TechWeb

Microsoft's European Innovation Center Takes Aim At Science

Apr 26, 2004 (01:04 PM EDT)

Read the Original Article at http://www.informationweek.com/news/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=19201819


Microsoft officially opened its European Microsoft Innovation Centre in Aachen, Germany, on Monday, and disclosed details of its ambitious effort to collaborate closely with European universities and businesses on projects that are targeted more toward basic science than development.

In a statement, Microsoft said: "EMIC was created to participate in European research and development, which responds to the EC's call for additional private investment to reach the goal of the Lisbon agenda: to become the most competitive knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010."

The center, in northern Germany, has 12 scientists, with another eight to be added soon. "These are real scientists," a Microsoft spokesman said in an interview. "These are definitely not product developers. The real differentiator is that it's collaborative."

Microsoft's scientists will collaborate with European university, business, and government technology partners on a group of projects. The spokesman said Microsoft will initially fund EMIC projects; European Community funding will come later, as the projects get rolling.

The center's official opening comes a week after the European Community's regulatory agency released its 302-page document detailing the EU's antitrust decision against Microsoft. The company has been taking a beating in Europe over the antitrust decision, and the opening of the innovation center provides it with some welcome respite.

The center, which actually got under way a year ago, has already pushed some projects to the launching pad. The applied-research projects cover three areas--Web services, wireless technologies, and security and privacy technologies--with all of the areas, in turn, to be centered on three platforms: enterprise computing, embedded devices, and "the extended home."

The Microsoft spokesman said the ultimate goal is to incorporate this work into commercial projects. The company said "the collective efforts will ultimately transfer into products that resolve high-priority issues for citizens and businesses in Europe."

The industry partners signed up include Atos Origin, BAE Systems, BT Exact, SAP, Siemens Informatica, and Telecom Italia. Universities participating in the program include the University of Aachen, the University of Stuttgart, and Politecnico di Milano. Some provincial governments are participating in the effort, and Microsoft is exploring collaborative efforts with German governments.

Projects already underway include an effort in the health-care field, called "Cocoon," that will create networked communities within health-care systems with an eye towards improving risk-management approaches. A human-learning program and an infrastructure project heavy on security among organizations have also been selected. Another program, called "FIDIS," endeavors to "develop a deeper understanding of how identities and identity management can create a more fair information society in Europe," according to a Microsoft statement.

Microsoft's European CEO, Jean-Philippe Courtois, dedicated the facility. The center's director is Pierre-Yves Saintoyant, who most recently worked at Microsoft's U.K. Research center in Cambridge. The center's scientists hail from seven different European countries.