EU states urged to develop research infrastructures

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Science stakeholders have asked member states to develop national plans for large-scale research infrastructures so that the implementation of a European road map, adopted in 2006, can begin.

A European Conference on Research Infrastructures (ECRI2007), which took place in on 5-6 June, urged policymakers to take the necessary steps to implement of the European research infrastructure road map adopted in October 2006. 

So far, only one of the 35 projects identified, the European X-Ray Laser project, XFEL, has gathered the necessary funding commitments. The construction of this €1 billion infrastructure is set to begin in early 2008.

“A prerequisite for the implementation of the ESFRI road map is the development of national road maps for research infrastructures, which should be integrated in the European and the global road maps,” state the conference conclusions, which also call for greater collaboration with global partners on infrastructure development. 

German Federal Research Minister Annette Schavan highlighted the need to establish joint decision-making processes and viable funding strategies for implementation of the ESFRI road map.

John Wood, chairman of ESFRI urged "making the most of all sources of funding" as the EU budget (FP7 and cohesion policy programmes) is not big enough to provide core financing for the construction of new pan-European infrastructures. "The mobilisation of national, private and other sources of funding is essential. Attracting investment from industry is particularly important, given its current low level of involvement, even for infrastructures of direct interest." 

He also said that setting up new forms of pan-European research infrastructures is difficult as there is currently no legal structure allowing the creation of appropriate partnerships. 

"Many of the infrastructures envisaged are of a distributed nature, composed of various elements integrated via e-infrastructures," said Wood, highlighting the importance of further developing e-infrastructures in Europe and the world.

The European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) published, in October 2006, its first road map for new European research infrastructures. It identified 35 large-scale infrastructure projects, which a sufficient number of member states were ready to support (see EURACTIV 19 October 2006).

The 35 projects for infrastructures range from icebreaker vessels for marine research to next-generation radio telescopes and European social surveys, monitoring long-term changes in social values throughout Europe. 

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