What are the large research infrastructures?

According to Paragraph 2, Article 2, Letter (d) of the Act No 130/2002 Coll., on support of research, experimental development and innovation from public funds and amending certain related acts (Act on Support of Research, Experimental Development and Innovation), a large research infrastructure is legally defined as a “research infrastructure, which is a research facility necessary for comprehensive research and development with high financial and technological intensity, which is approved by the government and established for use by other research organisations.” When defining the term of the “research infrastructure”, the Act on Support of Research, Experimental Development and Innovation refers to the legal definition of research infrastructure introduced by the Framework for State Aid for Research, Development and Innovation (2014/C 198/01) and the Commission Regulation (EU) No 651/2014 of 17 June 2014 declaring certain categories of aid compatible with the internal market in application of Articles 107 and 108 of the Treaty.

„Research infrastructure means facilities, resources and related services that are used by the scientific community to conduct research in their respective fields and covers scientific equipment or sets of instruments, knowledge-based resources such as collections, archives or structured scientific information, enabling information and communication technology-based infrastructures such as grid, computing, software and communication, or any other entity of a unique nature essential to conduct research. Such infrastructures may be ‘single-sited’ or ‘distributed’ (an organised network of resources) in accordance with Article 2(a) of Council Regulation (EC) No 723/2009 of 25 June 2009 on the Community legal framework for a European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC).“

If we put aside the formal definition of a large research infrastructure specified by the Czech and EU legislations, what are actually the large research infrastructures? To learn more see the Q&A below.

What makes a large research infrastructure “large”?

A large research infrastructure is a unique research facility of high knowledge and technology intensity. These are experimental instruments in the sense of laboratory equipment; sources of knowledge such as archives and collections; and/or information and communication technologies necessary to realize demanding research, development and innovations. A large research infrastructure is a unique facility with both national impact and international overlap. A large research infrastructure is thus “large” due to its unique expertise. At the same time, it must fulfil the criteria of the “open access” to its capacities.

Who may use the large research infrastructures?

A large research infrastructure is a highly demanding facility, in terms of knowledge, technology and financial resources needed for its construction, operation and investments. It would be uneconomical if it was used exclusively by researchers of its host institution. The research organisation(s) running a large research infrastructure, therefore, makes it available to all its potential users on the principle of “open access”.

What does “open access” to a large research infrastructure mean?

Open access means that a large research infrastructure is made available to any scientist or research group, regardless of their affiliation to their parent institution. There is a large number of open access policies, depending on the nature of the large research infrastructure, but in general, every scientist has the opportunity to use any large research infrastructure.

How is it decided who may use the large research infrastructures?

Some large research infrastructures, such as the information databases, can be accessed continuously online by anyone from both the expert and laical public. For larger technology units, access procedures are more demanding and proposals for using the large research infrastructures are expertly assessed in terms of their relevance and quality. In the case of excess demand, when allocating the experimental capacity of a large research infrastructure, decisions are made on the basis of competitions, where the research projects with the highest potential for achieving excellent results win.

Who covers the financial costs of a large research infrastructure?

A large research infrastructure is available for users free of charge. However, it would be extremely disadvantageous for its host institution to operate a cost-demanding facility by using its own financial resources for external users. Therefore, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MEYS) finances the construction, operations and investments costs of large research infrastructures. Large research infrastructures are thus operated as a service to a wide user community.

Who decides that a research facility becomes a large research infrastructure?

The MEYS is responsible for the large research infrastructures policy-making and public funding of their construction, operations and investments costs. Individual projects of large research infrastructures are approved for public funding by the Government of the Czech Republic, based on the proposal of the MEYS. This shows that the large research infrastructures are highly-strategic state investments. No other individual research, development and innovation projects are approved at the level of the Czech Government.

Based on what documents are taken political decisions on financing large research infrastructures from public funds of the Czech Republic?

The MEYS performs in multi-year periods (2014, 2017, 2021) independent expert international peer-review assessments of large research infrastructures, both in terms of brand new project proposals and projects already funded. The outputs of the evaluation serve as independent expert basis for the adoption of informed and evidence-based political decisions of the Government of the Czech Republic on the support of large research infrastructures from public funds.

What budgetary resources are used for the large research infrastructures funding?

The MEYS is the provider of public funding for large research infrastructures. While the state budget expenditures of the Czech Republic on research, development and innovation (targeted support) serve to cover the operations costs of large research infrastructures, their investments costs are financed by the European Structural and Investment Funds – the Operational Programme Research, Development and Education (OP VVV).

How expensive are the large research infrastructures?

The total amount of targeted support of the MEYS for large research infrastructures in the years 2020-2022 will be CZK 1,890,000,000 per year. These funds will cover the operations costs of large research infrastructures. In addition to this, CZK 3,000,000,000 is allocated within the Operational Programme Research, Development and Education (OP VVV) for financing the investments costs of large research infrastructures in the years 2020-2022.

Is there a good practice example of a large research infrastructure?

The principles of operating a large research infrastructure under the open access regime are described in the “European Charter for Access to Research Infrastructures”. Research infrastructures included in the Roadmap of European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI Roadmap) can be considered good practice examples of European research infrastructures. Facilities approved for public funding in the Czech Republic are included in the Roadmap of Large Research Infrastructures of the Czech Republic.

Need more information?

More detailed information on the strategy of supporting large research infrastructures, Roadmap of Large Research Infrastructures of the Czech Republic, involvement of large research infrastructures in the European Research Area or possibilities of their support from EU Framework Programmes for Research, Development and Innovation can be found in the individual sections of the websites of large research infrastructures. If you consider it necessary to consult large research infrastructures related agenda in person, you can contact the representatives of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports – Research and Development Department – Unit of Research Infrastructures.

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