Time has come for RRI in ICT

July 21, 2015

responsible-research-innovationSigma Orionis has the privilege to coordinate a Horizon 2020 CSA (coordination and support action), launched on January 1, 2015 for a period of 3 years, aiming at supporting the emergence of the RRI approach in ICT (detailed information on this RRI-ICT Forum project to be provided in the coming weeks through our News section).

RRI stands for Responsible Research and Innovation and can be defined as “an inclusive approach to R&I aligning the process and outcomes of R&I with the values, needs, and expectations of our societies”1. Such an approach is particularly necessary in ICT R&I since they are not only an enabler of societal evolution but also a transformer of societal conditions.

Of course, Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) are expected to bring a critical contribution to an RRI approach in ICT since they can “monitor economic, legal, and social issues related to technological developments and reframe and update the concepts, meanings, and expectations arising from the deployment of ICTs”1.

We are very proud of this new project that reinforces the portfolio of research projects and support actions Sigma Orionis has been developing since 2007 in the “ICT with and for society” area. Those projects share the overall objective of convincing the ICT research community to adopt forward-looking approaches and go for multidisciplinarity research, which will lead Europe’s citizens and businesses to truly get the most out of digital technologies. There are fully in line with our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy aimed in particular at contributing to the social and environmental development of societies.

Among those projects, several FP7 ones:

  • PARADISO (2007-2011), coordinated by Sigma Orionis and developed with the support of the Club of Rome, exploring foreseeable interactions between the Internet and societal developments in the next decades.
  • FLAGSHIP (2013-2015), coordinated by the Istituto di Studi per l’Integrazione dei Sistemi, and aiming at supporting the policy shift from adapting to changes through short-term policy responses, towards anticipating, welcoming and managing changes properly.
  • ICT & Art Connect (2013-2014), coordinated by Sigma Orionis and set up to identify new research avenues, associated challenges, and the potential impact of ICT and Art collaboration on science, technology, art, education and society in general.
  • Internet Science, a network of excellence coordinated by CERTH, strengthening scientific and technological excellence by developing an integrated and interdisciplinary scientific understanding of Internet networks and their co-evolution with society.
  • CATALYST and CAP2020 (2013-2015), coordinated by Sigma Orionis and addressing how emerging “collective awareness platforms for sustainability and social innovation” can, in particular through collective intelligence, contribute increasing the impact of grassroots initiatives addressing societal challenges (see also our blog “Can CAPS change the world?”).

Roger Torrenti - CEO of Sigma Orionis - RRI-ICT Forum Coordinator

1 How to go about RRI and SSH in ICT-related parts of H2020 WP14-15 - European Commission - 2013

ICT: 30 years ago - in 30 years from now

March 18, 2015

Sigma Orionis has always taken great care to be “on the cutting edge” (as the artist Ben kindly confirmed it in the early 1990s through his painting illustrating this blog), especially regarding its office equipment, and this to achieve high performance levels in our research and studies, to attract the finest talents, to serve our image, etc.

Sigma Orionis was founded in 1984, which obviously evokes George Orwell’s famous novel and his premonitory Big Brother, and the very same year when Apple launched its first Macintosh (the 128K)!

This was a time when we still used typewriters (and carbon paper!), when we sometimes fed punch cards into “big computers”, when fax and even telex machines were still scarce and mobile phones not yet invented, when we had to visit university libraries to order the books we wanted to read, when we waited days if not weeks for answers to our mail (by post!)…

Considerable progress has obviously been made in 30 years in the area we now call “ICT” (Information and Communication Technologies), a progress punctuated with the appearance of terms, some of which are already forgotten or outdated: multimedia, “intelligence” (of sensors, buildings, etc.), Minitel, information highways, wireless, ubiquity, etc. Such advances most often proved to be unpredictable and disruptive, well-known characteristics of innovation in ICT.

But the outcome of these developments in the field of “business” can in fact be caricatured by a mere “contraction of time”, whose advantage must be (more) accurately measured.

Today, we can conduct research or studies faster (always) than before, more effectively (sometimes), in a more competitive environment (especially because of, or thanks to progress in ICT) but all that for the price of increasing time pressure and working conditions which have not necessarily improved.

I can remember very high-quality research and studies in the late 1980s without ICT support performed less quickly but in more pleasant conditions than today…

In this context, are we witnessing doubts or new corporate trends? Finding solutions to the growing tyranny of e-mails and social media? Returning to ways of working more conducive to creativity, not limited exclusively to time spent in front of a screen? Finding interest in “unconnected” moments?

What will ICT be in 30 years from now? In addition to some technological advances we can announce with some degree of certainty (ever-increasing speed, storage capacity, ubiquity, etc), it is obviously hard to anticipate the development of applications and services, these unpredictable changes which will appear as a revolution, once again in 30 years …

Beyond that, we can wonder if the current trends evoked above will be confirmed. What if we were now in a transitional period between “blindly enthusiastic” reception of any progress in ICT and “more reasonable acceptance” of innovation in ITC, more in line with other societal trends towards a “better living”, more sober, more balanced, more sustainable?

This question, among others, will surely be asked in the open seminar we will organize in Brussels in 2014, on the occasion of our 30th anniversary, on the theme “ICT 30 years ago - ICT in 30 years from now.”

Can CAPS change the world ?

January 15, 2015

Blog_Sigma-Orionis_CAPSCan information and communication technologies (ICT) contribute to a more sustainable world, a “better world”, characterised by more controlled economic and financial models, by more ambitious solutions to the environmental challenges, and a significant reduction in social inequality?

This question, based on the vision of a desirable if unlikely societal paradigm, was central to the PARADISO project, supported by the European Commission and involving the Club of Rome, that Sigma Orionis had the privilege of coordinating from 2007 to 2011. Towards the end of the project, at the instigation of the Scientific Officer supervising the project, Dr Fabrizio Sestini1, a potential avenue appeared and was incorporated into the programme for the final PARADISO conference: “Collective Awareness Platforms for Sustainability and Social Innovation” (CAPS).

These CAPS can be briefly described as non-commercial, open Internet platforms, connecting citizens to each other (and to the “Internet of Things” whenever necessary) and enabling them:

  • to access information, leading in particular to an improved awareness of issues and challenges,
  • to share their knowledge and join forces more effectively: participatory approach, collective intelligence, collaborative decisions, crowdsourcing,
  • eventually to act more efficiently, individually or collectively, to develop innovative solutions adapted to the social, economic and environmental challenges that are facing our societies.

CAPS can be considered as (grassroots) thematic social networks and online communities such as Purpose, Changemakers and Imagination for people are probably today’s forerunners. Their potential impact is however greater than just that of simple social networks. CAPS can help change the world and contribute to a more sustainable planet.

Indeed, the world can be changed by increasing policy decisions (top-down) and local actions (bottom-up). In the case of the latter, CAPS have the intrinsic ability, through the existence of efficient ICT networks and platforms, to connect, support, promote and increase local initiatives and thus reach such a scale that policy makers are forced to take their “movement” into account (namely in reference to the Lisbon Treaty when a petition can collect at least 1 million signatures).

At the last FP7 ICT call, 10 CAPS projects were selected, including an Integrated Project that will issue open calls designed to fund innovative initiatives. All these projects are set to begin around 1st October 2013.

Sigma Orionis will coordinate two of these projects:

  • A support initiative (CAP2020) that aims to promote consultation between all the projects selected and organise an annual international CAPS conference,
  • A research project (CATALYST) involving major online communities and focused on the issue of collective intelligence.

Over the next two years, it is therefore likely that we will not only need to evaluate the results obtained by each CAPS project, but also to answer the question asked in the title.

Ref : « Collective Awareness Platforms : Engines for Sustainability and Ethics » - Dr Fabrizio Sestini - IEEE Technology and Society magazine - Winter 2012

Become an entrepreneur?

November 22, 2014

As a student engineer at the Ecole Centrale in Paris, I was lucky enough to be taught by some excellent professors. Our economics professor was Yvon Gattaz, who later became president of the National Council of French Employers (CNPF, today the MEDEF). One day he spoke at length about entrepreneurship and mentioned the “Gattaz recipe”: “You need just a bit of funding and some skills to create a company, but you also need a lot of courage and madness…”

I didn’t pay that much attention. It was the late 1970s, right in the middle of the oil crisis, and my ambition wasn’t to create a company but to help find solutions to this crisis through research and innovation, ideally to ensure a better future for the world… My bedtime reading was “The Limits to Growth” the report written by MIT and commissioned by the Club of Rome.

My chance came at the age of 26, when Senator Pierre Laffitte, the gentleman who created Sophia Antipolis, asked me to lead a research team in this “international city of wisdom, science and technology”. An exciting experience, conducted with other pioneers of Sophia Antipolis, all driven by ideals and a desire for “cross-fertilisation”.

After four years, I decided to create Sigma Orionis, convinced that it was possible through studies, research and consultancies, to speed up the research-innovation-market process, particularly in the then emerging field of information and communication technologies.

I wasn’t aiming to get rich by creating this company: that doesn’t happen when you sell your labour time. I was motivated by the freedom to act, by this great satisfaction of going in the direction that I alone chose. I then discovered the many other pleasures in developing and managing a company such as creating jobs, and contributing to the constant (economic) motion of our societies. That of surrounding oneself with people you’ve chosen and with whom you can develop a team spirit and share values. That of greater success than others because you’ve taken more risks by becoming involved in these projects, or because your success exceeds your hopes and even your dreams…

Has it been smooth sailing over the last 30 years? No, of course not, every company has its share of disappointments, failures and all kinds of difficulties and because, for the entrepreneur, moments of calm, serenity and peace are quite rare…

As we approached the celebration of 30 years, I asked myself what if I had to do it all again? Would I have been better off pursuing my intended career in research or industry? Instinctively and after careful consideration, my conclusion is the same. I feel like 30 years ago I was chosen to climb a mountain by a new path, different from the well-trodden paths. The climb has been risky and difficult, but the feeling on arriving at the top is so strong… and yet there are still so many other mountains to climb.

The famous mountain climber, Gaston Rébuffat, who one day was asked: “Why climb mountains?” gave another, even more convincing response about the motivations of the entrepreneur: “Simply because they are there!”

Philosophy and management

September 20, 2014

blog-philosophy-managementPhilosophy may be defined as an intellectual exercise, nourished from external sources, involving conjecture, asking questions, challenging certitudes, weighing pros and cons, assessing options… This exercise helps keep an open mind, be more tolerant, better understand and accept various situations. Another thing one can like about philosophy is the appeasement it brings, leading adepts to greater wisdom and serenity, helping them find their way, a new direction, a meaning to their lives.

Management entails leading teams, accompanying them in corporate projects and professional adventures, and experiencing with them moments of euphoria and other more difficult periods. You can love management because you love freedom and risk, following a path in which you believe; because you enjoy leading a team on the path to success or protecting it from defeat; because management suits your solitude.

Disinterested in-depth reflection, bearing on the long term and inviting to philosophical consideration, is rare in today’s business world, often faced with the constraints of profitability and short-term issues and deadlines. Philosophers’ teachings can be useful, however, in managing projects, teams and businesses. In recent years, I have often had recourse to philosophical approaches to share doubts and assertions with my staff. Here, I give just one example: “Thales, a Well and Olives”… I have enjoyed developing many more parallels: Buridan’s ass and crossing the Rubicon; the White Bull, Ariadne and Icarus; Sisyphus and his boulder; etc. I plan to compile these philosophical tales and post them online, to make them available to everyone on this website, for the simple pleasure of sharing.

Thales, a Well and Olives

Philosophical reference
Plato’s Theaetetus recounts how the famous philosopher and mathematician Thales of Miletus (early 6th century BCE), while gazing at the stars and studying their movements, fell into a well. A servant girl mocked the man who sought to understand what was above his head, but was unable to see what was under his feet. In his Letter to Jarig Jelles, Spinoza added that Thales, exasperated by his friends’ remarks on the futility of philosophical thought, showed them how it could be used to acquire wealth (which was of no interest to him). Having anticipated through his knowledge of climate and the stars that the next olive harvest would be exceptional, he reserved all the presses in Greece for a good price then, at the time of harvest, rented them at a much higher rate, thereby accumulating great wealth…

Parallel with management
It is important for a company’s survival and development to be able to take stock and try to better understand the business environment, anticipate changes in this environment, undertake research whose results are not expected in the short term, develop strategic (reflection) marketing, with “one’s head in the stars.” This is the condition for being able to invest at the right time, like Thales and his oil presses, avoid any decline in activity, anticipate future risks correctly. This said, it is also important to “keep one’s feet on the ground” and avoid falling into one of the many wells along the path of a company: miscalculated budgetary needs, excessive dependence on a client or group of clients, problems with ethics or quality having disastrous repercussions, poor internal or external communication, etc. The need for long-term reflection and rigorous daily management must be combined…

Join the EU-China Future Internet community!

April 2, 2014

Sigma Orionis is proud to be involved in the ECIAO FP7 project launched on August 1, 2013, for a period of 2 years.

ECIAO aims at strengthening EU-China cooperation on FIRE (Future Internet Research and Experimentation), identifying best practices and developing pilots for IPv6 deployment. and preparing recommendations regarding interoperability and standards as input to the ongoing EU-China policy dialogue.

ECIAO has also launched a web platform with support desk services, providing European and Chinese stakeholders with an opportunity to establish contact, discuss and look for collaboration opportunities on FIRE and IPv6. We invite you to join this community and take full advantage of its advanced functionalities and services.

Sigma Orionis is proud to contribute, since the end of the 90’s, to the strengthening of S&T cooperation between Europe and China in the ICT domain, namely in the framework of projects supported by the European Commission’s DG Connect.

Sigma Orionis suggests “Roped parties for Europe”

March 7, 2014

Sigma Orionis has been invited to contribute to a conference organised on March 5 at the Centre Universitaire Méditerranéen (CUM) in Nice by the information office of the European Parliament in Marseille. The conference started with presentations from Gaston Franco and François Alfonsi, members of the European Parliament, and from representatives from the European Commission and from regional institutions in charge of European funds or of support to companies.

Then, Roger Torrenti, CEO of Sigma Orionis, explained how the EU funds his company had received (through EU-funded projects addressing research and innovation: the European Horizon 2020 programme for the period 2014-2020) had allowed increasing its level of performance and quality, and consequently strengthening its development strategy at the international level.

Roger Torrenti declared himself as a full European supporter, and concluded his speech with a proposal : to create « European roped parties » (a reference to mountaineering) through which companies experienced in EU-funded projects could support the efforts of less experienced companies to benefit from European funds. He said he would be happy to benevolently lead such a roped party.

Strengthening EU-MPC ICT policy dialogue and collaborative research towards H2020

January 15, 2014

The kick-off meeting of the MED-Dialogue FP7 Project (project period: 01/01/2014-30/06/2016) has been held held yesterday and the day before in Amman, Jordan. This meeting was convened by the Project Coordinator (Thies Wittig, IT Consult) and kindly hosted by the Princess Sumaya University for Technology (PSUT).

The MED-Dialogue initiative will mainly aim at enhancing EU-MPC (European Union - Mediterranean Partner Countries) policy dialogue and collaborative research in the field of ICT (Information Communication Technologies). The Partnership is composed of 4 European and 7 Mediterranean partners: IT Consult, Germany / Planet, Greece / Sigma Orionis, France / ATC, Greece / Ministry of Communications & Information Technologies, MCIT, Egypt / Université Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdellah, USMBA, Morocco / Institut Supérieur de Gestion et de Planification, ISGP, Algeria / Centre National de l’Informatique, CNI, Tunisia / Princess Sumaya University for Technology, PSUT, Jordan / Palestine Academy of Science & Technology, Palestine / National Council for Scientific Research, CNRS, Lebanon.

The consortium members widely discussed the detailed project activities/workplan (Work-Packages, WP and Tasks, T) and the main objectives of the initiative which are fourfold:

  • Support, through a flexible modular approach, the Dialogue between the EU and the Region by providing on demand customized and timely input solidly documented on all Horizon 2020 aspects;
  • Raise awareness on the Horizon 2020 first Calls for Proposals and assist the organisations in the Region to build proposals and identify partners in order to increase their participation in the Programme;
  • Support the EC in the preparation of the Horizon 2020 work-programme 2016-17, by identifying strengths and opportunities in the MPC (through identified and validated ICT priorities) for mutually beneficial cooperation;
  • Support the coordination of International Cooperation instruments in the Mediterranean region by exploiting synergies of running projects and make recommendations for future INCO activities under H2020.

Sigma Orionis was represented by Karine Valin, Managing Director: “We are very happy to be part of this partnership and we have good reasons to think that we will significantly contribute to the development of S&T cooperation in ICT between the two regions”. Sigma Orionis will contribute to a number of activities including: a position paper, the ‘MPC ICT Priorities/Vision 2014’ documents, a set of recommendations to the EC (Horizon 2020 ICT WP 2016-2017 + INCO strategy), links with the main ICT ETPs, H2020 awareness and training events, networking events for building consortia, cooperation strategy between all running EU-MPC projects, help-desk services, etc.

During the meeting, each Work Package (WP) and Task (T) leaders presented the activities to be carried on and agreed on a common strategic workplan for the coming months. Thorough and fruitful discussions led partners to express their full confidence in the capacity of the consortium to achieve its goals and thus to significantly enhance EU-MPC collaboration in the field of ICT.

SMARTFIRE will connect EU and Korean FIRE facilities

January 14, 2014

Since 2005, Sigma Orionis is involved in projects supporting the development of S&T cooperation in ICT between Europe and countries of the Asia-Pacific region: China, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand, etc.

This is why Sigma Orionis is particularly happy to put its experience and expertise of EU-Korea cooperation in ICT research at the service of a FP7 research project holding its kick-off meeting today in Greece, coordinated by the University of Thessaly and involving leading European and Korean research organisations: SMARTFIRE, in the FIRE (Future Internet Research and Experimentation) project portfolio.

The main target of SMARTFIRE is the design and implementation of a shared experimental facility spanning different islands located in Europe and South Korea. This large scaled facility will promote joint experimentation among European and Korean stakeholders, encouraging them to conceive and implement innovative protocols, able to take advantage of the current leading network technologies. Interconnection of the aforementioned islands will take advantage of the GEANT network on the European side, and of KOREN/KREONET on the Korean side. The two currently disjoint networks will be interconnected via the Trans-Eurasia Information Network (TEIN) and the Global Ring Network for Advanced Application Development (GLORIAD). Finally, SMARTFIRE will also implement various pilot use cases, designed to demonstrate the power of the EU-Korean shared Future Internet experimental facility.

Robots and elderly people: the RAPP FP7 project

December 3, 2013

As our societies are affected by a dramatic demographic change, in the near future elderly and people requiring support in their daily life will increase and caregivers will not be enough to assist and support them. Socially interactive robots can help to confront this situation not only by physically assisting people but also functioning as a companion.

Sigma Orionis, involved since the 90s in studies, research and consultancies addressing the potential of ICT to empower and improve the living environment of elderly and disabled people, is happy to announce its participation in the recently launched RAPP FP7 project, coordinated by the Greek CERTH.

RAPP (Robotic Applications for Delivering Smart User Empowering Applications) aims at providing a software platform to support the creation and delivery of robotics applications targeting people at risk of exclusion, especially older people. It will expand the computational and storage capabilities of robots and enable machine learning operations, distributed data collection and processing, and knowledge sharing among robots in order to provide personalized applications based on adaptation to individuals. The use of a common Application Programming Interface (API) will assist developers in creating improved applications for different types of robots that target people with different needs, capabilities and expectations, while at the same time respect their privacy and autonomy.


  • Une histoire tragique pour la recherche et l'innovation en Europe @lemondefr @libe @mediapart https://t.co/zY8ssnNoev
    May 5, 2016
  • A tragic story on EU research and innovation... https://t.co/8dNcOwKFBf @viEUws @EurActiv @LeclercqEU @POLITICOEurope
    May 4, 2016
  • Sigma Orionis forced to cease its activities https://t.co/YSc4fkXhbt @dumralp @eurohumph
    May 2, 2016
  • Sigma Orionis forced to cease its activities: a tragic EU story @GOettingerEU @ViolaRoberto https://t.co/rFVwcXfr8D
    April 29, 2016


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