Research Infrastructures

Long-term sustainability

There is a long history in Europe of developing research infrastructures (RIs). Large-scale European and global single-site facilities were established as intergovernmental organisations from the 1950s to the 1970s.

These were dedicated to scientific fields such as physics, astronomy and material sciences. Most of these RIs are represented in the EIROforum.

The RI landscape has changed drastically since then. New societal challenges, increasing complexity and cost of infrastructures, emergence of highly distributed infrastructures, big data and related ICT needs have contributed to this change and is reflected in the ESFRI roadmap.

Lessons from the first ESFRI projects showed the necessity of:

  • closely monitoring the preparatory and implementation phases of projects
  • dedicated support and guidance
  • developing a methodology to assess the progress of ESFRI project

The Commission appointed a high-level assessment expert group to develop a methodology to assess the progress of ESFRI projects.

This methodology has been adapted by the ESFRI to evaluate the maturity of new 2016 ESFRI projects and develop a lifecycle approach for research infrastructures.

In addition, in December 2015 the European Commission launched a targeted consultation on the long-term sustainability of pan-European research infrastructures. The purpose was to identify trends and possible actions that could be implemented at regional, national and European level, to strengthen the sustainability of research infrastructures.

The results highlight the need to strengthen the involvement of industry to develop credible business models as well as efficient governance models to develop research infrastructures. It is also necessary to look into the different existing funding schemes to ensure appropriate synergies and explore new solutions.

As a result of these consultations, the EC has organised a stakeholders' workshop on the 25th of November 2016 to discuss and validate the elements of the action plan - focusing on the pre-conditions identified by the consultation - which included funding and governance aspects of RIs, socio-economic impact as well as the management and exploitation of data and the innovation potential of RIs.


Staff Working Document on Long-term sustainability

Sustainable European Research Infrastructures – A call for action
The European Commission has launched a debate with EU Member States on establishing a European action plan on long term sustainability of European Research Infrastructures.

The Staff Working Document, published by the Commission, sets a strong basis for discussion, outlining key issues the different stakeholders will address and prioritize in the action plan.

The Staff Working Document puts forward the challenges and potential actions, such as:

  • Synchronizing national research infrastructures roadmaps and their budgets
  • Making Research Infrastructures available more broadly by establishing cross-border access schemes
  • Launching large-scale pilots involving Research Infrastructures and industry
  • Exploiting the data produced by European Research Infrastructures in a more strategic way
  • Putting in place effective governance mechanisms at European level
  • Finding ways to increasingly and more efficiently use the European Structural Investment Funds, the European Fund for Strategic Investments, and the InnovFin – EU Finance for Innovators programme for developing Research Infrastructures
  • Promoting the international outreach of Research Infrastructures and using them as flagships for European science policy

The development on an action plan on sustainable European Research Infrastructures will also feed into the discussions about the EU's post-2020 long-term budget, including the successor of Horizon 2020, the current EU research and innovation funding programme.