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Research Infrastructures

© Michal Jarmoluk, Pixabay
© Michal Jarmoluk, Pixabay

Contents and backgrounds

The Research Infrastructures part of the programme is part of the first pillar (Excellent Science) of Horizon Europe. Fundamental prerequisites for generating new knowledge and enabling technological advances are Research Infrastructures (RI). Cutting-edge research can not be done without the appropriate physical and electronic equipment. The EU thus attaches considerable importance to the development of research infrastructures in the development of the European Research Area (ERA). Furthermore, internationally significant research infrastructures are essential for mastering global challenges and for the industrial competitiveness of Europe as a research location.

This programme area essentially pursues two main objectives. One is to provide Europe with world-class infrastructures for sustainable research and innovation, while also consolidating the research and innovation ecosystem and better coordinating the design and development of research infrastructures. The second is to make existing Research Infrastructures accessible to all researchers in Europe and beyond, to optimise their use and fully exploit their potential for scientific progress and innovation.

These two main objectives are reflected in the Areas of Intervention identified in the Horizon Europe Specific Programme:

  • Consolidating and Developing the Landscape of European Research Infrastructures

  • Opening, Integrating and Interconnecting Research Infrastructures

    • Opening, Integrating and Interconnecting Research Infrastructures

    • Reinforcing European Research Infrastructure policy and International Cooperation

The European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) plays a central role in enabling Open Access and sustainable use of research infrastructures for all European researchers. It will serve an effective, scalable and sustainable network infrastructure for data-driven research, enabling access to digital resources across national and domain boundaries. It will develop into an effective and comprehensive channel for the delivery of research infrastructure services. Considering that the use of research infrastructures typically generates large amounts of data, access to digital research resources must be improved through EOSC, so that Europe's research communities can collect, process and share masses of scientific data with the next generation of data services. To derive the greatest possible benefit from electronic infrastructure services in line with the FAIR principles, certain minimum standards are necessary for the (meta)data networked there. This means that the data must be findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable.

The actual calls to submit project proposals electronically can be found in the respective current Work Programme (see documents), which is prepared by the European Commission for a period of two to three years and contains all relevant details on the calls. The calls and all necessary documents are published online on the Funding & Tender Opportunities Portal of the European Commission. The calls are predominantly multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary as well as inter-sectoral in nature and offer opportunities for the involvement of humanities and social sciences or cooperation with non-academic partners (e.g. SMEs, associations, societies, etc.).

Important players

European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures

The European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) was established in 2002 and plays a central role in planning pan-European (and global) research infrastructures and their implementation. ESFRI's mandate is primarily to design a strategic and coherent approach to shaping European research infrastructures along a Roadmap Process. ESFRI consists of delegates from the research ministries of the EU Member States and Associated Countries and the European Commission. The work of the ESFRI is supported by thematic working groups.

The development of a strategic roadmap that identifies priorities for the next 10-20 years is the most important element in planning and supporting initiatives in establishing new research infrastructures or expanding existing ones. The roadmap includes so-called "ESFRI Projects" which are in their planning phase and "ESFRI Landmarks", which are infrastructures that are already are in an advanced implementation stage or are fully implemented.

European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC)

The development of European research infrastructures is supported at EU level not only by financial resources. The Community legal framework European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC) is intended to facilitate the establishment and/or operation of (non-commercial) research infrastructures. An ERIC is a separate legal entity that is recognised in all EU Member States. It offers a customisable governance structure and is much easier to establish than an international organisation. In addition, unnecessarily repetitive negotiations (from project to project) about the organisation of research infrastructures are avoided. Members of an ERIC can be Member States, Associated Countries, third countries and international organisations, although a country can also be represented by public or private bodies, e.g. research organisations or research councils. An application for the establishment of an ERIC must be submitted to and approved by the European Commission.