Research and high-tech activities are highly concentrated in the core regions of the EU. Approximately half of total research expenditure goes to 30 regions out of 254. The majority of the ESFRI Roadmap initiatives are located in some 10 Member States. Disparities between regions in business research expenditure are even wider. Structural Funds play a substantial role to help all regions build research and innovation capacities corresponding to their situation and priorities. This approach is reflected in the Commission’s Strategic Guidelines for Cohesion Policy, which expects the Structural Funds to fully back the implementation of the Partnership for Growth and Jobs.
In the period 2007-2013, cohesion policy will benefit from 35.7% of the total EU budget or €347 billion (current prices). Out of that amount €86 billion have been allocated to innovation: Research and Innovation including infrastructures, Entrepreneurship, ICT development and human capital actions. Innovation is one of the key aspects in applying Structural Funds. The European Regional Innovation Scoreboard provides indicators in the context of the Innovation Union.
On 18 September 2012 the European Commission approved an initial investment of almost €180 million for Extreme Light Infrastructure - Nuclear Physics, ELI-NP. The research infrastructure to be built near Bucharest will support ground- breaking fundamental physics, new nuclear physics and astrophysics as well as material science and life sciences such as nuclear medicine, new radiography and hadron therapy methods. Researchers will also be working on new ways to handle nuclear materials and radioactive waste. The organisation behind the Romanian ELI project is the 'Horia Hulubei National Institute of Physics and Nuclear Engineering' (IFIN-HH). ELI-NP is expected to be operational in 2015.
On 20th April 2011 the European Commission approved, ELI Beamlines for structural assistance from the European Regional Development Fund in the Central Bohemia region of Czech Republic. The ELI Beamlines is located in Dolní Břežany near Prague. It is the first of the three pillars of ELI, Extreme Light Infrastructure. The other two ELI sites will be built in Hungary and Romania. The ELI Beamlines facility will pioneer a number of fields of research using ultra-high intensity lasers. The center should become operational at the beginning of the year 2016.
ELI Beamlines was the first large project of the Operational Programme 'Research and Development for Innovation' to be approved. The EU financial contribution amounted to € 236 million.
The WIRE 2 conferencefocused on questions related to knowledge, innovation and competitiveness in economy with respect to research infrastructure investments, clusters and their effects on how they can support smart growth in the regions.