On 15th May 2020, a virtual international conference on the research infrastructures, titled „European Research Infrastructures for a Smarter Future“, was held under the auspices of Croatian Presidency of the EU Council. The conference aimed to debate the role and mission of research infrastructures in the post-2020 European Research Area (ERA), and was participated by stakeholders coming from the area of research infrastructure policy-making and representatives of research infrastructures from all over Europe. Mr Václav Velčovský, Deputy Minister for the EU and European Structural and Investment Funds at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MEYS), and Mr Jan Hrušák, Chair of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) and Special Envoy for Research Infrastructures at the MEYS, took part in the conference programme on behalf of the Czech Republic.
ESFRI White Paper
Research infrastructures for a smarter future
In 2020, the EU commemorates the 20th anniversary of ERA implementation. Therefore, EU Member States – in cooperation with the European Commission – overview achievements in the ERA reached so far, evaluate the ERA current state-of-play in terms of the ERA’s strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities, and debate the ERA future development in the course of the next multiannual financial framework 2021+. Research infrastructures are one of the key ERA priority areas, embedded e.g. into the ERA Roadmap 2015-2020. Therefore, the conference focused on debating the mission of research infrastructures in the ERA, their importance for strengthening the scientific excellence in Europe, and their contribution to address grand socioeconomic challenges the European and worldwide societies are facing. The ESFRI included all the major priorities, which shall be addressed by European research infrastructure stakeholders in post-2020, in the „ESFRI White Paper 2020: Making Science Happen – A New Ambition for Research Infrastructures in the European Research Area“. The ESFRI White Paper was presented during the conference by Jan Hrušák, Chair of ESFRI.
“Besides fulfilling their primary scientific goals, research infrastructures play a substantial role also in achieving Europe’s wider policy objectives, such as the European Green Deal or digital transformation of European industries. Therefore, interface between the research infrastructure stakeholders on one hand and stakeholders representing non-R&D sectorial policies on the other one – be it those of energy, environment, agriculture or health – is crucial for capitalising full potential of research infrastructures. Research infrastructures shall not be viewed as stand-alone installations, but environments for pooling top-class scientific knowledge and state-of-the-art technologies with businesses.”, stated Jan Hrušák.
Jan Hrušák, Chair of ESFRI and Special Envoy for Research Infrastructures at the MEYS
Research infrastructures as a catalyst for fulfilling key European policies
Following the opening interventions, individual conference programme sections focused on debating synergies between research infrastructure and other EU sectorial policies, as well as discussion on how research infrastructures contribute to address the SARS-CoV-2 / Covid-19 pandemic. The conference conclusions were summarised by the final policy panel, participated by the leading European research infrastructure policy-makers, including Václav Velčovský, Deputy Minister for the EU and European Structural and Investment Funds at the MEYS.
“Research infrastructures have also a great potential to increase the cohesion within Europe. Their well-balanced distribution within the ERA will also lead to a well-balanced distribution of excellent research and innovation hubs in Europe, resulting in closing the research and innovation gap between European countries. Research infrastructures are often drivers of socioeconomic development of entire regions and macro-regions in terms of creation of new high-skilled job opportunities, attracting the investments and business opportunities, not to mention the development of public services in the areas of transport, healthcare or education. Overall, we shall view research infrastructures as knowledge and innovation hubs, which help spread the knowledge society and knowledge economy, and boost the socioeconomic development of their locations and neighbouring regions.”, said Václav Velčovský in his contribution.
Václav Velčovský, Deputy Minister for the EU and European Structural and Investment Funds at the MEYS
The Croatian EU Council Presidency conference was the most important event organised on research infrastructures in Europe during the 1st half of 2020. The conference conclusions will feed as an input into the new ERA narrative for the post-2020 period.