Roughly two years of preparation, from idea, over program design, to call for proposals for the “Future Internet Public-Private Partnership”. The deadline was passed last Thursday, 2nd of October 2010. It remains to be seen whether the enormous investments eventually pay off.
I believe in the European definition of a “Holistic Future Internet”. It is a rather broad concept; “Networks of the Future”, “The Internet of Things”, “The Internet of Services”, “Security”, “Cloud Computing”, and “Media & Content”. But it is not the range of topics alone, what makes the difference is that these domains are not considered in isolation. Instead, this vision of “Future Internet” is a consolidation of these domains into one global Internet-scale platform. Objective is to turn the Internet into a an open eco-system with low entry barriers and support for innovation in infrastructure as well as application domains. And this far beyond the ICT sector.
This is very different when compared to US-style “Future Internet” research, that is primarily focused on Internet communication architectures (c.f. NETS, FIND, GENI). While the European vision may appeal more complete and more universal, the US definition is more concise and warrant for potentially streamlined progress towards the ultimate objective, the next Internet. It is hard to quantify in terms of investment (social and monetary captial), but one predominant obstacle in European Future Internet research is definitively the “prerogative of interpretation”.
The FI PPP is a proper tool with a reasonable vision and capable provisions. The ultimate challenge, however, is to get the idea of an “open platform” penetrating beyond technology in order to gain support by business strategists. The past has shown that technology alone does not suffice: 25,583 IEEE papers on QoS versus XXX deployments?.
In any case, FI PPP preparations already achieved one significant result, namely the ICT sector entering a (painful) process of collaboration towards this idea of an open Internet-scale eco-system. This process is still at the very beginning and who knows if a beneficial continuation will result. Yet an ambitious platform is there and enough evidence for significant economic potential should be a good motivation.
At the end, “gain is frequently related to risks taken” and Europe is commonly perceived being too conservative, especially when compared to the US. The FI PPPs 300M€ investment prove otherwise.