THE EUROPEAN LANDSCAPE

Constructing new RIs

While optimising the use and development of existing RIs remains centrally important, new infrastructures are often needed to respond to the latest research needs and 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. The roadmap presents 44 RI projects which, according to ESFRI, are vital for the development of science and innovation in Europe.

One of the upcoming challenges is the implementation of the ESFRI roadmap. The Competitiveness Council of 21 – 22 May 2007 invited "the Member States to facilitate the dialogue with a view to forming strong variable geometry groups of Member States interested in the joint construction and operation of these projects". It also recognised that some infrastructures have a global dimension, and invited the Commission and Member States to explore the potential for international cooperation with the main global players.

The potential of financial instruments such as the Risk Sharing Finance Facility (RSFF) and the Structural Funds should be 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 should encourage this.

Under FP6, two funding schemes have been developed to support EU-backed projects and studies exploring future RIs across Europe. The Design Studies were devised to investigate the feasibility and technical preparations needed for new research infrastructures which demonstrate a clear European dimension and stakeholder base, taking into account the needs of all potential users of the future research infrastructure. Construction of New Infrastructures provides support for the development of a limited number of projects aiming at the construction of new infrastructures and major enhancement or upgrading of existing infrastructures.  

  

These projects are carefully chosen for their added value to the European Research Area. See list of projects .

 

Under FP7, the EU support for new research infrastructures aims at helping to create in all fields of science and technology new research infrastructures of pan-European interest needed by the European scientific community. Support is provided for conceptual Design Studies for new research infrastructures that demonstrate a clear European dimension and interest. 12 projects of conceptual design studies for new research infrastructures are funded by the EU.

Thirty-four projects (out of 35) identified in the 2006 ESFRI Roadmap are today supported in their preparatory phases through FP7. Each Preparatory Phase benefits of 4 M€ of EC grant in average, to provide a catalytic and leveraging support leading to the construction of new research infrastructures or major upgrade of existing ones.