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.