The ESFRI Roadmap identifies new Research Infrastructures (RI) of pan-European interest corresponding to the long term needs of the European research communities, covering all scientific areas, regardless of possible location.
Potential new RI (or major upgrade) identified are likely to be realized in the next 10 to 20 years. Therefore they may have different degrees of maturity but it should be noted that they are supported by a relevant European partnership or intergovernmental research organisation. A growing number of countries have prepared national roadmaps that establish the prioritisation of national and pan-European RIs, using the ESFRI Roadmap as a reference. This helps to define national budgets, facilitates political support and allows long-term financial commitment.
Project descriptions highlight the manner in which they would impact on science and technology development at international level, how they would support new ways of doing science in Europe, and how they would contribute to the enhancement of the European Research Area.
The ESFRI roadmap is an ongoing process. First published in 2006, with 35 projects, it was updated in 2008 bringing the number of RIs of pan-European relevance to 44. The latest update focusing on projects dealing with energy, food and biology was published in December 2010. Having identified 48 projects of new research infrastructures (or major upgrade on existing ones) so far, ESFRI will more focus on their implementation for the next few years. The next update of the roadmap will be carried out in 2015.
In its Strategy Report and Roadmap Update 2010, ESFRI highlighted once again the importance of scientific and technological innovation as basis for the success of the European economy. Europe must fully exploit its talent and resources. The implementation of the projects on the ESFRI Roadmap will significantly advance Europe’s capacity to generate new ideas, increase innovation and help to create jobs. Research Infrastructures are large undertakings, whether in size, or by nature of their organisational complexity. Notwithstanding the current economic climate and pressure on resources, they require a considerable level of investment to build and need a long-term operation strategy.
Ten of the 48 infrastructures on the Roadmap were already under construction or operation by end 2010 and fourteen made sufficient progress to be considered as under the implementation phase by the end of 2012. All the ESFRI projects are funded by various groups of EU Member States and Associated Countries. The European Commission provides funding for the preparatory phase of the projects as well as for the implementation of common objectives within clusters of related projects.
Financial support from the European regional structural funds will also be instrumental for the construction phase of large facilities. ESFRI has promoted increased regional cooperation to facilitate a more equal spread of the Research Infrastructures between the Member States. ESFRI delegates play a crucial role in working with governments and the European Commission to assisting on the possibilities to use structural funds.
ELI - Extreme Light Infrastructure - was the first ESFRI project funded by regional structural funds. ELI has been granted €416 million for the construction of two facilities to be built in the Czech Republic and Romania. A third ELI facility is to be located in Hungary, which will also benefit from structural funds.