The difficult situation framed by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting severe restrictions didn’t hinder ESFRI to work along its mission continuing to provide advice on Research Infrastructures related policies, to react on requests coming from the Council of ministers, and to develop future oriented views based on ESFRI’s own initiative. We have been following the request of the 2018 Competitiveness Council and prepared this Strategy Report on Research Infrastructures together with the list of newly identified pan-European Research Infrastructures Projects in six scientific domains. The report also includes an updated list of ESFRI Landmarks.
The research community was invited to propose new Research Infrastructures with the potential to be included in the ESFRI Roadmap. The deadline to submit proposals was postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak, but the entire evaluation and monitoring process was adjusted such that the original date of the Roadmap release in December 2021 could be maintained. Joint effort of the external evaluators, the Strategy Working Groups and Implementation Group members, and particularly the Chairs, also due to the commitment of the ESFRI Executive Board and all the national delegation, resulted in an updated Roadmap comprising four new Landmarks and eleven new Projects that have been added to the existing list.
The Roadmap also includes a comprehensive analysis of the current infrastructure landscape that brings together a science-based perspective on the European RI system. The Strategy Report reviews the progress made by ESFRI on strategic policy guidance and reflects on issues of general interest to the national governments, to the Research Infrastructures themselves and to the EU as a whole. With a vision to maximize the impact of pan-European investments in Research Infrastructures in terms of excellent science, European and international collaboration in Research & Innovation, contributions to European competitiveness and regional cohesion, and in view of the crucial role Research Infrastructures play in the European Research Area, ESFRI has been developing strategic thoughts based on which an integrated and interconnected RI ecosystem shall be established, that can best help achieving Europe’s wider policy goals. These ESFRI discussions led to the preparation and release of a strategy paper, which was ESFRI’s contribution to the discussion on a renewed ERA.
The document titled Making Science Happen summarises the result of two years of continuous discussions, engaging EU Member States and Associated Countries, the European Commission and the scientific community. In the document ESFRI articulates its vision of a future oriented interconnected and interoperable Research Infrastructure ecosystem, which, by providing high level services to European researcher communities, maintains an absolute edge of curiosity-driven, responsible and socially relevant research, thereby increasing the attractiveness and impact of ERA and strengthening the partnership between the MS and AC. It recognizes European Research Infrastructures as important knowledge and innovation hubs, and is boosting their role as drivers of economic growth, decisive elements for regional development, sources of social well-being, pushing for environmental transitions and for place-based innovation. At the same time, Research Infrastructures contribute to education by providing specialised training to students, researchers in academia and industry on cutting-edge scientific methods and technologies. RIs are also the forerunner of data exploitation, science digitalization, data engineering and data management, and thus, having an indispensable role for the development of the European Open Science Cloud. In addition, RIs have an important and growing role in policy-making, as they can contribute to cross-sectoral strategies and to increasing the coherence between European, national and regional priorities and policies. Furthermore, Research Infrastructures have to be viewed as strategic investments into economic growth and sustainable development, underlining the need for effective synergies of regional, national, and European policies and funding instruments. The new ERA concept as an interconnected environment of which RIs are an important element is not restricted only to research, it extends also to other areas like education, innovation, health and public welfare, and others. While interconnecting research with other policy domains and by contributing to broader EU agendas, RIs are kernels of sustainable economic development, territorial cohesion in Europe, and an important element of international cooperation.
I am convinced that, building on almost 20 years of experience, with strengthened capacity and increased effectiveness, ESFRI can lead the way towards a future where science-based solutions born in an interconnected collaborative research environment surmount not only COVID-19, but also all the other challenges ahead of us.
The Strategy Report on Research Infrastructures includes the Roadmap with ESFRI Projects and ESFRI Landmarks and the ESFRI vision of the evolution of Research Infrastructures in Europe, addressing the mandates of the European Council, and identifying strategy goals.
The Strategy Report is composed of three parts.
PART1 (page 07) presents the key features of the ESFRI Roadmap 2021 and consists of four interconnected sections. First, it describes the main features and outcomes of the ESFRI Roadmap 2021 process. Secondly, it presents what is new in the ESFRI Roadmap 2021 edition in comparison to its predecessor. The third section is the analysis of the lessons learnt from this Roadmap and from the work of ESFRI over the last three years. Last section provides a strategic outlook into the future, identifying the key challenges and strategy for the RI policy in the coming years. The list of 22 ESFRI Projects and 41 ESFRI Landmarks is presented: each RI is identified by acronym, full name, type of RI, legal status, year of entry in the Roadmap, year of expected start of operation and estimated costs.
PART2 (page 33) is the Landscape Analysis that provides the current context of the most relevant Research Infrastructures that are available to European scientists and to technology developers typically through peer-review of competitive proposals. It provides an advanced analysis of the scientific needs and existing Research Infrastructure gaps as well as directions for strategic investments in the future that would help maintain Europe’s leadership in the global context. The Landscape Analysis adopts a more service-driven and impact-oriented approach maintaining the principle of excellence science.
The Landscape Analysis is an indicative reference document central to ESFRI Methodology and does not represent, in any way, the view and prioritization of ESFRI, nor any national financial and political commitment.
The Landscape Analysis is composed of three sections.
SECTION1 consists of six chapters – one per scientific domain – and describes the state-of-play of all Research Infrastructures in the corresponding thematic area, their contributions to support frontier research and to provide key data necessary to address the Grand Challenges. Each domain is structured, when needed, in areas or subdomains of research. The gaps, challenges and future needs are analysed for each group of thematic RIs and summarised. For each scientific domain, more general scientific trends have been identified to outline the directions in which the European Research Infrastructure landscape should evolve.
SECTION2 is an analysis of the interconnections of the different Research Infrastructures, including more general scientific trends across the different scientific domains. Specific examples of interconnections are shown and discussed indicating in what areas and in which forms the different RIs could work together, and which needs can be addressed by stimulating scientific collaboration across different disciplines.
SECTION3 focuses on the Research Infrastructure services and their broader impacts, describing not what the landscape is, but what it can do. This section has been developed in the form of selected examples in three main areas: i) the analysis of the relevance of ESFRI Research Infrastructures for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); ii) the analysis of capacity of RIs to respond to emergencies (as for example in the case of the COVID-19 crisis); iii) the contribution of ESFRI RIs to the digital transformation (including EOSC).
PART3 (page 163) describes – through dedicated cards – each ESFRI Project and each ESFRI Landmark. A short description of the RI is given as well as updated information on the legal status, the timeline for construction/operation, and the estimated costs. The information on the political support to ESFRI RIs, expressed by Governments of Member States and Associated Countries – e. g. Lead country, Member country or Prospective Member country – is validated by the corresponding ESFRI Delegations.
ANNEX (page 235)
ESFRI Working Groups
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