A Conversation with Domenico Laforenza, New President of ERCIM AISBL
In a conversation with our Editor, Domenico Laforenza outlines his vision for the role to be played by ERCIM in a rapidly evolving global scenario. “Although many things are changing worldwide, and in particular in Europe” – Domenico says – “I am confident that ERCIM will remain at the forefront of developments into the future. Plans have been put in place for this to happen effectively and efficiently, and the right people - young dynamic, excellent researchers - are positioned to take over from the current senior generation. I believe that ERCIM has a great future: my efforts will be devoted to contributing to its preparation!”
In 2014, ERCIM will celebrate twenty-five years of cooperation for excellence in research in the Information and Communication Sciences and Technologies (ICST) domain. Over these years, ERCIM has developed from the initial three-member consortium to an open and inclusive European organization of currently twenty-two members. Originally based on the “one member per country” model, each acting as a node linking academia and industry in that country and - via the fellow ERCIM members - to other countries, I am happy to see that ERCIM has now changed its structure, in 2012 opening its doors to new members head-quartered in Europe.
ERCIM has a long history of activity, participating and coordinating European projects through its member institutes and working groups, and has been recognized by the European Commission as a significant player. In fact, the network of researchers working in ERCIM institutes is a unique asset in the European research area, fostering collaboration and excellence in research. The widening of the ERCIM network will further strengthen this impact. It is my conviction that the start of the Horizon 2020 framework programme presents new challenges and opportunities for ERCIM-led actions that will stimulate innovation across Europe and beyond.
For this reason, the ERCIM AISBL Board in close collaboration with the ERCIM EEIG Board of Directors is already undertaking initiatives aimed at mobilising ERCIM in the direction of proposal preparation ready for the first calls of H2020. We are currently planning a line of action aimed at contributing to the future landscape in ICST. The objective is to first identify the emerging grand challenges and then to define the strategic roadmaps and research topics needed to meet these challenges. At the same time, ERCIM will establish new working groups and refocus existing groups in areas that are identified as priority for both basic and applied research.
In order to define and implement future strategy, synergy with other international institutions will play a crucial role. ERCIM is not alone in the European public ICST research ecosystem. Other ICST scientific and professional societies have come into being in recent years. In view of its long history and tradition, I believe that ERCIM has a key responsibility to cooperate with these organizations in understanding and shaping Europe’s digital future. Our common target must be to collectively identify the vision, needs and priorities, and offer our expertise to society as a whole. In particular, European public ICST research organizations must contribute to shaping the H2020 work programmes. In the past, each organisation interacted independently with the EC; however, the lack of a single voice has seriously impacted on their ability to be heard by EC decision makers. The development of common viewpoints and strategies for ICST in Europe and, whenever appropriate or needed, a common representation of this vision at the international level are the foundational principles of the European Forum for Information and Communication Sciences and Technologies.
EFICST (http://www.eficst.eu/) was established in November 2011 by the joint action of seven leading organizations and societies in ICST in Europe: ACM Europe (ACM Europe Council), European Association for Programming Languages and Systems (EAPLS), European Association of Software Science and Technology (EASST), European Association for Theoretical Computer Science (EATCS), European Coordinating Committee for Artificial Intelligence (ECCAI), ERCIM, and INFORIE (Informatics Europe). The Forum is intended to be an open platform for cooperation among the scientific ICT societies in Europe. Under my Presidency, ERCIM intends to play a leading role in this Forum.
Another important area where I intend for ERCIM to be active in the near future will be the strengthening of relationships with the Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) of the European Institute for Innovation and Technology (EIT), and in particular with the EIT KIC ICT Labs. This is essential if we are to stimulate innovation through a more rigorous and dynamic link with higher education, research and business.
Summing up, my main vision for ERCIM during my Presidency is that we continue to play our role as leaders of research and innovation in the European ICST domain, defining strategy, encouraging synergy, and promoting research which reaches far beyond formal disciplinary barriers in order to meet the new demands and challenges of the continually evolving global community. ERCIM has been considered as a key institution for ICST in Europe for many years now, acting as a focal point of expertise and vision. We intend to maintain this position for many years to come.
Domenico Laforenza, ERCIM President