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Competitive and Sustainable Growth
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COUNCIL DECISION of 25 January 1999 adopting a specific programme for research, technological development and demonstration on competitive and sustainable growth (1998 to 2002) (1999/169/EC)

(c) SUPPORT FOR RESEARCH INFRASTRUCTURES

Industrial research in Europe is widely recognised for its excellence, with well-established strongholds at national level. To bring competitive advantages, scientific and technological RTD results must, however, be converted into successful applications. Apart from the development of exploitation-oriented projects, there is a real need to share facilities effectively and to exchange data and experience more efficiently, for example for testing new machines, vehicles, or processes. In addition, research constantly generates new data and in increasing quantities. Collecting and organising such data at European level will benefit industry and the whole user community. Not only will research efficiency be improved by reducing duplication but, more importantly, focusing the whole fabric of research infrastructure in Europe on common goals will enable a strategic approach to be put in place.

Objective and activities

Action is needed to encourage the optimum utilisation of existing research infrastructures and large installations of high scientific and technological standard and in very close relation to the key actions. Pooling of resources and transnational access for example for research manufacturing centres, transport test facilities, high-power wind tunnels, industrial design computing centres, or materials and structures test facilities, are needed to better exploit new techniques based on fixed major equipment and associated instrumentation. The existing facilities must be encouraged to cooperate for the mutual benefit of their operators and the European RTD and user communities in order to avoid duplication of work, increase complementarity and ensure interoperability of data exchanges. As the stages of development of the various national institutions vary across the Community, there is also a need to reinforce collaboration, in areas such as conformity assessments, training activities and transfer of know-how. In summary, support is aimed at improving the information about the existing possibilities and improving transnational access to research infrastructures for the benefit of:

(i) the optimum utilisation of geographically dispersed medium- and large-scale research facilities,

(ii) the rapid transfer of existing and complementary RTD results to industrial applications,

(iii) and the improvement and interoperability of common protocols and data exchanges.

- The support activities for research infrastructures are aimed at improving the information flow towards European researchers and at facilitating transnational access to facilities to which researchers would not normally have access. This will also encourage and facilitate transnational cooperation in the rational and cost-effective development of research infrastructures in response to emergency needs.

Support activities will stimulate access to facilities related to the various key actions, in particular to computing centres and large scale experimental facilities for industrial research, transport test facilities and high-power wind tunnels,

- The setting up of virtual institutes will promote the coordination and the pooling of resources between research centres, organisations and users (including SMEs) to achieve synergy and reap wider benefits around the objectives of the key actions and generic technologies. This activity will facilitate the creation of virtual facilities generating sufficient critical mass for research into higher performance techniques, instrumentation and technologies. Community support will be limited in time.

Support activities would be meant as an incentive to speed up cooperation and the use of information and communications technologies for geographically dispersed facilities leading to improved transfer and exploitation of results, in particular for SMEs, in the field of materials, production technologies, and measurement and testing,

- Support for European metrological infrastructure will reinforce cohesion between Member States and third countries. This will benefit mutual recognition and conformity agreements. Particular attention will be paid to the impact of these agreements on SMEs.

Community funding will be directed towards intercomparisons and inter-laboratory performance analyses, support for interoperable database structures, the production of certified reference materials; support for the improved use by SMEs and for the implementation of the abovementioned agreements and quality standards,

- Reference databases have been identified as one of the means of strengthening the European research fabric. Efforts will focus on ensuring that the data generated are of acceptable quality and comparability and on bringing together sectorial and local activities in support of European research. Such activities will preserve the property rights of individual organisations.

Support activities, in particular for materials and aeronautics research, will help to catalogue and compare RTD actions at national and international level and the output of different research facilities.

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