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Support for Policy-Making on Research Infrastructures in the European Research Area

In 2001, the Council of Ministers recognised the benefits of a European approach on research infrastructures in the context of the European Research Area and invited the Commission, in close collaboration with the Member States, to explore the need for new arrangements to support policies related to research infrastructures.

An expert group, set up to examine the issue, concluded that policy making on research infrastructures of European significance has steadily become more complex and less effective and that a more collective approach was needed to guide policy making in the Member States.

This directly led to the creation of a European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures, with the following mandate:

  • To support a coherent and strategy-led approach to policy-making on research infrastructures in Europe;
  • To facilitate multilateral initiatives leading to a better use and development of research infrastructures.

The inaugural meeting of ESFRI took place in Brussels on 25 April 2002.

At this meeting Hans Chang, The Netherlands was selected by the delegates to lead the Forum as Chair, a position which he held up to June 2005. At the 13th Meeting of the Forum in June 2005, John Wood, UK, took over as Chair. From March 2008 to September 2010, Carlo Rizzuto acted as Chair. Beatrix Vierkorn-Rudolph is the current Chair of ESFRI.

Scope of ESFRI

The main scope of ESFRI is to support a coherent and strategy-led approach to policy-making on Research Infrastructures in Europe and to facilitate multilateral initiatives leading to the better use and development of RIs. The Forum acts as an informal body on issues raised by one or more country delegations. ESFRI gives national authorities the opportunity to be informed of and to explore initiatives concerning the building or upgrading of RIs of European significance. ESFRI acts therefore as an incubator for pan-European RIs.

The Forum develops joint reflection work applicable to the development of strategic policies on RIs. It also helps to identify gaps in research capacity associated with RIs on pan-European level and of related strategic needs.

ESFRI also intends to give periodic recommendations on the management of RIs and related human resources. As policy makers, the ESFRI members have finally to communicate the significance and importance of RIs to a wider public.

The following is a non-exhaustive list of topics that might be discussed by the Forum:

  • Joint reflection work (including on benchmarking criteria or evolution of research environment) applicable to the development of strategic policies on Research Infrastructures;
  • Exchange of information on national and EU policies, on institutional arrangements and resources, on existing or planned national research infrastructures open to international use;
  • Joint development and continuous update of a European Roadmap on research infrastructures and capacity building;
  • Analysis of the socioeconomic returns of research infrastructures;
  • Exchange of views on new funding instruments and institutional arrangements for pan-European research infrastructures, including access to them;
  • Recommendations on management of research infrastructures and related human resources: integrating and training aspects, increase of exchanges, involvement of user communities, including industry;
  • Communication to a wider public about importance of research infrastructures, etc.

Notwithstanding the wide scope of ESFRI activities, ESFRI does not fund Research Infrastructures; the Forum's role is not to indicate priorities on specific funding sources (national or international, including the Framework Programme), nor on specific research infrastructure related projects.