Part 1
Strategy Report

Challanges and Strategy for the Future

There is a growing need for new types of Research Infrastructures linked with specific challenges, like climate change and environmental sustainability, cutting across scientific disciplines. These RIs require multiple sites and mobile or virtual capacities. They need to be conceived and deployed not only in the EU but at a global scale that matches the scope of the targeted problems.

At the same time, RIs in traditional disciplines are becoming larger, requiring a growing number of participant countries and more significant financial resources. This is happening both within the EU and at global scale.

There are also growing expectations for Research & Innovation to effectively contribute to broader political goals. RIs are therefore increasingly expected to produce socio-economic impact beyond scientific knowledge, such as defined by the Sustainable Development Goals.

RIs, individually and collectively, therefore play an ever increasing role in the implementation of R&I priorities especially in the context of the renewed ERA. It is now important to stimulate the impact of the rising number of interconnected RIs that are forming a new RI ecosystem, which serves not only research but also leads to stronger integration of RIs into the innovation ecosystem and many other areas

RIs in the Renewed Era

Since its launch in 2000, the ERA is envisioned as a unified space open to the world, in which research, innovation, technology and the people carrying out these activities circulate freely. After a progress review, an ERA Roadmap 2015-2020, was agreed by the Member States, Associated Countries and European Commission, setting out several priority actions likely to have significant impact on completing the construction of ERA. National Action Plans, developed by individual MS and AC, have reinforced the European-level Roadmap. RIs have been an integral part of ERA since its conception. The work of ESFRI, which has mobilised close to € 20 billion in investments, has been recognized as one of the major achievements of ERAA new ERA for Research and Innovation, COM(2020) 628 final, September 2020

At the time of the preparation of the report, the Competitiveness Council is defining the renewed approach to the delivery of ERA, including the new approach to its governance. This new approach is largely based on the Commission’s Communication, the Competitiveness Council ConclusionsConclusions of the Council of the European Union of 1 December 2020 on the New European Research Area. Doc. 13567/20
and the Commission’s Proposal for a Council Recommendation on a Pact for Research & Innovation in Europe (the Pact)Proposal for a COUNCIL RECOMMENDATION on a Pact for Research and Innovation in Europe, COM(2021) 407
. The document, proposes the course of the renewed ERA over the next decade. It is built on common EU principles and values for Research & Innovation, and proposes shared priority areas for action, to be implemented over the next decade.

ESFRI has increased evidence that effective interconnection among the RIs contributes to an integrated ecosystem that is a significant element of the renewed ERA. It allows coherence between European, national and regional priorities and RI policies, contributes, through ESFRI, to better integration of research in Europe and to better alignment of the national systems of the RIs support – national roadmaps, good practices of national road-mapping processes including financial consideration – and long-term sustainability of RIs.

An interconnected RIs ecosystem attracts frontier research and contributes to pursue excellent, curiosity-driven inter/multidisciplinary research pushing the current limits of knowledge and addressing many technological, scientific and organizational issues.

The impact of an interconnected RIs ecosystem is visible also in the field of education and human resource development. The various mobility schemes, exchange of experience activities, and training programs, including life-long learning operated by the RIs together with national administrations and the EC are increasing the attractiveness of the research and RI operators/managers career path.

Such an ecosystem creates a creative environment where science based solutions are born and contribute to EU’s strategic agendas as well as being part of a broader international cooperation framework. RIs form global networks, have links to their international counterparts and play a role in science diplomacy. Finally, a structured RIs ecosystem contributes to EU sustainable growth and competitiveness and represents an element of regional cohesion.

Finally, a structured RIs ecosystem contributes to EU sustainable growth and competitiveness and represents an element of regional cohesion.

ESFRI and Its Contribution to ERA

ESFRI acts as an inspiration and good practice example in terms of research policy governance at EU level. ESFRI was set-up in 2002 as an informal Forum (with the formal status of an expert group of the EC) combining a broad variety of expertise and following the original mandate of the Competitiveness Council of the European UnionIn June 2001, the Research Council invited "the Commission, in close collaboration with the Member States, to explore the establishment of new arrangements to support policies related to research infrastructures”. The first meeting of ESFRI took place in Brussels on 25 April 2002. Detailed mandate and rules governing ESFRI are laid out in ESFRI Procedural Guidelines,
of June 2001 – and reaffirmed in November 2004 and May 2007Conclusions of the Competitiveness Council, 25-26 November 2004 and 21-22 May 2007, December 2012Conclusions of the Competitiveness Council, 11 December 2012 and December 2015Conclusions of the Competitiveness Council, 1 December 2015.

ESFRI has been a part of the ERA since its conception and will be involved in the future overall ERA governance to meet the new ERA objectives. ESFRI was considered as one of the so-called ERA-related groups and engaged in the setting of broader European policy agendasESFRI as a body responsible for the ERA priority 2b-Research infrastructures has been contributing ERA monitoring by providing ERAC the information on the progress made by the MS/AC while following the ERA National action plans to support implementation of the Council Conclusions from 30 November 2018 on the governance of the ERA (14989/18) and the Recommendations of the ERAC Opinion on the 2018 review of the ERA advisory structure (1209/18).. The Chair of ESFRI is an ex-officio member of the ERAC Steering board and participated in all the ERAC plenaries. Thus ESFRI as part of the ERA Governance structure and one of the ERA Related Groups is right in the middle of the process to revitalise ERA that began in 2018, entailing a fresh look at the ERA priorities and at the advisory structure required to support these priorities. ESFRI is a structure that has proven not only its advisory, but also executive capabilities and serves as a role model for parts of the future ERA governance. Clear success of the ESFRI governance approach is well documented in the past ESFRI Roadmaps, in the policy advice resulting from the co-creation process in ESFRI, and in the impact of ESFRI in inspiring the national processes. The effectiveness of the ESFRI governance model materialized in almost € 20 billion investment (around € 2 billion/year operational costs) committed by the MS, AC and the EC for funding of the 63 ESFRI RIs. Taking also into account, the national contributions to international organisations operating Research Infrastructures, such as CERN or the European Southern Observatory for example, the current national public R&D funding for pan-European Research Infrastructures reaches around € 3 billion per year.

In addition, ESFRI was also instrumental for synergies between the various national and the EU funding. ESFRI Roadmap became an ex-ante condition for the use of European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) for RI investments and reference to the presence in the ESFRI Roadmap is often a requirement for obtaining national or European funding.

While the Competitiveness Council currently discusses the renewed ERA governance, ESFRI expresses its continuous commitment to contribute to the advancement of ERA. It will continue enabling science and supporting the structuring of the ERA through road-mapping, while continuing to improve the roadmap process, including the landscape and gap analysis. Through the roadmaps, it will continue to pool resources towards the joint objectives, across different funds and countries, to support the ESFRI RIs selected through a competitive process. To ensure the continuous excellence of these RIs, an ambitious monitoring process will be put in place.

In the renewed ERA, ESFRI will strive to contribute to various R&I policy objectives and will support the implementation of relevant actions in the ERA policy agenda 2022-2024 in coordination with the ERA Forum and ERAC. It will focus on delivering a true open science culture across the EU, including by mainstreaming open access to scholarly publications and research data, where RIs should play a relevant role. It will support the RIs to develop their integrating role in the ERA, through enhanced cooperation with higher education and research institutions, businesses and other ERA actors, such as research partnerships. Looking beyond the R&I policies, ESFRI and the RIs will contribute to higher policy objectives across various ERA activities, contributing to the well-being of citizens and the environment. It will also support its RIs in their further integration in the global research ecosystem.

In doing so, it will develop its activities in collaboration with stakeholders. Due to its relevance to ERA, ESFRI’s engagement with stakeholders, the landmark monitoring ambition, the innovation challenge and the global approach are addressed in more detail.

Stakeholder Engagement and Communication

ESFRI RIs always worked based on cross-fertilisation and dialogue, which was particularly reflected in the Roadmap 2018 and further developed in important events such as the ESFRI RIs and EOSC Workshop in London in January 20191st ESFRI RIs and EOSC Workshop – London, January 2019
, followed by the ESFRI Workshop on the Future of RIs in the ERA in La Palma in November 2019ESFRI Workshop on the Future of Research Infrastructures in the European Research Area – La Palma, November 2019
. One of the results of these consultations was that RIs face different challenges from the early stage to the Operational Phase of their lifecycle. ESFRI  increasingly fosters communication among RIs by facilitating exchange of experience and dialogue on key topics identified by them.

Contributing to the twin priorities of strengthening Europe’s capacities to carry out cutting-edge science and of providing the conditions in which science can help to solve the major socio-economic and environmental challenges facing the world, ESFRI initiated in 2020 a number of engagement activities, such as Open sessions and Stakeholder meetings. These new activities, along with the existing ones – i.e. ESFRI website, YouTube channel, Twitter notifications, impact dedicated events or contributions to EU Presidency conferences, ESFRI representation at international and European fora, taking part in policy discussions on ERA future, etc. – will further help ESFRI to implement its mission. The objective of these new ESFRI initiatives is to support the self-organisation and consolidation of RIs within the same domain and across domains, in order to better address users’ needs in replying to societal challenges and to promote sharing of good practices on the different RI related agendas.

Open Sessions. The Open Sessions are organised twice a year. They are intended to serve both the ESFRI Delegates and the external participants, in particular the representatives of the ESFRI RIs, and to facilitate exchange of information.

As stated by the Council conclusions on the New European Research AreaConclusions of the Council of the European Union of 1 December 2020 on the New European Research Area. Doc. 13567/20
of 1st December 2020, the renewed ERA should be based on shared responsibilities, stakeholders, and citizens’ participation. To be successful, the participatory element should be applied across ERA and should therefore include ESFRI and RIs. The ESFRI White Paper Making Science Happen, a new ambition for Research Infrastructures in the European Research AreaESFRI White Paper: Making Science Happen, a new ambition for Research Infrastructures in the European Research Area. March, 2020
already prepared the ground for a broader approach by stating “ESFRI will investigate the possibility of organising a platform for regular discussion among the different European RI stakeholders, e.g. an ESFRI Stakeholder Forum”. In this way, ESFRI and RIs will position themselves at the heart of the Research & Innovation ecosystem, closely interlinked with different actors – business, research, education, policy, citizens and others.

ESFRI Stakeholder Forum. The ESFRI Stakeholder Forums will attract stakeholders and raise their awareness across the whole Research & Innovation ecosystem such as research organisations and higher education institutions with scientific communities which are participating in the ERA activities and which are potential users of RIs, decision and policymakers, municipalities, citizens, socio-economic actors, etc. The objective is to look beyond the traditional RI communities. All these stakeholder engagement and communication activities are crucial not only to exchange of knowledge, experience and good practices, but also to promote a broader use of European RIs, to engage in a dialogue with stakeholders and to foster the interplay between regional (smart specialization), national and European strategies on RIs.

These are the effective tools, which will allow ESFRI to strengthen the links of the Roadmap to the R&I agenda at national and European levels and to develop international standards in strategic priority setting for RIs, supporting the development of the global RI ecosystem.

Monitoring of Landmarks

ESFRI Landmarks were introduced in the ESFRI Roadmap 2016 as reference RIs and are pillars in the ERA landscape offering not only services to academic research, but also supporting development and innovation, and they are specifically important for regional scientific and economic development. ESFRI is aware that the inclusions of Landmarks in its Roadmap often are conditional on (eligibility for) regional, national and European funding and underlines that these inclusions are a result of the robust and transparent methodology. Guaranteeing the excellence of the Landmark label, ESFRI has a responsibility for the quality of the RIs listed in the ESFRI Roadmap as Landmarks. With the adoption of the internal and external guides for the ESFRI Roadmaps 2018 and 20218ESFRI Public Roadmap 2021 Guide, September 2019
9mplementation Group and Strategy Working Groups Manual – In complement to the Roadmap 2021 Guide, September 2019
, ESFRI consolidated its definitions, models and methods. In follow-up of the Competitiveness Council conclusions of May 2018Conclusions of the Council of the European Union of 29 May 2018 on Accelerating knowledge circulation in the EU. Doc 9507/18
, and the pilot review of four Landmarks assessing the scientific status and their implementation, ESFRI has set up an ad hoc Working Group on Monitoring of Research Infrastructures PerformanceAd hoc Working Group on Monitoring, June 2018 
. The ad hoc Working Group recommended a quality standard for Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) – the RACER-Criteria – and a dialogue process between the RIs and the evaluating organisations to define the most appropriate KPIs that would at the same time fulfil the objectives of the assessment. It prepared a final report containing general criteria for Landmark and RI assessment, and it came with considerations for implementing an appropriate methodology in the future. This report addressed various aspects of Landmarks and developed a set of specific KPIs. The report was approved and published by ESFRI in December 2019Monitoring of Research Infrastructures Performance – ESFRI ad hoc Working Group Report, December 2019

While discussing the future of ESFRI monitoring and in order to prepare and implement a fully consistent procedure for ESFRI Landmarks, ESFRI has set up another Working Group, the Monitoring Implementation Group, with the mandate to propose a methodology for the monitoring of Landmarks on the ESFRI Roadmap. The Working Group has prepared a report, which, taking into account the progress made by ESFRI towards developing a framework for monitoring of RI performance, identified options for implementation of Landmark monitoring at ESFRI and provided directions for further development of the ESFRI monitoring framework and for uptake of the ESFRI monitoring approach beyond the Landmarks.

For the purpose of this monitoring, the Landmarks shall use KPIs as outlined in the ESFRI Working Group Report, which may be adjusted to the specific needs of the Landmarks and thus are capable of capturing the specificities of individual infrastructures. Although the uptake of KPIs is voluntary, Landmarks who do not wish to apply KPIs matching the ESFRI standards will not be eligible for Landmark monitoring.

The Landmark monitoring will use questionnaires, hearings and the other established methods of monitoring. KPIs will complement the information for the monitoring panels.

  • The monitoring shall demonstrate the high quality of each individual Landmark.
  • It shall also identify possible problems and support the Landmarks to take appropriate actions.
  • Each Landmark shall be monitored at regular intervals of about five years. Specific ESFRI panels for each Landmark, complemented by external experts, shall conduct the monitoring.
  • A detailed report on the rationale and the procedures of Landmark monitoring with guidelines on the methodology will be available by the end of 2021.

ESFRI is going to contact the Landmarks and jointly elaborate with them a schedule for the monitoring activity. The monitoring of the first Landmarks should start in 2022. By 2024, the first round of monitoring covering a substantial part of the Landmarks listed in the Roadmap 2018 should be concluded. ESFRI will then evaluate the monitoring system and procedures.

Consolidation of the European RI Landscape

In the last 20 years, the European RI landscape has been evolving towards a consolidated ecosystem. Amongst the activities and trends that have been promoting this development are cooperation between RIs – scientific collaborations, partnerships, associations and organizations –, growing interdependence, clustering within scientific domains, interdisciplinarity and interoperability.

We can find examples in:

  • Thematic ESFRI clusters established through EU-funded projects to address common issues, exchange experience as well as develop and share good practices related to RI development and operation, and most recently to strengthen their capacity of linking to the European Open Science CloudENVRI-FAIR
    ESCAPE | The European Science Cluster of Astronomy
    The Photon and Neutron Open Science Cloud – PaNOSC
    Social Sciences & Humanities Open Cloud (SSHOC)
  • The Alliance of Medical Research InfrastructuresAlliance of Medical Research Infrastructures
     where close collaboration of three ERICs ESFRI Landmarks – EATRIS, ECRIN and BBMRI – with highly complementary methods created significant synergies and new added value, allowing the research community to reach more complex and comprehensive goals, among others on COVID-19.
  • Two initiatives of European analytical facilities, the League of Advanced European Neutron SourcesLeague of advanced European Neutron Sources (LENS)
    and the League of European Accelerator-based Photon SourcesLeague of European Accelerator-based Photon (LEAPS)
    are bringing together a critical mass of European analytical facilities in their respective areas to identify synergies and opportunities for closer collaboration, for example around Green Deal, Horizon Europe Missions or COVID-19, as well as develop joint positions on issues of common interest.
  • The ENRIITC ConsortiumENRIITC Consortium
    , which brings together eleven actors among which the ESFRI Landmarks EMSO ERIC, EATRIS ERIC, ESRF and ESS ERIC, and CLARIN ERIC. This consortium brings together actors from industry and RIs and can have important socio-economic impacts.
  • The GÉANT Association, an organization for European collaboration in research networks with 38 National Research and Education Network (NREN) partners, and the largest and most advanced R&E network in the world.
  • The collaboration between CERN, SKAO, GÉANT and PRACE aiming at realizing the full potential of the coming new generation of High-Performance Computing (HPC) technology.
  • The many interconnections between the different fields that are identified, and analyzed in detail, in the Landscape Analysis chapter of this Roadmap.

However, many aspects remain to be improved to further consolidate the European RI landscape. For instance, there is still a need for an interoperable data system that fully complies with the FAIR principles and is well integrated into a functioning EOSC ecosystem serving the needs of the European research communities. Significant potential remains in further enhanced collaboration among Research Infrastructures at structural and operational level, further exploring synergies between facilities. It is important to create favorable conditions for the development of joint service pipelines, shared resources and capacities, as well as strengthening data interoperability, and the use of new digital tools/technologies, among others

Strengthening RIs Services

Integrated RI services are a key element of a functioning Research & Innovation system. Since its inception, over twenty years ago, the European Research Area has contributed to unprecedented accessibility of state-of-the-art RI services to users from across Europe. The establishment of pan-European Research Infrastructures through the ESFRI Roadmap and of targeted measures via the R&I Framework Programmes has integrated, interconnected and opened up the national RIs. Moreover, broad accessibility of these services, based on the principle of excellence-based open access, is also an important element of bridging the research gap, levelling up the opportunities for scientists from all corners of Europe.

The maturity of the RI landscape coupled with the challenge of the twin transitions and lessons learned from the pandemic illustrate that we are at the crossroads of a different paradigm. Indeed, an operational, robust ecosystem of RIs requires strengthened coordination of activities of European and national facilities, effectively complementing each other in providing services tailored to the specific needs of different types of users by design.

Therefore, building on the existing European Research Infrastructures, established through the ESFRI Roadmap and the ERIC Framework, the structuring of the European RI landscape needs to be complemented by a service-level approach to better address the evolving needs, both policy-driven and curiosity-driven. Developing system-level services means setting up a user-driven European architecture involving different types of facilities, in different locations and across disciplines, providing the capacities to tackle the most challenging scientific problems, enabling discoveries leading to science-based solutions for the most pressing societal challenges.

A rich landscape of world-leading RIs puts Europe in a favourable position to lead the green and digital transformations. COVID-19 has demonstrated the capability of European RIs to quickly react to urgent societal needs, as described in the Landscape Analysis (see PART2) of the Roadmap. Facilitating an effective, science-led response to other societal challenges will require similar measures, where targeted services of individual RIs and groups of RIs are mobilised focusing on specific objectives. The new Horizon Europe MissionsCommunication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on European Missions, September 2021.
will provide further opportunity for European RIs to design, develop and deploy services responding to user needs and identified objectives within the five specific challenges – climate change, cancer, restoring oceans and waters, smart cities and healthy soil.

In order to better serve the R&I priorities in support of European policies, the joint, or complementary, development of services together with the needed technological developments by relevant Research Infrastructures requires strategic guidance. Such coordinated, targeted efforts need to be supported at European level to create spill-overs across the RI ecosystem. This will also help to first identify and then fill in the existing gaps in RI services, both at the level of individual facilities and the European RI ecosystem overall.

The ESFRI road-mapping and monitoring process in coordination with the ERIC Framework can be instrumental in addressing the way forward for the setting up of system-level services. Accordingly, measures can be piloted through European and national programmes consistently with this process.

The Innovation Challenge

World-class RIs, improving their performance by pushing the frontiers of science and technology, constitute very particular innovation ecosystems where scientists need to work hand in hand with high-tech companies that supply them with manufacturing capacity as well as state-of-the-art services and technologies. These collaborations have significant potential to incubate innovative spin-offs exploiting the applications of technologies developed for RIs in the broader economic and social context.

RIs are often associated with curiosity-driven research and the creation of new fundamental knowledge. However, there has always been close interaction with industry and SMEs. Industrial users in search for innovative solutions using innovative methods are attracted with tailor-made services or services that build on well-established analytical techniques.

The creation of new services, that include data analysis, data interpretation, and consultancy, have led to a continuous increase of industrial and SME users of RIs. It is estimated that approximately 5% of user time is devoted to industry; however, in some cases it may reach even 20%. Where the services provided by RIs target medium to high technology readiness levels, they can be assimilated to those of Technology InfrastructuresTechnology Infrastructures’ means facilities and resources, such as test beds, pilot lines, demonstrators, testing facilities or living labs, and related services, that are used predominantly by undertakings to develop, test and upscale technology up to higher Technology Readiness Levels prior to competitive market entry; access to these infrastructures is open to users from the European Economic Area on a transparent and non-discriminatory basis. A better linking of services provided by both Research and Technology Infrastructures is needed to increase the attractiveness and efficiency for industrial users. The aim is to provide a continuum of services along the knowledge creation and innovation chain that respond to R&I needs in technology areas relevant for the European Union, boosting innovation in the internal market. 

In that respect, the Commission Communication A New ERA for Research and InnovationA new ERA for Research and Innovation, COM(2020) 628 final, September 2020 has formulated specific key actions such as number 10, which is targeted to the support for developing an integrated ecosystem of RIs in Europe and to a European strategy and governance structure for Technology Infrastructures. Moreover, as pointed out in the EU updated Industrial StrategyUpdating the 2020 New Industrial Strategy. COM(2021) 350
, R&I play a central role in the green and digital transition and in the recovery of our economy. Fourteen industrial ecosystems were identified which are of highest relevance for Europe. These industrial ecosystemsAerospace and Defence; Agri-Food; Construction; Cultural and Creative Industries; Digital; Electronics; Energy-Intensive Industries; Energy – Renewables; Health; Mobility – Transport – Automotive; Proximity, Social Economy and Civil Security; Retail; Textile; Tourism, as well as the industrial alliances and Horizon Europe partnerships, are the starting point to develop roadmaps and prioritise actions for Technology Infrastructures.

RIs are clearly linked to industrial ecosystems such as Agri-Food, Health and Energy-Renewables and to partnerships and industrial alliances such as the battery alliance or the clean hydrogen partnership. However, there is still potential to reinforce and structure these links and to strengthen the role of RIs in other areas by:

  • developing more standardised techniques, a stronger modularity and interoperability across platforms, and services, using multi-messenger science;
  • strengthening industrial R&I and the long-term sustainability of laboratories;
  • developing new Research Infrastructure services tailored to industrial needs, in particular in areas linked to key EU policy priorities;
  • reinforcing the role of industry liaison officers at RIs.

Ultimately, the challenge of European innovation also involves a better and optimized relationship between RIs, Technology Infrastructures and industrial players that would allow the EU to keep its global leadership role.

Socio-Economic Inpact of RIs

Research Infrastructures are key enablers of scientific and technology discoveries as well as of incremental accumulation of knowledge. At the same time, they often have considerable socio-economic impact beyond science itself. Understanding these impacts, and the capacity of Research Infrastructures to achieve them, is necessary for public authorities to make informed investment decisions aligned with broader political goals.

Some socio-economic impact studies of Research Infrastructures, notably in physics, have been available since the 1980s. However, significant progress in identification and analysis of the different dimensions of impact that Research Infrastructures make on the broader socio-economic ecosystem in which they function has only been made in recent years. This development was linked to the changing policy context envisioning stronger contributions of Research & Innovation activities to Europe’s wider policy objectives emphasizing environmental, social and economic challenges.

At the level of ESFRI, socio-economic impact has become one of important considerations in the road-mapping process that identifies European investment priorities in Research Infrastructures, as it has been formally considered as one of the evaluation criteria since ESFRI Roadmap 2016. At the same time, consideration of the socio-economic impact has also increasingly entered into discussions on funding priorities at national and regional levels.

Numerous impact studies of individual Research Infrastructures have shown significant direct and indirect benefits not only to users of these infrastructures but also more broadly to the economy and society through human capital formation, technological spillovers, boosting local employment and development, as well as supporting medical treatments or even creation of cultural goods.

Conceptualisation of socio-economic impacts is progressing rapidly, including through the development of impact pathways models, however consensus on what these impacts are and how they can be measured and described still needs to be developed. At the same time, as the methodology for monitoring of Research Infrastructure performance is developed, questions arise on the relationship between performance and impact, and the respective indicators. This requires reaching a common understanding among Research Infrastructures and their key stakeholders on how to proceed with monitoring, evaluation and impact assessments, both at European and national level.

The concepts of different impacts and impact pathways also need to be further investigated and developed, together with better understanding of what indicators are used and how. It is important to develop and share good practices on impact assessments in order to foster their alignment among Research Infrastructures, across countries and at European level.

European RIs at the Global Stage

Scientific research is a global endeavour that knows no political, governmental, national, or geographic boundaries. Pooling resources and sharing knowledge is an integral part of scientific development. No matter where science is produced, who funds it and who conducts it, the results benefit all of humanity and the entire planet. Science does not exist in isolation, and this is now truer than ever. Human ingenuity requires comparison, social sciences surveys are designed to be comparable with others around the world, knowledge multiplies when all the bits and pieces are put together. As enablers of scientific work, Research Infrastructures live in this global space of science, and their impact extends largely beyond their main physical and administrative confines.

ESFRI RIs are no exception to this and play a significant role at the global stage of science. In fact, the ESFRI ecosystem of RIs is unique in the world and serves as a reference point for other regions, not only scientifically but also methodologically, demonstrating the leadership of Europe in the area. Global uniqueness characterises many individual ESFRI RIs as well, which benefit from strong intergovernmental agreements that allow them to provide unique opportunities for studying fundamental scientific problems, performing cutting-edge research, and stimulating technology developments on a global scale, thereby strengthening their sustainability.

The global range and scale of ESFRI RIs is evident on several independent dimensions of a RI’s environment/universe.

Scientific Contribution. Several ESFRI RIs in various sectors are used in collaborative scientific efforts that are global by nature, e.g. environmental sciences, social sciences, high-energy particle physics, and others.

Scientists/Users. Many ESFRI RIs offer physical access or virtual access to data and services to scientists and engineers from countries outside the EU or even Europe at large, with some of them having up to 50% of their users coming from outside Europe.

Data. Numerous ESFRI RIs collect and offer data on a global scale, with some of them having done that for a rather long time, thereby creating opportunities for obtaining significant research outcomes.

Location. There are ESFRI RIs that are deployed in countries other than MS/AC, in all corners of the globe. In fact, some of them are exclusively outside the European region.

These are elaborated further below.

The European RI ecosystem is facing new challenges that require revised strategic orientations. The demands for Research Infrastructure are increasing rapidly within most research fields. Technical progress, ever more complex scientific questions, and the need to tackle global emergencies, such as pandemics or climate change, demand a reinforcement of international collaboration, where global cooperation and data sharing are essential to offer solutions. In this sense, The ESFRI White Paper Making Science HappenESFRI White Paper: Making Science Happen, a new ambition for Research Infrastructures in the European Research Area. March, 2020
establishes the promotion of international cooperation as one of the actions for fostering the development, increasing the operational capacity, and securing the sustainability of the entire Research Infrastructure ecosystem.

The COVID-19 pandemic has reaffirmed the importance of international cooperation in science and the relevant role of Research Infrastructures: the European COVID-19 Data Platform, established jointly by the European CommissionCovid-19 Data Portal
European COVID-19 Data Platform
, EMBLEMBL-EBI launches COVID-19 Data Portal
and ELIXIRELIXIR support to COVID-19 research
, in collaboration with Member States and other partners, offers tools for variant genomic surveillance and access to viral genomes from national sequencing efforts. In addition, the European Virus ArchiveEuropean Virus Archive
, a network of facilities also funded by the EU, is supplying materials globally for the detection and molecular diagnostics of the new virus variants.

Climate change is another clear example of the need for international cooperation, as global environmental monitoring is essential: EURO-ARGO ERIC serves as the EU contribution to the global ARGO; EMSO ERIC, the deep sea observatories, is linked to international partners in the US, Canada, Australia and Japan; and ICOS ERIC, the CO2 observation infrastructure, supplies data to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Furthermore, the ongoing initiative for a Global Ecosystem Research Infrastructure (GERI)Global Ecosystem Research Infrastructure (GERI)
brings together partners in the EU, the US, Australia, China and South Africa.

The Group of Senior Officials (GSO) on Glogal Research Infrastructures (GRIs) is a body within the G7Group of Senior Officials (GSO) on global Research Infrastructures
that has developed a set of criteria for defining GRIs, which allows new facilities around the world to understand access mechanisms and to join global knowledge networks (e.g. it has acknowledged GERI). In the future, the GSO should have an important role in articulating global governance models for international Research Infrastructures. The organizational structures for international RIs can range from highly structured and centralized, like CERN, to very decentralized and loose, like the LIGO Collaboration. Some of these facilities will be game changers, like CERN was over 60 years ago. For example, ITER was born with this objective and has 35 nations trying to prove the feasibility of fusion as a carbon-free source of energy.

Appropriate governance models must be developed for each case, depending on the scientific needs and the relevant stakeholders. In collaboration with scientists, policy makers must build on earlier achievements and supply mechanisms for coming together globally, as was done quite recently with UNESCO facilitating the set-up of SESAMESynchrotron-Light for Experimental Science And Applications in the Middle East (SESAME)
, the synchrotron in Jordan. The EU can contribute the experience it has acquired through the years with the ESFRI Roadmap, offering expertise and leadership in Global Research Infrastructure projects. EU cooperation with priority countries and regions can be extended by explicitly including Research Infrastructures in the relevant strategy agendas, as in the cooperation with Latin America and the Caribbean region. ESFRI and its Research Infrastructures – LifeWatch ERIC, INSTRUCT ERIC and E-RIHS, among others – play an important role in the implementation of the EU-CELACEU-CELAC
strategic roadmap for science, technology and innovation, being examples and drivers for the implementation of its third pillar, the cooperation on research infrastructures.

The fields of Physics and Astrophysics offer classical examples of big international facilities. They require Infrastructures of a size and cost that can only be built through international cooperation. Experiments are conceived as international projects from the start, and Europe, North America, and Japan, among others, cooperate very closely to implement them. For example, laboratories, such as the European XFEL, and ongoing projects, such as FAIR, advance with substantial Russian participation. Especially the nature of astrophysics and the need for particular geographical locations has forced this field to be truly global, with very important projects being in the works, notably the Square Kilometre Array Observatory (SKAO) in Australia and South Africa, the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) in Chile, the Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA) in Europe and Chile.

Regarding users, a large number of ESFRI RIs using open access policies are granting access to international users with some of them having up to 40-50% of their users be non-European. A case in point are the big Particle Physics laboratories and the great observatories, which serve very integrated, truly global scientific communities and offer access to international users using different modalities and supporting them through different funding mechanisms.

Finally, Research Infrastructures are an essential tool for the international deployment of the open science paradigm. The recent Commission Communication on a Global approach to Research and Innovation – Europe's strategy for international cooperation in changing worldEurope's global approach to cooperation in research and innovation: strategic, open, and reciprocal, 18 May 2021
calls for “deepened cooperation on the basis of openness, a level playing field and respect of fundamental rights and values and supporting EU’s open strategic autonomy”. The related Council conclusionsConclusions of the Council of the European Union of 28 September 2021 on Global approach to Research and Innovation - Europe's strategy for international cooperation in a changing world Governance of the European Research Area. Doc. 12301/21

  • underline the importance of international cooperation in RIs for the advancement of science, science diplomacy, tackling the global challenges and increasing access to excellence;
  • recognise the need for further development and implementation of the Global Research Infrastructure framework; and
  • encourage the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures and the Commission to support activities of Research Infrastructures to this end.

The rollout of the renewed ERA policy agenda and of the Horizon Europe Programme will provide new opportunities for European Research Infrastructures to strengthen their international collaboration and influence the shaping of the global RI landscape.