Background and History
The European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) was set-up in 2002 as an informal Forum – composed of representatives of national authorities of the Member States (MS) and Associated Countries (AC) of the European Union and the European Commission (EC) – following the original mandateIn 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 of the Competitiveness Council of the European Union of June 2001 – and reaffirmed in November 2004, May 2007, December 2012, May 2014, December 2015 – in order:
- to support a coherent and strategy-led approach to policy making on Research Infrastructures in Europe;
- to facilitate multilateral initiatives leading to a better use and development of Research Infrastructures acting as an incubator for pan-European and Global Research Infrastructures;
- to establish a European Roadmap for Research Infrastructures – new and major upgrades, of pan-European interest – for the coming 10-20 years, stimulate the implementation of these facilities, and update the Roadmap as the need arisesConclusions of the Competitiveness Council, 25-26 November 2004, 21-22 May 2007, 26 May 2014;
- to ensure the follow-up of implementation of already ongoing ESFRI Projects after a comprehensive assessment, as well as the prioritisation of the infrastructure projects listed in the ESFRI RoadmapConclusions of the Competitiveness Council, 11 December 2012;
- to implement the ERA Priority 2b: Research InfrastructuresConclusions of the Competitiveness Council, 1 December 2015;
The EU Council has asked to prepare the ESFRI Roadmap update in 2018 as well as to closely monitor the implementation of the listed ESFRI Projects and to periodically update the scientific status of ESFRI LandmarksConclusions of the Council of the European Union of 27 May 2016 on FP7 and Future Outlook: Research and innovation investments for growth, jobs and solutions to societal challenges. Doc. 9527/16 http://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-9527-2016-INIT/en/pdf; recently, it has invited to develop with Member States and the European Commission a common approach for monitoring Research InfrastructuresConclusions of the Council of the European Union of 29 May 2018 on Accelerating knowledge circulation in the EU. Doc 9507/18 http://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-9507-2018-INIT/en/pdf.
In this context, the Forum is responsible for the strategic planning of Research Infrastructures, to elaborate recommendations on issues raised by one or more country Delegations and/or on specific mandates of the Competitiveness Council of the European Union
##THE ESFRI FORUM# The ESFRI Forum is composed of representatives – the Delegates – of the EU Member States and Associated Countries, plus the European Commission. ESFRI Forum Meetings are held on a regular basis, typically four times a year, as convened by its elected Chair who holds a non-renewable two year mandate, with a possible extension of up to a third year. An Executive Board (EB) – formed by seven members chosen among the Forum Delegates and the EC representative – supports the Chair in preparing the agenda items of the EB and the Forum meetings, and formulating recommendations to the Forum in a transparent way. A Secretariat is provided by the EC. ESFRI does not have its own budget: Delegates and experts forming the ESFRI Working Groups are expected to be supported by their Governments. Specific activities of ESFRI – assistance to the Chair, realisation of the Roadmap update, publication of relevant documents, communication and dissemination, organisation of workshops and exchanges of experience for the sharing of good ractices – are partially supported by dedicated EU-funded projects: CoPoRI FP7 (2011-2014)Communication and Policy development for Research Infrastructures in Europe – CoPoRI https://cordis.europa.eu/project/rcn/100343_en.html and StR-ESFRI H2020 (2015-2019)Support to Reinforce the European Strategy Forum for Research Infrastructures – StR-ESFRI https://cordis.europa.eu/project/rcn/194950_en.html.
ESFRI has established permanent Strategy Working Groups (SWGs), whose members are experts identified by the Delegations – plus EC representatives and one e-IRG expert – and the Implementation Group (IG), whose members are ESFRI Delegates, ensuring complementary expertise and realising an adequate and fair balance in science and science management. The SWGs cover the scientific fields of Energy (ENE), Environment (ENV), Health & Food (H&F), Physical Sciences & Engineering (PSE), Social & Cultural Innovation (SCI), and – since 2017 – Data, Computing and Digital Research Infrastructures (DIGIT). The SWGs assess the scientific case of the ESFRI Projects and ESFRI Landmarks – according to excellence, pan-European relevance, socio-economic impact, e-needs – and carry out the Landscape Analysis (LA). The LA provides an updated overview of the European Ecosystem consisting of major RIs operating transnational access and of major ongoing projects; it allows recognising gaps and challenges with an outlook to the global landscape. The Implementation Group assesses the maturity aspects of the ESFRI Projects and ESFRI Landmarks – according to stakeholder commitment, user strategy & access policy, preparatory work, planning, governance & management, human resources policy, finances, and risks. ESFRI benefits from a close collaboration with the e-IRG whose representatives in all SWGs help in evaluating the specific e-Infrastructure needs (e-needs) of each RI and their interface with the horizontal e-Infrastructure services.
ESFRI has developed a methodology to identify those Research Infrastructures needed for European’s competitiveness in research and innovation, being all new undertakings that fill an existing gap in research capability or capacity at the frontiers of knowledge, or being major upgrades of existing operational pan-European Research Infrastructures. The first European Strategy Report on Research Infrastructures was published in 2006ESFRI Roadmap 2006 https://ec.europa.eu/research/infrastructures/pdf/esfri/esfri_roadmap/roadmap_2006/esfri_roadmap_2006_en.pdf ; the Roadmap was then updated in 2008ESFRI Roadmap 2008 https://ec.europa.eu/research/infrastructures/pdf/esfri/esfri_roadmap/roadmap_2008/esfri_roadmap_update_2008.pdf, 2010ESFRI Roadmap 2010 https://ec.europa.eu/research/infrastructures/pdf/esfri-strategy_report_and_roadmap.pdf, 2016ESFRI Roadmap 2016 http://www.esfri.eu/roadmap-2016.
After the Roadmap 2010, ESFRI focused on the implementation issues of the Research Infrastructures taking into consideration the specificities related with their organisation and research domain. In 2011, ESFRI was mandated to meet the goals of the Innovation Union Flagship Initiative that “by 2015, Member States together with the European Commission should have completed or launched the construction of 60% of the priority European Research Infrastructures currently identified by ESFRI”Europe 2020 Flagship Initiative Innovation Union https://ec.europa.eu/research/innovation-union/pdf/innovation-unioncommunication-brochure_en.pdf. In 2013, the EC – in consultation with ESFRI – established a group of independent experts, the Assessment Expert Group (AEG)Assessment Expert Group (AEG) https://ec.europa.eu/research/evaluations/pdf/archive/other_reports_studies_and_documents/esfri.pdf to assess the status of all Roadmap projects and their readiness to start implementation. Moreover, upon request by the EC, ESFRI carried out the analysis of the projects that could most effectively take advantage of the special support measures within Horizon 2020 for meeting the Innovation Union Flagship Initiative goal.
ESFRI – upon the EU Council mandate of 26 May 2014 which welcomed ESFRI plans “to update its Roadmap and called on ESFRI to continue the prioritisation of all the Research Infrastructure projects of the ESFRI Roadmap”Conclusions of the Council of the European Union of 26 May 2014 on Implementation of the roadmap for the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures. Doc. 10257/14 http://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-10257-2014-INIT/en/pdf– designed a largely updated methodology for the new Roadmap to be published in 2016. ESFRI established a parallel process: the evaluation of the scientific case was carried out by the Strategy Working Groups covering five thematic areas, and the assessment of implementation was addressed, independently, by the Implementation Group. All Working Groups made use of independent external experts – who declared absence of conflict of interest – to formulate a comprehensive assessment of the project, based on its scientific excellence, its Pan-European relevance, and its maturity to engage in the ESFRI process. The outcomes of this procedure were presented to the EU Council with the publication of the Roadmap 2016.
The Roadmap 2016 was conceived having sustainability in mind: higher level of maturity, officially expressed political support by Member States and Associated Countries, as well as funding commitment, were set as eligibility criteria. This was coherent with the Introduction of a ten-year maximum permanence time for a RI project on the Roadmap list, a time frame that was considered adequate to carry out the full implementation process, developing from a concept to a sustainable legal entity. The concept of ESFRI Landmark – along with the definition of ESFRI Project was introduced to identify those ESFRI RIs that, having reached full implementation or an advanced construction stage, with a stable legal status acknowledged by MS and AC, and a sustainability plan, currently represent a reference in their field. The ESFRI Landmarks are successful scientific achievements and major assets for the competitiveness of the European Research Area. The ESFRI Roadmap 2016 listed a total of 21 Projects and 29 Landmarks.
The ten-year rule for the Projects and the concept of Landmarks as reference RIs imply a monitoring and periodic updating on the status of the RIs to provide ESFRI with the informed state of play of the ensemble of the Roadmap Infrastructures. This complies with the recommendations of the EU Council of May 2016Conclusions of the Council of the European Union of 27 May 2016 on FP7 and Future Outlook: Research and innovation investments for growth, jobs and solutions to societal challenges. Doc. 9527/16 http://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-9527-2016-INIT/en/pdf who invited ESFRI to “closely monitor the implementation of ESFRI Projects and to periodically assess the scientific status of ESFRI Landmarks, as well as to prepare the ESFRI Roadmap update in 2018”, and further confirmed such mandate in May 2018Conclusions of the Council of the European Union of 29 May 2018 on Accelerating knowledge circulation in the EU. Doc 9507/18 http://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-9507-2018-INIT/en/pdf. Consequently, ESFRI has refined its evaluation approach for the new proposals, and developed a methodology for the monitoring of the ESFRI Projects, namely when approaching the ten-year time limit. ESFRI has also carried out a first pilot periodic review of four Landmarks in order to test the elements for a future dedicated methodology.
ESFRI activities encompass response to specific additional mandates of the EU Council: i) to contribute to a strategic plan for an industry-oriented cooperation of the Research InfrastructureConclusions of the Council of the European Union of 31 May 2011 on Development of the European Research Area (ERA) through ERA related groups. Doc. 11032/11 http://register.consilium.europa.eu/doc/srv?l=EN&f=ST%2011032%202011%20INIT; ii) to explore mechanisms for better coordination of Member States’ investment strategies in e-Infrastructures, covering also HPC, distributed computing, scientific data and networks; iii) to contribute to the debate on ensuring the long-term sustainability of Research Infrastructures Conclusions of the Council of the European Union of 27 May 2016 on FP7 and Future Outlook: Research and innovation investments for growth, jobs and solutions to societal challenges. Doc. 9527/16 http://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-9527-2016-INIT/en/pdf; iv) to develop a common approach for monitoring of Research Infrastructures’ performance, inviting the pan-European Research Infrastructures, on a voluntary basis, to include it in their governance and explore options to support this through the use of Key Performance IndicatorsConclusions of the Council of the European Union of 29 May 2018 on Accelerating knowledge circulation in the EU. Doc 9507/18 http://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-9507-2018-INIT/en/pdf; v) to establish effective coordination between EOSC and ESFRIConclusions of the Council of the European Union of 29 May 2018 on European Open Science Cloud (EOSC). Doc. 9291/18 https://www.era.gv.at/object/document/4013/attach/CC_EOSC_final.PDF. ESFRI addresses the mandates by performing in-depth analyses and studies, in some cases creating ad hoc Working Groups to inform the Forum on emerging needs and requirements dictated by the evolutions of the RIs ecosystem and their implications.
ESFRI has activated four ad hoc Working Groups in the period 2013-2017. The Working Group on Innovation – INNO WG, 2013 – was set-up to fulfil the Council mandate to contribute to a strategic plan for an industry-oriented cooperation of the Research InfrastructuresConclusions of the Council of the European Union of 31 May 2011 on Development of the European Research Area (ERA) through ERA related groups. Doc. 11032/11 http://register.consilium.europa.eu/doc/srv?l=EN&f=ST%2011032%202011%20INIT. The Neutron Landscape Group – NLG, 2014 – was mandated by the PSE SWG to analyse the European and international landscape of Neutron Scattering facilities, and its evolution over the next decades with the expected shutting-down of research reactors and starting operation of new spallation sources. The Working Group on Investment Strategies in e-Infrastructures – e-INFRA WG, 2015 – was set-up integrating competences from the e-IRG to respond to the Council mandate on coordination of Member States’ investment strategies in e-InfrastructuresConclusions of the Council of the European Union of 29 May 2015 on Open, data-intensive and networked research as a driver for faster and wider innovation. Doc. 9360/15 http://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-9360-2015-INIT/en/pdf and formulated recommendations that were adopted by ESFRI in December 2017. The Working Group on Long-Term Sustainability – LTS WG, 2016 – was setup to comprehensively respond to the Council mandate on Long-Term Sustainability of Research InfrastructuresConclusions of the Council of the European Union of 27 May 2016 on FP7 and Future Outlook: Research and innovation investments for growth, jobs and solutions to societal challenges. Doc. 9527/16 http://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-9527-2016-INIT/en/pdf.
The results of the analysis produced by the ad hoc WGs can be of general interest and impact, in which case they deserve publication: ESFRI has created the ESFRI Scripta series and published three volumes. The first one was released in September 2016 with the title “Neutron scattering facilities in Europe: present status and future perspectives” based on the NLG reportNeutron scattering facilities in Europe: Present status and future perspectives, ESFRI Scripta Vol.1, September 2016 http://www.esfri.eu/sites/default/files/u4/NGL_CombinedReport_230816_Complete%20document_0209-1.pdf. The second ESFRI Scripta was published in October 2017, entitled “Long-Term Sustainability of Research Infrastructures”, based on the conclusions of the LTS WGLong-Term Sustainability of Research Infrastructures, ESFRI Scripta Vol.2, October 2017 http://www.esfri.eu/sites/default/files/u4/ESFRI_SCRIPTA_TWO_PAGES_19102017_1.pdf. The third volume was published with the title “Innovation-oriented cooperation of Research Infrastructures” in January 2018, based on the results of the INNO WGInnovation-oriented cooperation of Research Infrastructures, ESFRI Scripta Vol.3, January 2018 http://www.esfri.eu/sites/default/files/u4/ESFRI_SCRIPTA_VOL3_INNO_single_page.pdf.
ESFRI has resumed the publication of periodic reports with the Annual Report 2016ESFRI Annual Report 2016 http://www.esfri.eu/sites/default/files/docs/ESFRI%20Annual%20report%2016_web.pdf and it will publish a Biannual Report for the years 2017-2018.
All reports are available electronically through www.esfri.eu.