What living in interesting times means for CELTIC-NEXT

David Kennedy
CELTIC-NEXT Chair Person

In common folklore it is often unclear, if the wish “may you live in interesting times” is intended as a curse or a blessing. Either way, it can mean that you experience a lot of change and you need to remain active and responsive to the changes to ensure that you progress positively. Well, for the CELTIC-NEXT community the recent times have been very interesting with lots of changes impacting every aspect of our domain.

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CELTIC-NEXT in the new post-Covid world

One interesting aspect of the way we all restructured our lives and work in the “lock-down” period is that we have rapidly learned to do many things remotely. This creates a very significant shift from travelling and meeting to using communications to stay in contact via webinars and videoconferencing. In fact, we have learned that many meetings are no longer necessary, if the participants have reliable communications of sufficient capacities. The issue here is that we have proved the concept for remote working – even if we were forced into it without any preparation – to the extent where it is unlikely that we will ever justify the amount of travel and meetings we had in 2019 going forward.

The impact of this on business processes is that the integration of high-speed high-capacity communications infrastructures into both the production and use of many advanced products is now assured and the communications technologies must deliver.

A good example will be the advanced traffic management on the roads and the introduction of autonomous cars. In this context all road users need to be equally informed about changing circumstances on the road and, more specifically, any safety risks. And once you start supplying this information, the supply must be continuous and reliable and economical. Despite the increasing requirement for pervasive communications, we are also under pressure to ensure the sustainability of communications by lowering the power consumption of all elements of the network.

In summary, the new outlook for the ICT domain is that we have to provide incredible speed and reliability for the connections for low cost with a very low environmental profile. Clearly there are many challenges in this.

CELTIC-NEXT and the New Eureka ­Clusters Programme

In the past two years the CELTIC-NEXT Cluster has worked with the other Eureka Clusters to help evolve the Eureka Clusters Programme (ECP). The idea is to revitalise the instrument, as an effective and efficient international research collaboration tool and to stimulate more involvement and investments.

The approach was to consider the processes and see where the programme could be more responsive to the ever-changing set of research and innovation requirements and priorities facing industrial and national interests. A key result is the introduction of joint calls operated collectively by the relevant Clusters while presenting a consistent and seamless interface to the project proposers and the national authorities. To demonstrate the new flexibility of the Clusters, the first joint call – the AI call 2020 – was launched and run successfully. The lessons learned included greater collaboration between Clusters and more analysis of the delays and interactions in the project decisions as the Clusters combined resources. The next step in this development we hope to see now is a reduction in the overall time to decision for Eureka projects and that this experience can also be used to improve the throughput of the regular Cluster “bottom-up” calls.

The new flexibility has increased the operational costs for the Clusters, but it is anticipated that it should stimulate more national investment in the new joint topics which will increase the overall volume of the programme. This increase in research project volume should compensate for the increased costs to keep the ECP instrument efficient and practical. We in CELTIC-NEXT have heavily invested in the new structure and we are now looking forward to see how the programme volumes evolve.


From the CELTIC-NEXT perspective we remain committed to embracing the changes and using them to help us better serve our community. The origin of the CELTIC community was the need to bring the digital communications benefits to the world. This has evolved to the point where the vertical communities are now informed and active regarding the benefits advanced communications can bring to their domains that they are now becoming drivers of the changes in the communications infrastructures and services too.

We do live in interesting times, and CELTIC-NEXT remains committed to helping all parts of industry and society to embrace and benefit from advanced communications.