Technology and requirements tend to co-evolve, which means that interaction between research and standardisation is key. The importance of using standards in EU-funded research projects has been highlighted in several studies. The barriers for researchers contributing to standards are also well documented. What can be done to increase and facilitate the contributions of EU-funded research projects to standards?
Standardisation can be an efficient tool for making sure new knowledge and innovation derived from research are widely used. The lack of standards is often seen as a bottleneck for innovation to be upscaled at an international level. However, standards are not always used in research as much as they could be, and research projects often don’t contribute to the standardisation processes in a structured way.
There are several challenges to overcome to facilitate the interaction between EU-funded projects and standardisation:
Awareness, understanding and resources
Partners in research projects range from scientific research institutions to commercial actors of varying sizes. Even though many of these organisations use standards in their respective work, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they understand how standards are created. For organisations to contribute to standardisation, a long-term commitment is needed, as well as the involvement of subject matter experts who understand and have experience in standardisation work. Many small and medium size stakeholders do not even consider being part of standardisation due to a lack of resources and/or knowledge on how to make it happen.
Diverse practices and operations
The standardisation processes usually differ from what research partners are familiar with. It is a quite complex area where various stakeholders can have different perspectives and objectives. Research partners and standardisation bodies may handle confidentiality and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) in different ways, and the consensus-driven approach to standardisation may be perceived as alien by research projects focusing on their particular outcome.
Standardisation takes time, and the workflow is strictly planned when it comes to input and decision making. Adding new items or opening new avenues to complement existing standards therefore needs to be carefully planned. Even though large-scale pilots and other large research projects may take place over a period of several years, standardisation contributions will not normally occur until there are tangible results in the project. This means that it may not be feasible to produce formal standardisation contributions within the time frame of research projects.
The Gatekeeper approach
In the Gatekeeper project, the approach to standardisation is to acknowledge that the research community, the standards practitioners, and the users of standards need support to be active in the whole value-chain. In the first phase of the project, existing standards relevant for the execution of the project were mapped. Based on the needs from technical partners and knowledge from partners with experience in standardisation, a comprehensive overview was created, including a gap analysis. As the project evolved, the mapping and identification of gaps were updated to reflect the actual use cases.
In parallel to this, guidelines, templates, and examples have been created by partners with experience in standardisation to help technical partners to contribute to standardisation. Connecting the use of existing standards to the potential of disseminating the results and methods developed in the Gatekeeper project to the broader community via contributions to these standards, has resulted in increased awareness and better understanding on the topic.
Although the issue of timing will still be a challenge for Gatekeeper, we are confident that the methodology for standardisation interaction, the support measures and the knowledge sharing developed in the project will lead to the successful dissemination of the results to relevant standards developing organisations. The methodology can also serve as inspiration for other large-scale pilots and research projects who are eager to contribute to standardisation.
Chief Research and Innovation Officer, Funka
Work package leader for WP8 on Standardisation and Certification in Gatekeeper