Europe has a long-standing tradition of excellence in research and innovation and European teams continue to lead the progress in many fields of science and technology. However, Europe’s centres of excellence often fail to reach critical mass due to the absence of adequate networking and cooperation. Therefore, there is a need to bring resources together and build a research and innovation area equivalent to the EU’s common market for goods and services.
Europe should guarantee European researchers access to the infrastructures they require to conduct their research – irrespective of the location of the infrastructure – and that the European approach to the development of new research infrastructures at the regional and transregional level, as well as the operation and enhancement of existing infrastructures, is supported.
Adequate research infrastructures are essential in promoting technological innovation, as they provide the conditions and critical mass required to carry out cutting-edge research. New scientific and technical challenges call for increased performance of research facilities and better knowledge exchange between different disciplines. This increase in capacity and performance can, in part, be achieved through better coordination of existing facilities and the development of simple operational mechanisms. In addition, funding the design and construction of new infrastructures affects the direction of research for many years afterwards.
There are already several networks in Europe that allow the exchange of best practices, the organisation of training, access to and the development of new instruments. Increasingly, this is an important way of enabling Europe to engage the best scientists and optimise the use of RIs.
The RI actions funded under the EU Framework Programme also play a key role in getting the most out of the existing facilities. And, at the same time, a further step has been taken towards supporting the emergence of pan-European research infrastructures.
In response to the need of being aware of what research infrastructures already exist, the EC, in collaboration with the European Science Foundation (ESF) and Science Europe, conducted a comprehensive survey of the RIs of pan interest in Europe. See a report on the "Trends in European Research Infrastructures. Analysis of data from the 2006/07 survey". An online database, the RI database Portal, was further developed to offer and advertise RI and their unique facilities and services to the EU scientific community. This Portal is no longer active. It has been phased out end of 2013. Now a more comprehensive inventory of research infrastructures of European relevance is being developed by the MERIL project.
To get a quick view on the location of the research infrastructures that are funded by the EU under FP7, see our interactive Map of RIs.