Irish technology and research experts have been awarded the lead role in a prestigious €700,000 European Commission (EC) funded project tasked with ensuring the internet of the future is human-centric, citizen-inclusive and evolves significantly from today’s model, which is seen as primitive, fragmented, with security, data and privacy concerns as well as concentration of power issues.

Telecommunications Software and Systems Group (TSSG), at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT), is coordinating the project alongside another core partner, Trust-IT Services Ltd., based in the United Kingdom.

In January, 2017, the European Commission held an information day webinar on the Horizon 2020 (H2020) Next Generation Internet initiative. After attending the webinar, James Clarke, EU Programme Manager at WIT TSSG, teamed up with Trust-IT Services Ltd., which led to the formation of the successful proposal team.

Dr Alan Davy of TSSG coordinated the successful proposal. Dr Davy is a Funded Investigator with CONNECT, the Science Foundation Ireland research centre for future networks at TSSG and James Clarke is coordinating the SpeakNGI.eu project for WIT TSSG.

The landmark EC H2020 programme, entitled ICT-41-2017: Next Generation Internet (NGI), is designed to get the public more involved and central to its work for the upcoming Framework Programme 9 (FP9) programme, the successor of H2020, which is expected to run to 2027.

The projects in the NGI ecosystem focus on three specific areas – the identification of research topics, dynamic and continuous consultation and, thirdly, a programme shape for a Next Generation Internet initiative.

Each group will help the Research & Innovation designers and developers to consider how the Internet will be perceived 10 years from now. It will deal with issues like mounting concerns with security and privacy; radically new functionalities and, for example, what users might possibly see in terms of social media in the future. TSSG are leading the second requirement of the project SpeakNGI.eu, which addresses that of dynamic and continuous consultation.

Director of Innovation at TSSG, Kevin Doolin, says the project is not just big news for TSSG but for Ireland itself. He said: “SpeakNGI places TSSG at the forefront of European discussions and strategy for the future internet. This is a strategically critical initiative for TSSG and its partners and is the only Irish coordinated project of its type in this field. This project is seen by the European Commission as very much one of the necessary ‘Pathfinder’ projects for the building of the Next Generation Internet Flagship initiative.”

SpeakNGI.eu aims to establish and enact an open, dynamic and continuous consultation process with the active involvement of key stakeholder groups on a ‘citizen-centric’ quest to discover their fundamental needs for the NGI,” according to the WIT TSSG coordinator, James Clarke.

“The NGI flagship is the ‘big news’ part in the beyond H2020 programme that will be potentially worth many tens of millions of euros. And having an Irish coordinator of one of the projects in the NGI flagship building ecosystem is a huge benefit to Ireland, Inc.,” he added.

“The project’s multi-faceted consultation process will be supported by an authoritative SpeakNGI.eu European Champions Panel (ECP) that is composed of carefully selected stakeholder representatives acting as recruiters, motivators and evangelists for NGI activities in their respective domains.

“In 2018, we are co-organising an event with the Science Foundation Ireland centres covering areas related to the NGI and this event will be an opportunity to engage with civil society groups to better capture the concerns and requirements of the citizens so they can be addressed in the NGI programme. We also invite you to visit our web site at https://www.ngi.eu/ and, most importantly, we would ask those interested to please register and contribute to our project’s consultation platform at https://consultation.ngi.eu/,” Mr Clarke added.

Congratulating TSSG on securing the lead co-ordinator role, Stephen O’Reilly, Horizon 2020 National Contact Point for ICT in Enterprise Ireland, said: “Enterprise Ireland regard TSSG’s appointment as Co-ordinator of the SpeakNGI.eu project as a major coup as it places Ireland in a favourable position in the early stages of building this large NGI Flagship initiative.

“This is a big topic win for the future, built upon the strong focus on European values and requirements. Having this leading role puts Ireland right at the heart of European ICT research,” Mr O’Reilly said.

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