74th ESFRI Forum called for a discussion on a new vision for the European Research Area

The two-day meeting of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) took place virtually on 8th – 9th December 2020. The Forum, composed of national delegations, experts, representatives of the European Commission and associated countries, agreed that research infrastructures must play a key role in the future European Research Area (ERA).

The Federal Minister of Education and Research Anja Karliczek welcomed the participants of the ESFRI Forum as originally the ESFRI Forum was to take place in Berlin under the German Presidency of the EU Council. “The free exchange of knowledge and ideas, shared responsibility, strong attractiveness for researchers and young scientists is what make research infrastructures so important for ERA,” said Anja Karliczek in her speech.

Anja Karliczek

Research infrastructures support the competitiveness of science and research, but also of European industry, and make a significant contribution in addressing socio-economic challenges. They have an impact on the quality of life of European citizens,” added the ESFRI Chair Jan Hrušák from the J. Heyrovsky Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Czech Academy of Sciences.

Research infrastructures in the European context

Anna Panagopoulou, the Director of Common Support Centre at the Directorate General for Research and Innovation of the European Commission, presented specific steps to revitalize the European Research Area, as described in the Commission Communication from 30th September 2020. Anna Panagopoulou also highlighted the new policies and research infrastructure context needed to develop future actions for a stronger renewed ERA.

The Commission Communication defines research infrastructures and ESFRI as one of the greatest achievements of the last twenty years of ERA. “The work of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) resulted in the development of plans for 55 European research infrastructures, of which 37 have already been implemented, across all fields of science, mobilising close to EUR 20 billion in investments,” describes the Communication. Nevertheless, Europe is currently facing serious social, environmental and economic challenges that are deepened by the coronavirus crisis.

The ESFRI White Paper sets out critical actions

In response to the ongoing discussions on the renewed ERA, the ESFRI issued its strategy paper in spring 2020 titled ESFRI White Paper 2020 “Making Science Happen. The ESFRI White Paper represents a catalyst for policy-making and priority-setting, as it proposes a convincing new role of the research infrastructures as an ecosystem integral to the advancement of science, innovation, national/regional development and global cooperation preparing Europe for any possible crisis.

Based on the ESFRI White Paper, an action plan for the implementation of key messages and recommendations was created. We need to move from words to actions,” emphasized the ESFRI Chair Jan Hrušák.

Among others, ESFRI is preparing a Stakeholder Forum with the intention to help in the continuous discussions between ESFRI and the different European stakeholders about relevant topics at all levels of research and innovations. In autumn 2020, an informal working group was set up, exploring the experience of research infrastructures with the key performance indicators proposed in the Report of the ESFRI Working Group on monitoring research infrastructures (RIs) performance. Another task force is preparing a detailed analysis on how to ensure diversified and well-functioning support structure of the ESFRI.

Gelsomina Pappalardo, Member of the ESFRI Executive Board, updated the ESFRI Forum on the work on Landscape Analysis, an important part of the ESFRI Roadmap, which next update is to be launched during the Slovenian Presidency of the EU Council at the end of 2021.


Text: Vladka Coufalova, J. Heyrovsky Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Czech Academy of Sciences

Photo: StR-ESFRI Archive