Jan Hrušák handed the ESFRI Presidency over to Jana Kolar

The 78th European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) Plenary Meeting was held virtually on 6th December 2021. For the last time, it was chaired by Jan Hrušák, closing his three years’ ESFRI Chair mission (2019–2021).

Launching of the Horizon Europe Missions

Apostolia Karamali, Head of Unit for Research and Innovation Actors and Research Careers at the European Commission, gave a presentation on the EU Missions, a new way to bring concrete solutions to some of our greatest challenges, having ambitious goals to deliver concrete results by 2030. They will deliver impact by putting research and innovation into a new role, combined with new forms of governance and collaboration, as well as by engaging citizens. The EU Missions are a novelty of the Horizon Europe Research and Innovation Framework Programme for the years 2021–2027, targeting on cancer, adaptation to climate change, climate-neutral and smart cities, ocean restoration and soil deal for Europe. The European Commission launched the EU Missions on 29th September 2021. The announcement of a comprehensive approach that brings the impact of a new role for research and innovation has encouraged the debate. Apostolia Karamali stated that “the research infrastructures can play an important role in implementing the EU Missions by exploring services for supporting their objectives. Individual research infrastructures and their umbrella organisations should connect to the specific communities that are currently gathering around the EU Missions”.

Pact for Research and Innovation in Europe

Anna Panagopoulou, Director for European Research Area and Innovation at the European Commission, brought attention to the latest development in the context of the European Research Area. The Council of the EU Research Ministers adopted Recommendation on a Pact for Research and Innovation in Europe and the Conclusions on the Future Governance of the ERA. The Pact defines common values and principles for research and innovation in Europe, such as freedom of scientific research in free circulation of researchers and knowledge. It outlines 16 shared priority areas for joint action, ranging from fostering open science for faster sharing of knowledge and data, to reinforcing the scientific leadership and excellence of the EU, with the involvement of all European regions and citizens. “Most of the ERA Actions of the ERA Policy Agenda are relevant for the research infrastructures, especially the Action 8 Strengthen sustainability, accessibility and resilience of research infrastructures in the European Research Area,” highlighted Anna Panagopoulou.

At the same time, the Council Conclusions include the first ERA Policy Agenda, setting out 20 voluntary ERA Actions for the next three years. Among these ERA Actions are support of the international market for knowledge, increasing society’s participation in the European Research Area, improvement of the access to research and innovation excellence, and advancing research, innovation, and reforms. Anna Panagopoulou concluded that “the Pact and the Conclusions set out a new vision and priorities, confirmed by the EU’s and Member States’ commitment to the European Research Area and set up a new structure for its management”.

Assessment on the implementation of the ERIC Regulation

So far, 23 European Research Infrastructure Consortia (ERIC) established have been producing excellent science, well connected to innovation and strengthening the European Research Area and training. Nineteen ERICs are distributed covering all fields of science connecting hundreds of research institutions and universities open to external users. Recommendations of the report target on (1) enhancing the scientific capability of the European Research Area; (2) overcoming fragmentation, improving coordination, and reinforcing governance and sustainability; (3) improving links with society, economy, and competitiveness; and (4) strengthening the global approach. The key players are playing an important role, ESFRI the strategic role, the ERIC Committee the management role and the European Commission the catalytic role. Bottom-up discussion on data collection and making legal forms to be more effective and understandable for the Member States is essential.

France outlines plans for the EU Council Presidency in 2022

France will hold the Council of the EU Presidency from 1st January to 30th June 2022, following the Portuguese and then Slovenian Presidencies in 2021. The French Ministry for Higher Education, Research and Innovation define three priority axes: (1) implementation of the knowledge square to strengthen the synergy of four components (higher education, research, innovation and services to society); (2) young Europe serving the future generations to build up the feeling of European identity by supporting the development of the alliances of European universities until 2030; and (3) global Europe to structure the international dimension of the European policy in the European Research Area. France will host the 79th ESFRI Forum Plenary on 23rd–24th March 2022 and the Conference of 20 years’ celebration of ESFRI on 25th March 2022.

New ESFRI Executive Board Members and Strategy Working Group Chairs appointed 

Following the call for candidates for the new mandate of the ESFRI Executive Board and Strategy Working Group Chairs, issued on 10th September 2021, all nominations were analysed, in line with the terms of reference of the call. The applications received for the ESFRI Executive Board allow the same number of Members that proved to be effective and efficient. A new ESFRI Executive Board for the term 2022–2023 composed of the new ESFRI Chair, the European Commission representative and other 8 Members was appointed. Furthermore, seven ESFRI Strategy Working Group Chairs were appointed. The set of new ESFRI Executive Board and Strategy Working Group Chairs reached a good gender balance and adequate European coverage. Jan Kolar, a new ESFRI Chair elected for the period of 2022–2023, warmly welcomed new Members of the ESFRI Executive Board and Strategy Working Group Chairs as well as the two ESFRI Vice-Chairs appointed. Jan Hrušák expressed that “the composition of these bodies will successfully contribute to the ESFRI mission”.

3rd ESFRI-EOSC Exchange of Experiences Workshop

The Exchange of Experiences Workshop on Research Infrastructures and the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) will be held on 25th–26th January 2022 as a hybrid event, if circumstances allow, at the premises of France. As the follow-up workshop of the 2nd ESFRI-EOSC Workshop ”Research Infrastructures shaping EOSC”, it focuses on the connection of research infrastructures to EOSC, both ESFRI and other world-class research infrastructures. The workshop is organised thanks to the ESFRI Task Force on EOSC and the StR-ESFRI 2 Project. Jan Hrušák appreciated the work of the ESFRI Task Force. “This informal group had been contributing to the policy discussion with valuable inputs for the ESFRI Roadmap process and strategic papers such as the ESFRI White Paper”.

ESFRI Chair handovers the Chairmanship 

Research infrastructures are an essential component not only for ESFRI but especially for Jan Hrušák’s long-term works. His ambition is that the research infrastructures are understood not only as the carnal element to interconnect science, training and business contributing to the solution of the society’s challenges but also as a strategic investment. Jan Hrušák has been advocating the research infrastructure role in sectoral policies, in the regional development and contribution to European cohesion. “Research infrastructures are a part of the critical infrastructures of economies. Research infrastructures are key players to restore a sustainable environment and healthy development of global social welfare”. During the three years’ mandate, Jan Hrušák put a lot of effort into the implementation of the joint vision formulated by ESFRI summarized in the ESFRI White Paper. “This strategic document is also a key pillar of the European Research Area. The listed challenges serve not only for internal ESFRI discussions but also for the European Research Area policy discussions. These topics will frame our future and clearly declare the ambitions and position of research infrastructures in European excellence science”. Finally, Jan Hrušák thanked for the cooperation and support of the Vice-Chairs, delegates, and experts, ESFRI Strategy Working Group Chairs, Chairs of the informal ESFRI Working Groups, the European Commission, the StR-ESFRI 2 Project staff, and the Czech local support team. The Chairmanship, the work done and the deep knowledge of Jan Hrušák was appreciated by the entire ESFRI Forum Plenary as well as by the new coming ESFRI Chair Jana Kolar. “The ESFRI Roadmap 2021 released is the most comprehensive document on research infrastructures. Thanks to the Stakeholder Forum ESFRI became more open to society”. Anna Panagopoulou also thanked the current ESFRI Chair Jan Hrušák for his work done for ESFRI and established excellent collaboration with the European Commission over the last three years and hopes this will continue in the next ESFRI period of the new Chair.