The GÉANT network provides the high speed connectivity needed to share, access and process the massive volumes of data. This data is generated by, and essential to, diverse research and education communities across such areas as particle physics, bioinformatics, earth observation, drug discovery, and arts and culture.
GÉANT has long been a vital part of European research and education, but how does this role support the Europe 2020 growth strategy?
GÉANT is a success story. For the past ten years, through the joined force of national research and education networks, it has been a vital element of Europe’s e-infrastructure, providing the high speed connectivity needed to share, access and process massive volumes of data: data which is essential to the study of particle physics, bio-informatics, the advancing of medicine or simply enabling arts performers in different continents perform together in near real-time. Considered the most advanced research network in the world, GÉANT has helped put Europe at the heart of global research, benefiting over 40 million researchers and students across Europe who collaborate with peers across the world on ground-breaking discoveries and learning.
If opposites really do attract, nobody has told researchers and academics: talent is attracted to other groups of talent, and when they are separated by distance they will find a way to collaborate. Perhaps in the past this would have meant physical relocation – witness the concentration of talent around hubs such as world-famous universities and institutes – but now of course this collaboration can take place virtually regardless of physical location thanks to e-infrastructure. GÉANT’s role up to now has therefore been vital in positioning Europe at the forefront of research and education.
It was not always this way. In the 1990s Europe lagged behind North America in its research networking, suffering from high prices driven by telecommunications monopolies and poor access for the peripheral regions of Europe. Market liberalisation, major investment at national and European level and successful collaboration have all played their part in propelling Europe to a world leadership position.
Of course, the world doesn’t stand still, and Europe is facing stiff competition from other regions. The United States and China are investing heavily in ICT (Information and Communications Technology) as a source of competi¬tive advantage (around five or six times more than Europe over the next seven years), putting Europe’s position at serious risk. It is a complex issue including politics, priorities and long term strategy: those regions in a position to support their vision of ICT with continued – and increased – investment expect to reap the benefits of a well-equipped knowledge society. Others are in a more difficult situation, unable to ramp investment even though the vision is strong. Europe is expected to build on its notable success to date, and has put ICT at the heart of its plans.
Addressing the crisis we are all aware of, the EU has responded with Europe 2020 – a cohesive growth strategy built around smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. Smart growth in this context means improving performance in education, research and innovation and the EU is targeting increased funding in research and innovation, as well as improved levels of employment and educational attainment.