ELSNET is the European Network in Language and Speech, one of over a dozen Networks of Excellence established by the European Commission's ESPRIT Division for Basic Research. ELSNET has been running since April 1991 and is steadily growing in terms of membership and range of activities.
ELSNET seeks to encourage the development of language technology in Europe, by helping to co-ordinate progress on both the scientific and technological fronts. The complexities of processing the spoken and written language - multiplied by the necessity to address many languages - are too much vast to be handled by any one country. Thus, it makes sense to pool the resources of many European laboratories, both academic and industrial, into the collaborative framework provided by ELSNET.
The principal problem addressed by ELSNET is the construction of multilingual integrated language and speech systems with unrestricted coverage of spoken and written languages. This long-term technological goal can be achieved only by joint efforts on a European scale, requiring skills virtually covering all the sub-areas of Language and Speech Technology and their intersections, as well as a broad language coverage. Multilingual integrated language and speech systems - even in a restricted form - are crucial for the creation and accessibility of the emerging European information infrastructure. Industries will need them when marketing services and products across language barriers. In the form of embedded systems, these integrated systems will serve as enabling technologies. The fact that, out of 130 institutions currently constituting ELSNET, some 50 belong to private industry reflects that industry has acknowledged the importance of ELSNET's objectives and of the role ELSNET is playing in order to achieve them.
ELSNET, as a Network of Excellence, brings together the main European research teams (both academic and industrial, with a wide geographical coverage) and an increasing number of SMEs operating in the field of Natural Language and Speech Processing. It is in an excellent position to contribute to the common goal by means of research co-ordination, training and mobility. The size of the network requires an indirect approach to research co-ordination, based on convergence, integration and complementarity.
Activities focus on four areas:
- Integration of Language and Speech;
- Integration and Comparative Evaluation of Research Results;
- Relationship between Academia and Industry;
- Language Coverage.
Many of the activities of ELSNET-2 are continuations of successful actions undertaken under previous ELSNET contracts. Joint workshops with the participation of representatives of both academia and industry will contribute to the co-ordination in the area of research. Proposals (to be submitted for funding from other sources) - aiming at developing new evaluation methods for integrated systems and at creating a European evaluation infrastructure - will be prepared in the area of evaluation. The Annual European Summer School will continue to play a key role in training.