Making Science Happen | A new ambition for Research Infrastructures in the European Research Area
ESFRI White paper 2020
Executive Summary and Main Policy messages
The European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) was established in 2002 with the purpose of developing a European approach to Research Infrastructure policy as a key element of the emerging European Research Area (ERA). Its work has radically transformed the availability of state-of-the-art facilities for researchers by making common investments easier at regional, national and European levels, reinforcing Europe’s global leadership in this field. Europe has now at its disposal a rich landscape of Research Infrastructures (RIs) covering all scientific domains, with over 50 European Research Infrastructures mobilising close to € 20 billion worth of common investments.
Europe’s Research Infrastructures are decisive for our capacity to deliver scientific breakthroughs and to foster innovation. At the same time, given the broad agreement on the need to rapidly address the societal challenges facing Europe and the world, science has an important mission to lead and prepare the necessary economic, social and environmental transitions. The renewal of the European Research Area will be key to this mission and ESFRI has therefore reflected on how to foster the further development of a European Research Infrastructure system capable of effectively supporting the enabling role of research and innovation for achieving Europe’s wider policy goals.
This document represents the outcomes of the reflection process over the last 15 months, engaging national authorities of EU Member States (MS) and Associated Countries (AC), the European Commission (EC) and the scientific community. It has clearly shown that we have been very successful in achieving the initial objectives of the European Research Area in the field of Research Infrastructures. While further adjustments may still be needed, Europe now has effective mechanisms to identify potential new investment priorities and to develop any new facilities, which have already materialised in a comprehensive research Infrastructures landscape.
Nonetheless, the landscape needs optimisation to address the overall objectives of the new European Research Area. To this end, ESFRI aims to optimise the organisation of the Research Infrastructure landscape:
- to facilitate the cross disciplinary research and the exploitation of data interoperability to produce new science to tackle new societal challenges and contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),
- to create more efficient synergies and direction between various European and national sources of funding,
- to enable the stronger integration of Research Infrastructures into their host societies,
- to continually modernise their services in support of European priorities, and
- to strengthen the European leadership in the construction of global endeavours.
The key messages in our report are directed at the relevant authorities in the Member States and Associated Countries, to the European Commission, to individual Research Infrastructures and their associations, and finally to ESFRI itself. There are many challenges facing us and to overcome them will require a collective effort. ESFRI is willing to act as the driver and coordinating body for this work.
ESFRI considers that the following are needed for a stronger Europe:
- Reinforce the position of Research Infrastructures as an essential pillar of the European Research Area, forming a healthy, sustainable and integrated Research Infrastructure ecosystem that strives for scientific excellence with impact, and provides transnational services, supporting education and skills development.
- Enhance the role of Research Infrastructures as truly strategic investments across borders of sectoral domains, contributing to European strategic agendas and enabling European research and innovation to address pressing and complex societal challenges.
- Develop and exploit the potential of European Research Infrastructures as knowledge and innovation hubs, integrated into local communities, forming the basis of European competitiveness, with regional impact and global outreach.
- Further strengthen the coherence between European, national and regional priorities and policies for Research Infrastructure development and funding.
- Exploit the potential of Research Infrastructures as major promoters of Open Science providing FAIR (data which meet principles of findability, accessibility, interoperability, and reusability) and quality certified Open Data, supporting their contribution to the success and impact of the European Open Science Cloud and so strengthening their capacity to serve their users.
- Better use the potential of the ESFRI to contribute to the development of coherent Research Infrastructure policy and investment in Europe, ensuring its appropriate capacity to that end.