Coping with that Exuberant European Diversity


by Kent Skarp

There are many things to love about Europe: the romance of historic cities, excellent food, wine and beer, architecture from ancient to modern, fine art, stylish fashion, shopping opportunities, the huge range of possible activities from the mountains down to the cities and the sea, famous events, and European hospitality. One can experience many different cultures, traditions, temperaments, and languages when traveling through Europe – even within short distances. The advertisements from travel agencies may lead you to ask yourself how on earth the Europeans manage to cooperate, live, and work together with all that diversity?

Well, I am not saying that we have become one European nation, but we have achieved some major breakthroughs in recent years. In the display area, we have established six SID chapters and the EuroDisplay conference – being held this year September 19–22 in Edinburgh, Scotland.

But what if a company from, let's say, Japan wants to get an overview of European expertise or activities in the display area, or if the Europeans want to push display research programs or even want to achieve a common approach to display education?

Until recently, there has not been a single entry point for the display industry comparable to the entry points in other parts of the world, such as USDC in the United States, METI in Japan, EDIRAK in Korea, or ITRI in Taiwan. Of course, SID has done its part as an engineering society to connect people, but they are not an industry association that negotiates, for example, with the political establishment.

That is why a consortium of six European organizations – four national industry associations and two academic networks – have initiated a project with the aim of creating such a "one-stop shop" for modern information-display technologies and applications for Europe. Their final goal is to establish a European industry federation for the display area.

Of course, it is pretty tough to start building all this from scratch. What was needed is a project to generate the services for a future federation and to effectively network the community. Thus, the idea for the project "adria" (Advanced Displays Research Integration Action) was born.

Instead of a large crowd of project partners from different regions, the initiators believed that a club of associations and existing research networks would do the job best – and also guarantee a lean management. A broad representation in the display sector in Europe and great know-how in setting up communications platforms were prerequisites.

The German Flat Panel Display Forum (DFF) within the German Engineering Federation VDMA, Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI), the Scottish Optoelectronics Association (SOA), the French Le Club VISU, the Swedish LCD Center, and the University of Dundee (which coordinates the Displaymasters education program) in the U.K. finally came together and pushed the idea. The European Commission, the public funding body for Europe-wide research, was convinced and is funding the 2-year project with € 1M (US $1.25M) from the Information Society Technology (IST) priority of their sixth framework program for research and technological development, a kind of "baby care." The project commenced in October 2004 and will comprise some 67 man-months of work.

In addition to carrying out a comprehensive review of European activities in the display field – which will be made accessible in a database – adria includes a European-focused technology roadmap for the display sector, the development of a coherent approach to education and training of display engineers, and the consolidation and enhancement of standards knowledge. Of course, this will only work with the strong support of the display community, from research to application, from materials to systems, embracing all display technologies. So, as an incentive for participation, everybody who actively helps to create this adria knowledge base by providing significant information will get free access to it.

This requires a lot more effort than just the coordination of work of the partners. One additional activity is the collaboration with international networks and research bodies – networks in which the partners have already been very active, but which will now be enhanced.

And what is the role of SID in all this? All European chapters of the SID are virtually partners of the project, being represented by the French Le Club VISU – which gives all the members a unique starting point for a common European display platform. Thus, from the diverse European industry, a unified, common effort on displays has been formed.

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Kent Skarp is a Professor of Display Technology and Managing Director of the Swedish LCD Center AB, Forskargatan 3, Borlange SE 781-70, Sweden; telephone +46-(0)-377-8628, fax +46-(0)-377-8670, e-mail: KSA@DU.SE. He is Chairman of the SID Mid-Europe Chapter and a partner in the adria networking project.