Scientific and technical information (STI) is an increasingly important resource for R and D and industrial development. The rapid development of the market for electronic information and the increasing potential offered through new information technologies require new approaches for the collection and dissemination of STI. Activities of the Commission of the European Communities (CEC) in this area are reviewed. More recent CEC initiatives in the areas of biotechnology information and factual materials data banks have proved the need for international collaboration and for the implementation of infrastructural measures as a basis for such collaboration. The implementation of the EC Demonstrator Programme on materials property data systems has evaluated the potential of eleven European materials data banks against the market requirements and has helped to launch wide international collaboration. The concluding European workshop on materials data systems has developed a set of recommendations for future initiatives. These are shortly reviewed together with initial findings of a study aimed at developing a business plan for the establishment of a biotechnology information infrastructure for the bio-industries and research base in Europe. (author). 3 refs.