The future of e-commerce has received a boost following a two-year project funded with the help of 775,000 euros form the Information Society Technologies area of the EU’s Framework Programme.

The project - PKI Challenge - set out to overcome the problems faced by e-commerce businesses because of the interoperability issues between the different products and services. These enabling technologies, such as Public Key Infrastructures (PKI), can be hindered by practical difficulties because of the inability of the different vendors' products to exchange security information. Until now overcoming this issue often proved both expensive and time-consuming as it required manual intervention.

“PKI creates and manages the electronic credentials that allows the use of digital signatures along with their underlying keys and certificates across the Internet”, explains project director Kate Hodgson, a board member of EEMA - the independent, non-profit European e-Business association. “It is PKI that enables the business community, public authorities and an individual consumer to exchange information and data within a secure and trusted environment. Unfortunately many products have interpreted PKI standards differently and this has resulted in growing concerns over the multiplicity and interoperability of PKI products and services available.”

The aim of PKI Challenge - Europe's largest PKI interoperability project - was to identify, address and overcome the issues of interoperability and then establish a common framework to enable the different implementations of secure electronic commerce and user technology to be linked together to test interoperability.

"We are delighted that the PKI Challenge demonstrated that PKI can and will work as a method of securing electronic transactions", added Kate Hodgson. "The project was a mammoth task - despite being conducted in an inclement business climate and changes due to company re-structuring, the project was an unmitigated success. The fact that ten of the top PKI vendor competitors took the time and considerable resource to test their PKI components speaks volumes about the industry's commitment to make this technology work."

One of the key findings of the project was that the existing standards have far too many options and so do not ensure that different vendors build fully interoperable systems. Those involved in PKI Challenge believe the standards need to be further refined and made more definite, with fewer options.

“With more and more people looking to exchange confidential information using the Internet this type of research and development project is crucial”, says Peter Walters, FP6UK’s National Contact Point for Information Society Technologies. “You only have to look at the successful results of PKI Challenge to see how everyone who uses the Internet will benefit in the years to come.

“The Framework Programmes are the EU’s main vehicle for support of leading edge, internationally collaborative R&D. The current Framework Programme (FP6) runs until 2006 and organisations wanting free, easy to access, information on the 19 billion euros of funding available within FP6 should log on to <; or call central telephone support on 0870 600 6080.”

Notes for Editors

The EU’s Framework Programmes are the world’s largest, publicly funded, research and technological development programmes. The Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) covers the period 2002-2006 and is the European Union’s main instrument for the funding of collaborative research and innovation. It is open to public and private entities of all sizes in the EU and a number of non-EU countries. It has an overall budget of €19 billion.

Most of the budget for FP6 is devoted to work in seven priority thematic areas:

· Life sciences, Genetics and Biotechnology for Health;

· Information Society Technologies;

· Nanotechnologies and Nanosciences, Knowledge-based Multifunctional Materials and New Production Processes and Devices;

· Aeronautics and Space;

· Food Quality and Safety;

· Sustainable Development, Global Change and Ecosystems; and

· Citizens and Governance in a Knowledge-based Society.

There is also a focus on the research activities of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) across all seven thematic areas.

The services of FP6UK are provided by the Office of Science & Technology (OST) / Department of Trade & Industry (DTI).

More information can be found on <;

IST Programme

The IST Priority Thematic Area (PTA) of the 6th Framework Programme (FP6) is the largest of the seven PTA's - with a budget of €3.822bn over the lifetime of FP6. Over 400 projects will arise from the first three calls, These calls had a combined budget in excess of €1.5 billion. The 4th Call for proposals is presently open - it will close on 21 March 2005. It will be followed in May by the 5th call - closing Sept 2005. Together these remaining calls have a budget of €1.7 billion.

About eema -
For 18 years, eema has been Europe’s leading independent, non-profit e-Business association, working with its European members, governmental bodies, standards organisations and e-Business initiatives throughout Europe to further e-Business technology and legislation.

eema’s remit is to educate and inform around 200 Member organisations (and over 1,500 Member contacts) on the latest developments and technologies, at the same time enabling Members of the association to compare views and ideas. The work produced by the association with its Members (projects, papers, seminars, tutorials and reports etc) is funded by both membership subscriptions and revenue generated through fee-paying events. All of the information generated by eema and its Members is available to other members free of charge.

Examples of papers produced in recent months are:- Role Based Access Control - a User’s Guide, Wireless Deployment Guidelines, Secure e-Mail within the Organisation, The impact of XML on existing Business Processes, PKI Usage within User Organisations, an Introduction to Instant Messaging, Understanding Identity, Report on Instant Messaging User Survey.

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Published on: 12:00AM on 18th February 2005