Friday, June 11, 2010

The EU FET Flagship program

Back at home. In the previous two days I have attended an EU conference in Brussels on FET (Future Emerging Technologies) Flagship. The EU is recently acting to diversify its R&D investments, and launch some new programs in addition to the traditional programs that will keep running. One of this new ways is PPP (Public/Private Partnership) that is aimed at short term more engineering oriented projects, while the FET flagship goes to the opposite direction: launch two very ambitious large 10-years projects, with around 1B Euro investment in each.

They have brought some examples of projects in that scale such as: Large Hardon Collider, The Human Genome project and some others, with varying degrees of success. The rule of the game is that 5-6 ideas will be given a year (and a funding of around 1.5M Euro each) to develop the program (including partnership around the world, funding sources -- the EU will fund only part, expect that national funding agencies will support it as well as others), and out of them 2 will be selected.

In the last couple of days I have heard a lot of talks about potential proposals, many of them will probably merge, others will disappear. The commission people are encouraging people to merge and share, they don't think it is reasonable to have more than 10-15 proposals. One of the important tests for the proposals is the grandmother test: If you can explain your grandmother in one sentence what it does in terms that your grandmother will understand, then you'll be able to sell the idea to politicians. IMHO most of the presentations I have heard fail to satisfy this property, especially all the ones which has technology in their center. The promising directions relate to Biology -- human brain, breakthrough in robotics, and socio-technical systems.

What is the relationship to the "event processing grand challenge"? --- this may be one of the vehicles to advance the grand challenges, however, since the two flagship projects will start in 2013 -- we need to find other avenues to start earlier.

Event processing is relevant to everything, the human brain is very much event-driven, robots are in many cases event-driven, social evolution is event-driven and more.

One of the challenges is to sell the contribution of event processing to these projects, in discussing with one of them, they thought that they indeed need to process events, but there is no research here, just hard dirty work of programing. I told them that our research issue is how to eliminate the hard dirty work of programming in conventional languages and provide for them something much more high-level with "easy clean work" instead. They have not thought of it this way, since we have not reached out to these communities yet, I gave the analogy that 40 years ago everybody has created home-made database, until the relational database changed the picture, this is exactly what we are doing, raising the level of abstraction.

Next --- see where this can fit and how it can intersect with the EP grand challenge, and determine how to position it (in my talk on live ecology I have equated event processing to the nervous system of a human body). My presentation on live ecology is now on slideshare.

More - later.


Rainer v. Ammon said...

Some remarks to your sentence:
"One of the important tests for the proposals is the grandmother test: If you can explain your grandmother in one sentence what it does in terms that your grandmother will understand, then you'll be able to sell the idea to politicians..."

In this case, I do not believe in the grandmother test. As I have already written in our email discussion with David Luckham, Mani Chandy and Bernhard Seeger and at the CEP Dagstuhl seminar: If you were not involved in this flagship process from the beginning, at least since 1 or 2 years, it's actually a waste of time and money to try to hook on the initiative now with 6 slides on the level of the understanding of your grandmother. When I worked in the industry, e.g. for BEA Systems, I have learnt that you must systematically prepare and work on an account and there are good methods like Target Account Selling and others. Most of it is already happening behind the scenes in recent months. There are already SA projects (Support Actions) which should prepare the CA projects (Coordination Actions) which should prepare the flagships and the contents of the Calls for Projects starting from 2013. Each flagship has also to gather the budget of 1 billion €. Altogether it is a very political and complicated process. It's a fulltime job and not only for one person per consortium.

The reason why I suggested that you as a "big dog" ( should attend this workshop is that this is perhaps the only chance to position CEP in the FET flagship initiative in addition to our Ubiquitous CEP proposal, which I decided should not presented by me as a small cat, but by Bernhard in his role as Software AG as another big dog, in order to show that the big dogs are already supporting the U-CEP idea (Beyond Simple Complex Event Processing). Because the Commission is looking for the second P of PPP (Public-Private Partnership) and there was not a single big dog - except IBM and SAG now, as a result of our Dagstuhl seminar:-) BTW: Live-Ecology as a proposal was actually the idea of the Dagstuhl discussion "topic 5" and not only an idea of IBM, right?

Opher Etzion said...

Hi Rainer. The grandmother test was provided by the head of the unit in the conference, I have just cited it, but I guess it comes from the fact that it needs to be very easy to understand the goal, as it needs to get support from multiple sources - EU as well as national funds, and be understood easily by politicians.

I agree that the way to go is not to create another proposal, but to try to join one or more of the promising proposals that already exits, one reason is that I don't believe that a technology-centered project meets the "grandmother test". Thus, I think that the idea to find role to the EP technology in (probably) multiple proposals, is the next step.

About the "live ecology" I have stated in Brussels that I present it in both my hats - IBM and representative of the EP community, and mentioned Dagstuhl.