The sixth ESFRI Roadmap (2021) – Strategy Report on Research Infrastructures – was publicly presented on 7th December 2021, in the framework of the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU events, in a virtual celebratory broadcast from Ljubljana.
In a widely attended online event, full of new information and insights, the research infrastructure ecosystem in Europe had a unique opportunity to celebrate the 2021 Update of the ESFRI Roadmap. Among the invited participants were high-level EU officials, ESFRI delegates, representatives of research infrastructure projects and policy bodies, national and regional authorities, as well as media.
The ESFRI Roadmap 2021 is the sixth edition of the document, which has been influencing the European and national research infrastructure strategies, policies, and funding since 2006. ESFRI periodically updates its Roadmap to provide a coherent and strategic vision ensuring that Europe has excellent research infrastructures in all fields of science and innovation. The key messages of the 2021 edition of the Roadmap, prepared during the COVID-19 pandemic, clearly underline the importance of world-class research infrastructures in enabling cutting-edge research to address the pressing requests and challenges of our society. This Roadmap, with the highest total cost of pledged investments since the first edition in 2006, also demonstrates the persisting willingness of national governments to invest substantially in improving research infrastructure capacities in Europe, as an important element of long-term scientific sovereignty and crisis preparedness. “The ESFRI Roadmap 2021 paves the way for a fully developed European research infrastructures ecosystem,” says Anna Panagopoulou, Director of European Research Area and Innovation, Directorate General for Research and Innovation, European Commission.
The ESFRI Roadmap 2021 includes 41 European research infrastructures, which have already been implemented and 22 projects that are in their preparatory phase. The total investment in these, often globally unique, facilities will exceed EUR 25 billion. Jan Hrušák, ESFRI Chair, highlighted: ”The Roadmap introduced the concept of readiness implementation based on the need to deliver science and services to communities, to have research infrastructures operational. This was projected to the evaluation procedure. Furthermore, the 10 years’ rule was introduced. Research infrastructures have to be implemented, start to deliver services.” The needs of relevant strategic positioning of research infrastructures in the European Research Area are better understood.
Research infrastructures on the ESFRI Roadmap contribute to key EU policy priorities, such as the Green Deal, Twin Transition and Health Union. They facilitate the development of science-based solutions to key societal challenges, as illustrated with the COVID-19 platform. The services they offer could play an important role in implementing the EU Missions and achieving Sustainable Development Goals. The ESFRI Roadmap 2021 is a vivid demonstration of the high merit and potential of European collaboration in developing visions and sustainable perspectives for an interoperable research infrastructure ecosystem as a key asset of Europe.
Research infrastructures are an essential pillar of the research and innovation area. They are important not only for delivering services for excellent science, but also for the services driven and impact-oriented approach. Research infrastructures are maintaining excellent science criteria important for the European innovation domain, as it is captured in the Strategic Report, Landscape Analysis of the Roadmap, as well as future-oriented policy messages of ESFRI. The strategic oriented Landscape Analysis allows us to understand the interconnectivity of the research infrastructures and linkages of this interconnected research ecosystem, to identify gaps, to provide strategic advice to national and European authorities and to provide advice on future investment into research infrastructures.
The ESFRI Roadmap 2021 is published, nevertheless, the mission of ESFRI continues with challenges to be elaborated, such as the position of research infrastructures in the renewed European Research Area, stakeholder engagement and communication, monitoring of operational research infrastructures, broadening innovation ecosystems of research infrastructures and connection of research infrastructures to the European Open Science Cloud. It should be emphasized that ESFRI Roadmap is more than just a list of projects, the Strategy Report and the Landscape Analysis are of equal strategic importance. “I am convinced that, building on almost 20 years of experience, with strengthened capacity and increased effectiveness, ESFRI can lead the way towards a future where science-based solutions born in an interconnected collaborative research environment surmount not only COVID-19, but also all the other challenges ahead of us”, concluded Jan Hrušák. After introducing the basic aspects of the ESFRI Roadmap, Jan Hrušák officially handed the document to Minister Simona Kustec, Ministry of Education, Science and Sport, representing the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of EU.
During the high-level policy panel moderated by Jana Kolar, the Minister together with Jean-Eric Paquet, Director-General for Research and Innovation at the European Commission; Pavel Doleček, Deputy Minister for Higher Education, Science and Research at the Czech Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports; and Marco Giungi, Diplomatic Advisor of the Italian Minister of Education, University and Research, discussed how research infrastructures can further contribute to an evolving research and innovation environment, to sustainable European economic growth and to address the key global challenges. All panelists agreed that implementing the ESFRI Roadmap via adequate funding, synergies, inclusiveness and increased visibility and impact is now the major task for the European Commission, the Member States and the scientific community.
“The agenda of research infrastructures is of great importance having strategic potential”, emphasized Pavel Doleček. This became the key priority of the Czech Presidency of the EU Council. ICRI, the worldwide important conference on research infrastructures, will be hosted by the Czech Republic in October 2022. Pavel Doleček expressed hope that the debate on a high political level would result in the endorsement of Council Conclusion on research infrastructures thanks to the fact that research infrastructures are seen as part of the critical infrastructure.
Apostolia Karamali, Head of the Unit for Research and Innovation, European Commission, stressed out the priority areas from the Pact for Research and Innovation in Europe (Council Recommendation on a Pact adopted on 26th November 2021), setting out the voluntary ERA Actions. These actions are identified to ensure the impact, credibility, and effectiveness of the new European Research Area. Especially Action 8 – Strengthen sustainability, accessibility, and resilience of research infrastructures in the European Research Area is relevant for research infrastructures.
The ESFRI Roadmap Launch Event also provided the opportunity for their coordinators to introduce the newly included research infrastructure projects. The subsequent panel discussion was devoted among other topics to the strategic issues on the European research infrastructure ecosystem.
During the closing session, Jan Hrušák, Jana Kolar and Apostolia Karamali pronounced the ESFRI Roadmap as a vivid demonstration of the high merit of potential for European collaboration and expressed their deepest appreciation for the effort and excellent input of more than 250 individuals from all over Europe (ESFRI Strategy Working Group members, ESFRI Forum delegates and European Commission agents). They also once again stressed the huge capacity of research infrastructures to react swiftly to challenges even under extreme conditions, the need to move their contribution to the next level, and the willingness to join forces with all stakeholders in delivering the new European Research Area.
Record of the entire event is accessible at the ESFRI YouTube Channel.
ESFRI Roadmap 2021 can be downloaded at the ESFRI websites.