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Developing the European infrastructures for 2020 and beyond

While optimising the use and development of existing RIs remains centrally important, new infrastructures are also needed to respond to the latest research needs and societal challenges.

Currently, most new RIs are constructed and maintained under national funds, and so respond to national needs. Larger Member States tend to have more human and financial resources to support these developments, while small countries may struggle.

To overcome this phenomenon, the European Commission assists the work of all Member States, fostering the emergence of new research infrastructures of pan-European interest. With this aim, the European Strategic Forum for Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) was called upon by the European Council, in November 2004, to develop a strategic Roadmap for Europe in the field of research infrastructures. Member States are also encouraged to develop their own national strategic roadmap for the development of future RIs.

To date, 48 projects of new research infrastructures (or major upgrade) have been identified in the European Roadmap 2010 (  PDF icon 8.1 MB ) developed by ESFRI.

One of the upcoming challenges is the implementation of the European Roadmap. The Innovation Union includes a commitment to complete or launch construction by 2015 of 60% of the ESFRI roadmap priority RIs.

The challenges are to overcome obstacles and ensure national commitments to the construction and operation of the new research infrastructures and ensure open access for researchers to RIs across Europe. The potential of financial instruments such as the Risk Sharing Finance Facility (RSFF) of the European Investment Bank and the Structural Funds are being explored for complementing the regional, national or European funds for the implementation of these projects. It is very important to develop synergies between these different funding sources and the Commission encourages this process.

The EU has provided so far support (about 300 M€ under FP7) to the Preparatory Phase of almost all research infrastructure projects identified by ESFRI, aiming mainly at solving the legal, governance, financial or technical issues. See list of projects. Following the successful completion of the preparatory phase, support is also provided to the actual implementation of new European research infrastructures. This phase includes appropriate coordination activities as well as relevant technical work. The EU supported the Implementation Phase through cluster projects in a given scientific field. See list of projects.

Assessment of projects on the ESFRI roadmap: a report of a High Level Expert Group

The report is a major contribution to assess progress towards the target set by the EU of implementing at least 60% of the ESFRI roadmap projects by 2015 through its Innovation Union flagship initiative. The high level expert group was established by the European Commission together with ESFRI in 2012. The group was tasked to conduct an in-depth analysis of all the non-scientific aspects of thirty five research infrastructure projects on the ESFRI Roadmap and to assess whether these projects are likely to be implemented by 2015. In their report, the experts identify for each individual research infrastructure project specific bottlenecks and make recommendations on how to address them. The group also makes overall recommendations to reinforce projects readiness to maturity. The results of the review show that most research infrastructures on the ESFRI roadmap need substantial support and guidance both in terms of managerial and financial maturity but also regarding stakeholder engagement, project management, user strategy and risk evaluation. The report is based on material submitted and interviews carried out up to March 2013, and it is therefore important to stress that in many cases the projects may have made progress since.

Download the report  PDF icon 1.3 MB

More than twenty European research infrastructures are now under implementation, several – SHARE, CLARIN, EATRIS, BBMRI, ESSurvey, ECRIN - have been awarded European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC) status, and others have submitted an ERIC application.

The EU also supports the emergence of new research infrastructures of pan-European interest needed by the European scientific community in all fields of science and technology. Support is provided for conceptual Design Studies for new research infrastructures that demonstrate a clear European dimension and interest. 16 design study projects are funded by the EU under FP7. See list of projects.