Petra Turkama and José Jiménez
To make the internet fit for the 21st century, the €600-million Future Internet Public-Private Partnership tries to push technology development, as well as new business models. Tania Rabesandratana talks to Petra Turkama, one of the programme’s coordinators, and to participant José Jiménez.
The Future Internet Public-Private Partnership is a large experiment. Although it uses some well-tried methods—in particular pooling money from the European Commission and in-kind contributions from industry—to bring business and academia together, the FI-PPP is trying out a new, individual funding model.
“About 70 per cent of the funds go to the industry participants, 8 per cent to the public sector and the remaining 22 per cent to academia,” says Petra Turkama, director of Aalto University’s Center for Knowledge and Innovation Research in Finland, who is in charge of coordinating the programme. She notes that this distribution is roughly the reverse of a typical Framework research project.
The idea of FI-PPP first emerged around 2009, when a group of 16 companies—including telecoms providers BT and Orange as well as manufacturers Siemens, Nokia and Ericsson—set out to work together. “We wanted to follow a different model to that of Framework 6 or Framework 7, moving away from pure research to reach the phase of innovation and demonstration,” recalls José Jiménez, from Spanish telecoms firm Telefónica. “We want to reach the market and produce actual products.”
Initially, these companies were hoping to create a Joint Technology Initiative, another kind of public-private partnership that was launched around 2007. “In a JTI the businesses have more control,” Jiménez says, “while in the FI-PPP, the steering board includes people that do not have a direct link with the companies that make the investment.” But Turkama argues that this could be precisely one of the programme’s strengths, because it generates more cooperation among the programme’s different strands.
FI-PPP aims to develop products by working together with end-users. “The Commission is serious about impact on real business,” Turkama says, adding that “the users who will buy the technology must have a say”. For example, Earth observation technology can be used by companies or public authorities for logistics, agriculture and traffic management purposes—but each user has distinct needs, she explains.
“The challenge is to integrate the technology in existing structures,” Turkama says. This will be done through a series of life-size tests, to be carried out across Europe. To do this, the Commission urged FI-PPP to team up with the so-called ICT Labs research collaborations of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology. “They have the infrastructure to carry out trials for pilot projects, and they also have links with venture capital that we can take advantage of,” she says.
Jiménez agrees that the PPP model has other advantages; in particular, contrary to JTIs, the FI-PPP receives money directly from the Commission and not from member states. This makes it less vulnerable to political changes and budget cuts at the national level, he says.
The FI-PPP participants aim to come up with alternative business models to stay relevant in today’s open source age. For example, data management and storage require generic technologies that are independent from service providers—and any company should be able to build an application for them. “The market is going towards open source, so businesses have to find new ways of generating revenue,” Turkama says. “Even though we don’t have anything to sell yet, we are working on a business plan to see where firms can capture value.”
The programme’s founding companies have drafted a joint agreement spelling out the terms of their collaboration. “It’s royalty-free during the programme, and for after the programme there are ‘fair and reasonable’ terms defined,” Turkama says. “That means the companies don’t have to renegotiate an intellectual property arrangement every time.”
But Jiménez is more careful. “In the long term, if we come up with commercial products we will need specific agreements,” he says.
Turkama and her colleagues are not only in charge of managing the project; they also study how the FI-PPP itself works and will publish academic articles about the model. “I think it is a smart idea from the Commission, because we have no vested interest and we work as a neutral facilitator [between businesses and other participants],” she notes. “We have learnt from other projects that we have carried out in the past, from the failures of other programmes, and we will test some new concepts here.”
• 1994-99 MSc in industrial engineering and management, Lappeenranta University of Technology, Finland
• 2002-07 PhD in information technology management, Lappeenranta University of Technology, Finland
• 1998-2002 Business development manager at Nokia Networks, Finland
• 2002-09 Business consultant at Nokia Business Infrastructure, Germany
• 2010 Director of Aalto University’s Center for Knowledge and Innovation Research, Finland
• 1981 Graduates from the school of telecommunications engineering at the Polytechnic University of Madrid, Spain
• 1983 Joins Telefónica’s research centre
• 1989 Division manager for telecommunications systems at Telefónica R+D, Spain
• 2000 Director of innovation at Telefónica R+D, Spain
• Since 2008 Responsible for collaborative research at Telefónica R+D, Spain