A major new European research cooperation project will develop the next generation of middleware, according to the 13 founder companies.

The new consortium, Networked European Software and Services Initiative (NESSI), is a joint venture between fixed and mobile telecos from the UK, Italy, Spain and Finland plus software firms including IBM, HP and SAP. Also included are systems providers Atos and Thales.

Announcing the launch, Thales senior vice-president Jean-Paul Lepeytre said the aim of the project was to develop a global services oriented infrastructure based on open-source software. "Faster, more reliable access" to a range of services could enable Europe to take the lead in this area of software development, overtaking the US and Asia, he argued.

The initiative will have a 2.5 billion euro budget with part of the money coming from the companies involved and the rest from public sources including the European Union's funds for research and development.

A key part of NESSI's work will be to define standards for interoperability and the rules for governing the use of open-source software. An example given was of a car driver who plans his journey using different modes of transport from home or office. When he gets into his car he continues to have access to travel information as well as the ability to do things such as change his travel plans by altering bookings online from the car. The car might also offer an automatic translation of roads signs in foreign languages.