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Outputs of FP7 Future Networks Projects

I started taking a bigger picture view of FP7 projects mainly with the objective of trying to understand what the outputs look like. To date, I’ve been focused on the inputs in terms of money and, to a lesser extent, effort. Here, I start the process of trying to understand what the outputs look like. (Note I’m still limiting scope to projects in the Future Networks area – even with this limited scope, analysis is not easy).

There is no single final presentation or report which is readily available for each project, highlighting the project’s achievements. This is a clear omission and should be rectified. While each project has a factsheet and presentation (see here), in many cases, these do not reflect the outputs of the project; indeed, in quite a few cases, it seems that these are more based on the project proposal and could have been done at the start of the project, rather than the end.

There are, of course, the project deliverables. While these are an important and necessary part of the process, they are very inaccessible to parties who are neither involved in the project nor working in a very closely related area. Also, the project deliverables are defined in the project proposal and they are typically not structured such that there is one final deliverable which captures all the key outputs of the project. Hence, it was not possible to use these as the basis for understanding project achievements.

There is a bit of diversity in the nature of the projects and this does impact the types of outputs different project have. For example, some projects clearly have a more development and prototyping focus and have little emphasis on classical research publications; others are very focused on publications or technology roadmaps and others still have quite a bit of Open Source software as outputs. This does make it difficult to perform a more holistic evaluation and indeed, it probably does not make sense to evaluate all projects in the same way.

The use of quite standard social media communications tools is very limited within this arena. This is probably improving with the set of projects which are now kicking off, but it surely must affect the project’s ability to have impact. It’s also interesting to note that these social media tools are very transparent – number of twitter followers is very visible, number of facebook likes is visible, numbers of viewers of Youtube channels are visible. This is an important and interesting point in terms of understanding how much impact these projects are having and will certainly help in future evaluations of project impact.

My data processing this time was quite limited (and much less effort than the last few posts). This time around, I wanted to make a list which somehow reflects outputs of the projects. As there was no final report, I opted to form a consolidated set of links to publications for each of the projects. I have ideas about putting these into Mendeley lists, but that could be more work than I’m willing to put into this activity.

I will do a little further processing on this to understand how many publications there are, how many are having impact etc, perhaps for the larger projects.

Spreadsheet here.

Analysis of Organizations involved in FP7 Future Networks

Following my previous two posts on the basic analysis of the projects and some analysis of project co-ordinators, I did a bit more delving into partners in these projects.

It took quite a bit of work and involved reorganizing the data significantly. I went through all of the projects funded in this space so far, elicited each of the partners from the public documents, put them into the spreadsheets and classified them by organization type (Enterprise, Public Body, Higher Education or Non Profit Research Organization) and country.

Link to spreadsheet.

The data does have some imperfections – I’m sure there are inconsistencies between how I classified partners in projects, eg I was not familiar with the organization and I may have classified it as Higher Education in one project and Non Profit Research Organization (NPRO) in another (there are a few of these organizations that are closely linked to universities, but it’s not clear if they are independent or not).

I may get around to doing a further pass on the data in an attempt to clean it up a bit, but at present, I think it’s good enough to perform a meaningful analysis: cleaning it up won’t significantly change the findings.

So, what can we learn from this data? I include the most interesting points here:

  • Just under 50% of the organizations involved in the Future Networks areas are Enterprises and the remainder are a mix of Public Bodies, Higher Education Institutions and NPROs;
  • Higher Education institutes account for almost 40% of the total;
  • Germany and France had the highest number of participants with 15.4% and 14.8% respectively, although the overall participation rates differ significantly from the breakdown of co-ordinators. This was more or less expected as they lead the EU in terms of both population and GDP. However, the percentages are a bit less than DE and FR in terms of percentage EU GDP contribution and population percentage;
  • Italy and UK featured significantly lower with 8.1% and 8.8% respectively – this reflected a lower involvement in the programme than would be expected from these countries given their populations and contribution to GDP;
  • At 9.45%, Spain was more or less where it would be expected;
  • There was relatively low engagement from the Eastern European countries, as would be expected;
  • As with the analysis of the co-ordinators, Greece featured quite well with 5.4% of the participants.

What does the above tell us? It does raise questions relating to what the expected mix of participants under such a programme should be. As it is supposed to be a risky research activity (with funding rates consistent with this), it would be expected that universities and NPROs feature; however, if the objective is to ultimately map the funding to commercial activity and jobs, then enterprises must engage seriously. I think the numbers presented above do not show fundamental problems with the operation of the system in terms of organization breakdown at the highest level, although the data above does not address the issue of SME involvement.

It’s probably necessary to do a further breakdown of organizations by country – I suspect this might highlight some countries in which the primary participation is through Higher Education institutes or NPROs; if this is the case, it could validly be asked whether the funds are really having any impact in those countries relating to commercial activity.

I hope to do the above breakdown next and then I’ll shift the focus a little to the outputs of the projects.

A little more FP7 Open Data…

Continuing my work of the previous blog post, I’ve added a little more raw data to the basic spreadsheet containing information on EU funded research projects on Future Networks. The additions include the call that the project was funded under, more accurate financials, information on the coordinators and some more info on project durations.

I also did a little more analysis of the data set, although I seemed to spend more time trying to figure out how to do things in Google Spreadsheet than actually making any insights from the data.

The data is in the embedded spreadsheet below:

and is available here – feel free to copy and work with it.

Some general observations from the data:

  • Call 1 had a larger budget, but if you sum the total budget for Call 4 and Call 5, it comes to about the Call 1 budget – this is not news to anyone playing in the space;
  • The lion’s share of the budget was allocated to STREPs and IPs, although there was a large allocation to NOEs in Call 1;
  • In Call 1 and Call 4 IPs got a larger allocation than STREPs but in Call 5 this was not the case – this is probably because some of the priorities involved development of radio or optical technologies which can be very costly and requires significant input from a substantial set of partners.

I started some partner analysis – for now, I’ve just included info on the number of partners and more detail on the co-ordinator. In my experience, the role of the co-ordinator is very important and understanding their motivations is important in understanding how the system works. Also, getting info on the co-ordinator was a little easier than digging up more info on all the partners.

Analysis of the co-ordinators does yield some interesting observations:

  • France was most successful in terms of projects co-ordinated, with just over 25% of the projects co-ordinated by French organizations;
  • Interestingly, many of the French co-ordinators were industrials, although it is worth noting that some of these industrial are some kind of consultants that simply co-ordinate projects and have little skin in the game so to speak;
  • Germany was next – I expected to see a similar pattern in German participation, but in fact German academic institutions led more projects than their industrial compatriots;
  • Overall, most of the projects were led by industrials (54%), but again some of these were consultant types – academics led 37% and public bodies, eg research or standardization institutes led 9% of the projects.
  • Spain and Italy had reasonable representation, although significantly behind France and Germany;
  • Greece seemed to be punching considerably above its weight, co-ordinating 5 projects, although it’s worth noting that these were all led by Greek academics.

Next, I plan to do a little more analysis of the partners…

A little bit of FP7 open data…

I went to the trouble to put some of the info on FP7 projects into a google spreadsheet. My objective is to make some of this data a little more transparent. (Of course, I might have just asked the guys in Brussels and they might have given me the info, but I only thought of this afterwards).

I focused on the network of the future part of the programme as it is kinda known to me. Also, it does spend quite a lot of EU tax dollars, so it is somewhat interesting to see where it goes.

Some of this data is more or less publicly available, but I’ve provided a first cut at the raw stuff here:

(Spreadsheet here).

Some basic analysis yielded the following factoids:

  • Total projects funded: 91
  • Total budget of all funded projects: €613.6m
  • Total EU contribution: €386.8m (a little over 63% of the total)
  • Breakdown by project type:
    • STREP: Mean total budget, €4.72m, mean EU contribution €3.07m (55 projects)
    • IP: Mean total budget, €14.91m, mean EU contribution €9.48m (20 projects)
    • CSA: Mean total budget, €1.18m, mean EU contribution €0.89m (8 projects)
    • NOE: Mean total budget, €8.86m, mean EU contribution €3.90m (5 projects)
    • CA: Mean total budget, €0.69m, mean EU contribution €0.57m (3 projects)

There are lots more interesting things to do – look at university involvement, look in more detail at project outputs, look at other areas, look at number of partners, geographical distribution etc.

If you are interested in doing more with this data, you can just copy the the spreadsheet and make your own fun!

Final Year Project 2011-2012

This year, I’m working with three final year students. The students and their respective projects are:

  • Web based image analysis tool for manipulation of text in images: The objective of this project is to extract text from specific images, attempt to remove said text from the image and superimpose text in an alternative language on the image. This can be useful in the process of translating mobile applications. In conjunction with Tethras. Student: Sean Claffey
  • Development of HTML5 mobile client and backend for travel health application: The objective of this project is to develop a mobile web client which can access a traveller’s health related information when on the go. The application should connect to a back end which can serve information such as what diseases a traveller is vaccinated against, when they were innoculated, etc. One interesting aspect of the project is to leverage HTML5 capabilities of modern mobile browsers including Geolocation, persistent storage and offline use. In conjunction with 3strata. Student: Mary Seery
  • Development of web based IDE for Go on Google App Engine: The objective of this project is to develop a Go IDE specifically targetted at Google App Engine which can operate in a browser. The IDE will integrate with github and support deployment on GAE. It will also comprise of some reasonable default application configurations. Student: Jonathan Kelada

Pycon Ireland – what a crackin’ gig…

I attended Pycon Ireland 2011 last weekend. It was a superb event. Here’s a short report.

The event was extremely well attended; in fact, I think it’s probably the biggest developer conference to take place in Dublin this year, what with just over 170 people present (and I believe some people had to be refused due to restrictions on numbers). There was good diversity in the make-up of the crowd – there were students (both undergrad and postgrad), some academic types, many practitioners of varying levels of experience and some high profile companies (eg Amazon, facebook, Demonware, etc) in attendance. This really is a great mix for this type of conference.

Another interesting point about the attendees (noted by Trev Parsons) was that most of the folks attended of their own volition, rather than because their manager ‘suggested’ they attend. This must certainly put a different hue on the conference.

The conference covered a wide range of topics ranging from Introduction to Python to advanced topics on scaling applications and use of NoSQL databases in Python, for example. The talks I attended were excellent, the presenters were very well versed in their domains, had put time and effort into their content and were able to deliver it professionally; I believe this was largely the case overall, as everyone I talked to was impressed with the quality of the speakers and their content. It is clear that there are some really talented Python developers here who have good experience to share.

The lightning talks were cool – I love this format as it always exposes me to stuff that I’d never bother with in the long talk format. Also, many of the folks who pitch in this format do it with passion, which is always refreshing. The talk by Raymond Hettinger focused on some features in Python that make it a good language; however, it also gave a hint into how the Python core developers view Python and the community around it – I got the sense that the core team provide good leadership for the project, adding important features as necessary, while understanding that they are serving a large community, many of whom are still working off older versions of the language.

The organization – registration, rooms, AV, catering, etc – was great: well done to Vicky and the team for making this look effortless.

Overall, at at mere €60 (and less for early bird and students), Pycon was superb value for money.

Roll on Pycon Ireland 2012!

Code Retreat – reflection time for geeks…

I attended the Code Retreat held in Dublin over the weekend. It was a really cool event.

The event was run using a format proposed by Corey Haines and described a bit here. The essence of the format is that all the participants focus on a single problem during the day; there are multiple short iterations (45 mins in our case) and each time the problem is solved with additional constraints/variations. Pair programming is used and there is significant emphasis on Test Driven Development (TDD).

Game of Life was chosen as the problem to work on for the code retreat; it’s very appropriate as it is possible to solve the problem within the 45 minute time window, there are some different solutions and the problem is sufficiently complex that some thought is necessary to devise a good solution.

During the day, we performed 6 iterations, swapping partners each time; the focus of each of the iterations was:

  • Develop a solution to the problem with no constraints – the first iteration was an opportunity to start thinking about the best way to solve the problem;
  • Develop a solution to the problem with the constraint that no computers are to be used in the first 10 minutes – pen and paper must be used to think through the problem;
  • Develop a solution in which no primitives can be used – the solution must be built on classes;
  • Develop a solution using the “TDD like you mean it approach” in which code is only introduced to the main codebase once it has undergone test;
  • Develop a solution using mocks liberally and no conditionals;
  • Develop the solution with no constraints – focus on getting to the finish line.

The purpose of each of the iterations was to focus on different approaches to solve the problem, thus giving all of the participants some feel for alternative approaches to problem solving which they may be able to take away from the event.

My observations/impression of the event:

  • Pair programming was a new experience for me – my experiences with it were varied. As there was diversity of experience, abilities and languages during the day, there were many pairs in which the teams were composed of people with quite different skill levels (using a given language/toolset). When there was a big gap in skills, the progress/work of the pair was strongly dominated by one person. When the gap was smaller, however, the benefits of pair programming became much more apparent – bugs were caught earlier and ideas seem to be worked through more quickly. (Pair programming full time would seem to be a very intense activity, however);
  • Being forced to think through the problem on paper proved surprisingly productive – I guess I had forgotten how useful/necessary this is and all too often get stuck into coding before thinking through the problem sufficiently;
  • For each iteration of the problem, I didn’t really get to spend enough time focusing on the new constraint that was added for a number of reasons;
  • Javascript is not a good language to solve this problem 😉

Overall, I did learn a lot during the day. However, I did think that the format may be more suited to situations in which the makeup of each of the teams is more homogeneous. When there was disparity between the teams, one member was learning off the other, but the other was typically trying to push forward to achieve some of the tasks; this meant that the team was not focused on learning via knowledge transfer or pooling efforts to make as much progress as possible.

I’ll probably attend one of these events again as there were good folks there and I did learn lots. However, I don’t think I’ll bother working on a team using a language that I know little about.

Thanks to the organizers, José, Kevin, Andrea, Viktor, Declan, Vicky for a great day.