Excellent research needs a range of high-quality research infrastructures (radiation sources, data banks for genomics and social sciences, observatories for environmental sciences, systems of imaging, and clean rooms for nanotechnologies). Pan-European infrastructures can provide research services to the whole European research community. They are a key component of Europe's competitiveness in both basic and applied research.
Developing world-class research infrastructures is essential to the reinforcement of ERA. The main challenges that need to be addressed are the following:
- to overcome fragmentation and prioritise effectively at EU level
- to improve efficiency of management, services and access
- to cope with the increasing cost and complexity
- to further develop and better exploit the potential of e-infrastructures
A report of the ERA expert group on research infrastructures, Developing World-class Research Infrastructures for the European Research Area, emphasized the need for a strategic coordination mechanism at EU level involving all relevant stakeholders and recommended to create a European legal framework for the management of new Research Infrastructures (RIs).
Building on the work of this first expert group, a second ERA expert group reviewed and re-examined the role of research infrastructures within the ERA. The experts drew up a vision for 2020 on the status, role and scientific impact of research infrastructures in relation to the evolution of the ERA: A vision for strengthening world-class research infrastructures in the ERA.
Implementing the European Research Infrastructures Roadmap
Europe has taken a major step forward in the development of a more coordinated approach to policy-making in the field of RIs with the establishment of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) and the e-Infrastructure Reflection Group (e-IRG). ESFRI released the first ever European Roadmap for Research Infrastructures in 2006 containing a list of 35 new RIs or major upgrade of existing ones. This list has been updated in December 2008 with the identification of a set of ten additional RIs to be developed by 2015-20 mainly in the fields of environment, biology and energy.
The implementation of the roadmaps started in 2007 with funding within FP7 of the preparatory phase of 34 projects which aims to the finalisation of the legal organisation, the management and multiannual financial planning.
A first report on the implementation of the ESFRI Roadmap was published in January 2010.
Creating an appropriate Community legal framework - ERIC
An efficient legal framework for the setting-up of large research infrastructures in Europe has entered into force on August 28th 2009. The Community legal framework for a European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC), adopted by the Council in June 2009, is an easy-to-use legal instrument providing:
- the spirit of a truly European venture
- legal personality recognized in all EU Member States
- flexibility to adapt to the specific requirements of each infrastructure
- some privileges / exemptions allowed for intergovernmental organisations
- a faster and more cost efficient process than creating an international organisation
An ERIC can benefit from exemptions from VAT and excise duty in all EU Member States and it may adopt its own procurement procedures.
Members will be (Member or Associated) States and intergovernmental organisations.
Member States wishing to set up an ERIC send a request to the European Commission, which will decide on it with the help of a Committee of representatives of the Member States.