Strong investment in research and innovation is needed to address pressing societal challenges such as climate change, health, an ageing population, or the move towards a resource efficient society.
Research Infrastructures play a vital role in addressing these challenges. However, it is essential to optimise the use of resources for increasingly expensive facilities, to overcome the fragmented infrastructure spending not only across Europe but at a more global scale, and to join forces to address these challenges.
Some research facilities, particularly in physics or astronomy, are so large, complex or expensive that they require international cooperation for their construction and operation. Others are naturally global in scope as they respond to global challenges and/or require the combined skills, data and efforts of the world's best scientists. Some examples from the European Roadmap are ICOS: Integrated Carbon Observation System; LIFEWATCH: protection, management and sustainable use of biodiversity; SKA: Square Kilometre Array, the next generation radio telescope.
Developing global research infrastructures and reinforcing cooperation of EU research infrastructures at international level are parts of the key commitments of the Innovation Union.
Several discussions took place on the efficient planning, design, construction and operation of global infrastructures. It is clear that this requires not only a sharing of costs, but also the sharing of knowledge. The Carnegie Group of G8 + 05 Science Advisers established a Group of Senior Officials (GSO) on Global Research Infrastructures to reach a common understanding on matters such as governance, funding and management of large-scale research infrastructures.
The European Commission is member of the GSO group. To support its work, the Commission set up in 2010 a European Expert Group which produced a report on cost control and management issues. The report is targeted to policy and decision-makers.
European Expert Group Report
EN 2.6 MB
On 12 June 2013, at their meeting in London, G8 science ministers approved a statement which proposes to the G8 for consideration international issues that need global cooperation.
» G8 science ministers statement: London UK, 12 June 2013 ( 58 KB)
On this basis, the GSO Group drafted a report presenting a
» Framework for Global Research Infrastructures 56 KB
In 2002, seven European organisations signed a collaboration agreement to form EIROforum in order to reinforce synergies among them. These are EFDA (European Fusion Development Agreement) and 6 high level European intergovernmental organisations, namely CERN (Centre Européen pour la Recherche Nucleaire), ESO (European Southern Observatory), EMBL (European Molecular Biology Laboratory), ESRF (European Synchrotron Radiation Facility), ILL (Institut Laue–Langevin) and ESA (European Space Agency). They have been joined recently by XFEL (X-Ray Free-Electron Laser Facility) so that there are now 8 EIROforum Members. The EIROforum collaboration is based on a Charter ( 722 KB ), which was officially signed by the Directors of the partner organisations on 12 November 2002 in Brussels.
A primary goal of EIROforum is to play an active and constructive role in promoting the quality and impact of European Research. The European Commission strongly supported the set-up of EIROforum and in October 2003 signed a “Statement of Intent” with EIROforum to further develop the European Research Area. The two sides resolved to explore synergies and conduct joint activities, and pledged to engage in consultation with each other, arrange exchanges and secondment of experts, and to build on this collaboration by concluding further bilateral agreements. A renewed Statement of Intent ( 7.4 MB ) (SoI) with EIROforum was subsequently signed on 24 June 2010.
On 6 May 2014, Director General Robert-Jan Smits and the EIROforum Council Chair Alvaro Giménez Cañete co-signed the 2014-2015 Joint Work Plan ( 2.9 MB ) for the implementation of the Statement of Intent between the EC and EIROforum. The Work Plan identifies a number of areas in which to launch (or to continue working on) cooperative initiatives in order to maximize the positive outcome of synergies established amongst the EC and EIROforum.
ICRI 2014 offered a high level international forum where key stakeholders could meet, discuss and contribute to bringing forward global issues related to Research Infrastructures. Co-organised by the European Commission and the Greek EU Presidency of the European Union, it took forward the recommendations of ICRI 2012, which took place in Denmark and the 3rd EU-Australia Research Infrastructure workshop that took place in Canberra in November 2013. The conference attracted 800 international participants during three days and included an exhibition of demonstrations and videos of international research infrastructure projects.
The next ICRI Conference will take place in South Africa in 2016.
Copenhagen, 21-23 March 2012
The International Conference on Research Infrastructures, ICRI 2012, took place under the auspices of the Danish Presidency of the European Union, in cooperation with the European Commission. This was the Seventh Conference on Research Infrastructures. During the two-day event, issues such as decision making processes, funding, management, use-dissemination-exploitation (including data, access) of research infrastructures were discussed in depth. More than 600 experts, scientists and stakeholders attended the event and spoke about how global research infrastructures can tackle the so-called Grand Challenges, more specifically in the fields of health, environment and energy. The Conference made specific recommendations on how international cooperation on research infrastructures can be more effective in the future.
ICRI Conclusions ( 102 KB)
European - Australian collaboration
Collaboration between Europe and Australia in research infrastructure, including infrastructure to support the exploitation of large and complex research datasets, was advanced at two events hosted by the Australian Government Department of Education in Canberra and Melbourne. See the joint Communiqué following the Visit by a European Union Delegation on Research Infrastructure to Australia on 4-8 November 2013.
Communiqué ( 221 KB)
Third European Union-Australia workshop on Research Infrastructures
5-6 November 2013, Shine Dome, Canberra.
See program and speakers in the Workshop booklet (689 KB)