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Delivering the European Research Area
Commitment 5
European Research Infrastructures
Innovation Union commitment text

"By 2015, Member States together with the Commission should have completed or launched the construction of 60% of the priority European research infrastructures currently identified by the European Strategy Forum for Research Infrastructures (ESFRI). The potential for innovation of these (and ICT and other) infrastructures should be increased. The Member States are invited to review their Operational Programmes to facilitate the use of cohesion policy money for this purpose."

ESFRI Roadmap - Overview of National Priorities in Research Infrastructures
  • What is the problem?
  • What is our objective?
  • Implementation
  • Milestones
  • Background documents
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Ground-breaking research and innovation increasingly require world-class infrastructures. They attract global talent and are an essential breeding ground for ICTs and key enabling technologies such as micro and nanoelectronics, biotechnologies, new materials and advanced manufacturing. Given their increasing complexity, scale and costs, the resources to build and operate them must be pooled across Europe and in some cases even globally. Major progress has been made through the European Strategic Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI), which has agreed priorities and catalysed investments in major infrastructures. In the context of scarce public resources, these investments should be given political priority and new funding mechanisms should be developed.

The European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) has identified 44 key new research infrastructures (or major upgrades of existing ones) to be developed over the next 10 years. Six projects have been added to this list in the current update of the ESFRI Roadmap. Their total construction costs amounts to some 20 B€ and their operational costs to more than 2 B€ per year. The construction and operation of these infrastructures will require pooling of resources from several Member States, associated countries and also third countries for some of them. There are several challenges linked to the realisation of these projects:

1.  the high total investment costs (~20 B€) and the large number of projects (~50) that are being discussed at the same time;

2.   the difficulty of countries to overcome a purely national perspective in their decision to participate and invest and make long term commitment to European projects;

3.   the complexity of realising the projects in partnerships between several countries and with variable geometry;

4.   the inherent technical complexity of the projects and the significant work which still need to be completed to bring the projects to the technical, organisational, legal and financial maturity level where decisions on their funding can be taken;

5.   the difficulty of gathering sufficient European funding to co-finance the projects and complement national contributions. 

Europe faces a number of long-term, large-scale societal challenges such as dealing with the effects of climate change, reduced availability of resources, demographic change and an ageing population. These challenges have enormous implications for many different aspects of our societies, and they are also critical for the future competitiveness of European industries and services. They are of such a scale that only a major co-ordinated approach at EU level stands a real chance of finding and deploying effective solutions. In many cases, these challenges require not only for a co-ordinated approach at EU level but also for global solutions. The role of a European Research Infrastructures policy in this context will be to ease the development of synergies between all relevant actors. It is also against this background that the Commission's proposal for the Europe 2020 strategy [1] called for the launch of European innovation partnerships to "speed up the development and deployment of the technologies needed to meet the challenges identified".  


[1] COM(2010) 2020

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A success would be by 2015 to realise about 60 percent of the ESFRI projects. Launching the construction of these projects, open to all researchers, will ensure that Europe continues to act as a magnet for the world’s brightest talent and will enable researchers to make decisive contributions to finding solutions to the Grand Challenges.

While Member States' role will remain central in the eventual construction and financing of these research infrastructures the EU can play an important role in bringing together the different stakeholders and provide early funding to develop the project initiatives up to the point where Member States can agree on their joint implementation.

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The majority of the ESFRI projects are in various stages of preparation, and the Member States and associated countries, as well as the European Commission, need to continue working with the scientific communities and technology providers to clarify governance and relevant issues allowing their implementation. Since the publication of the first Roadmap in 2006, a first group of 10 out of the total of 44 projects have already been launched, although much remains to be done to finalise all the details, with construction phases expecting to last over several years. Providing the necessary funds for those first projects all through their construction phase and at the same time launching additional projects will be a considerable challenge. Keeping up the momentum of the first four years (2006-2010) over the next five years, should allow the realisation of about 60 percent of the ESFRI projects by 2015. This would require additional funds being allocated to the development of these research infrastructures in a common effort by Member States and the European Commission.

At EU level this means:

1. To continue mobilising the resources of the European Union (FP7, Structural Funds, RSFF) in support of the ESFRI projects;

2. To continue catalysing and supporting the national efforts for the allocation of sufficient resources towards such strategic projects;

3. To assess the effectiveness of the existing actions in view of their reinforcement in the next FP.

Through FP7, the EU provides mainly catalytic support to an initial Preparatory Phase (~220 M€) to address legal, governance, financial and technical issues in order to launch the projects. The EU contracts provide a framework allowing all necessary stakeholders to cooperate. FP7 funds to support to the actual Construction Phase is much more limited (90 M€). Additional financial resources (200 M€) are devoted to the Risk-Sharing Finance Facility to make available loans from the European Investment Bank (EIB). In view of the overall financial needs (~ 20 B€), the contribution of FP7 of ~ 500 M€ is rather limited.

The EU Structural Funds can provide a substantial support to some research infrastructures. Under the current Financial Perspectives from 2007 to 2013, 10 B€ are earmarked for "R&TD infrastructure and centres of competence". This support is particularly important for the 12 new Member States where these funds could have a decisive impact on their abilities to fund new research infrastructures. The projects need to meet requirements of scientific excellence and impact on the regional economy. For some ESFRI projects, industrial partners have already been identified and letters of interest from companies received, demonstrating the potential impact on the economy (partnership with innovative industries, large companies, SMEs and start-ups; links with innovative incubators for the creation of spin-offs).

The European Commission will also continue to support the implementation of the ERIC legal framework that has been developed to facilitate the joint establishment and operation of European research infrastructures between several Member States.

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Milestone
July 2010 Capacities FP7 Programme - WP 2011
Type: Other
Indicative resources: 72 M€ (implementation phase)
Milestone
July 2011 Capacities FP7 Programme - WP 2012
Type: Other
Indicative resources: 22 M€ (preparatory phase), 20 M€ (implementation phase)
Milestone
2012-2013 Capacities FP7 Programme - RSFF loans support
Type: Other
Indicative resources: 142 M€ still available until 2013
Milestone
2012-2013 Support mechanism: Structural Funds
Type: Other
Indicative resources: According to the strategic report of 2009, about 2/3 of the 86 B€ allocated under SF to R&I were still available for new projects to be selected until 31/12/2013 (last payment until 31/12/2015)
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Lead Directorate-General/Unit, Head of Unit

RTD/B3/H. Péro

Other Directorates-General/Units associated

INFSO, REGIO

Key external partners

Member States, associated countries, third countries

EC flag European Commission Departments (Directorates-General) and services new window link
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