BRUSSELS—Some 500 companies will benefit from the five-year, $2 billion budget set by research miniisters for the second phase of the European Economic Community’s Esprit program of information technology research.

The agreement secures the immediate future for 3,000 researchers and 200 projects whose Esprit 1 funding had virtually expired and who had been pawns for the past year in the British government’s opposition to the EEC’s intended funding for collaborative research. Total spending for the second phase will be $4 billion (companies involved in the pre-competitive program have promised to match government contributions), and is meant to develop common software standards for manufacturing and office automation, information processing, advanced components and microelectronics.

Esprit is the largest component of the EEC’s overall $6.5 billion research program. Research ministers also agreed to nearly double the current five-year, $80 million budget for Brite, a project to revitalize traditional industries with modern technology. They...

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