality to clients from large companies.

Guillaume Chelius, HiKoB, President & CEO, On the interest of test beds for a hardware startup
Guillaume Chelius, CEO of French company HiKob, highlighted also the need for FIRE to be SME-friendly in their language and approach. One case he highlighted was how EU test beds could help save companies money by using existing test beds as a service to test and validate products. A small company doesn't have the resources to test its software on 1000s of nodes - this is where FIRE and ICT Labs come into play. He sees a good market for IoT test beds.

Jean-Charles Point, JCP-Connect, Needs and pre-requisites for testing

Jean-Charles Point from JCP-Connect is also a partner of EIT ICT Labs (Rennes, France) and coordinator of FUSION, which has analysed the specific requirements of SMEs, including training and support tailored to these needs. A key issue is identifying the different types of innovation - should this also come from companies using ICT test facilities or should this be more about taking new products and services to market? The latter case may be connected to survival in the marketplace or lead to the creation of new companies at the macro-economic level.