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STR- ESFRI Report Summary

Project ID: 654213
Funded under: H2020-EU.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - STR- ESFRI (Support to Reinforce the European Strategy Forum for Research Infrastructures)

Reporting period: 2015-03-01 to 2016-08-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The goal of the StR-ESFRI project is to reinforce the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) under the guidance of its Chair, providing additional resources, tools and expertise in performing its activities and supporting its structures. StR-ESFRI strengthens the current ESFRI secretariat that is provided by the European Commission with additional resources and tools.

The project provides high-quality support to critical ESFRI activities concerning the development of the new ESFRI roadmap(s) and the related organisation of the international peer-review of science and implementation aspects of ESFRI infrastructures, both for the selection of new projects and for the assessment of currently running projects. StR-ESFRI builds on the experience of the CoPoRI project, further facilitating and monitoring the exchange of experiences through appropriate workshops and reports and realises an effective communication and dissemination activity through web-instruments and publications.

Overall StR-ESFRI objectives include the following:
•Support the ESFRI Chair in all ESFRI-related activities, and ensure that he/she has the necessary information and preparation for of all ESFRI business (Sub-objective 1 - WP1)
•Support the new ESFRI Roadmap process, organising its smooth execution and accomplishment (Sub-objective 2 - WP2)
•Disseminate and exploit ESFRI-related outputs to the European and global Research Infrastructures area and liaise with key stakeholders (policy makers, funding bodies or advisory groups), including the e-Infrastructure Reflection Group (e-IRG) and the Research Data Alliance (RDA) (Sub-objective 3 - WP3)
•Identify best practices and facilitate/monitor the exchange of experiences among ESFRI projects, through appropriate means such as expert groups and workshops (Sub-objective 4 - WP4)

The above objectives are in line with ESFRI's new mandate which adequately addresses the existing challenges in the field of Research Infrastructures, towards a reinforced European Research Area partnership for excellence and growth. The new mandate calls for a reinforced ESFRI, strengthened with all the appropriate resources, tools and expertise to cope with the existing and upcoming challenges and to meet some of the commitments of the ERA Communication and the Innovation Union initiative.

The project impact stems from the fact that enhanced support to ESFRI will increase the probability to reach and exceed its challenging goals and in particular of its projects covering a wide spectrum of society and its challenges.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The ESFRI Forum consists of representatives of EU Member and Associate States and the European Commission and meets on average 4 times per annum under the respective Chair. There is also an 8-member ESFRI Executive Board and an ESFRI Secretariat supporting all the activities of ESFRI. The goal of StR-ESFRI is to reinforce the support to ESFRI and in particular its Chair in all the related activities and meetings. Enhanced support to ESFRI and its Chair increases the likelihood for ESFRI to reach and exceed its challenging goals.

The main achievements during the first reporting period, i.e. from the project start in March 2015 until the end of August 2016, can be summarised for each of the project Work Packages as follows:
1. WP1 - Support to ESFRI Chair and Overall Project Coordination & Management (STFC)
a. Provided support to the ESFRI Chair in all ESFRI-related activities. The project and its team supported and prepared the Chair for 6 ESFRI Forum meetings and 8 ESFRI Forum Executive Board meetings. It also organised 7 StR-ESFRI PMB meetings, 3 physical and 4 by video conference (the latter for cost and time efficiency). The ESFRI Chair was present in 3 of the latter meetings. Preparation for other events was necessary such as the Roadmap hearings, the Roadmap launch event, the joint meeting with e-IRG and other internal or external meetings.
The STFC team also prepared and executed the plan for support to the Chair, as well as the plan for the handover to the new Chair, Giorgio Rossi, who was elected in October 2015. As the institute of the new Chair is a StR-ESFRI project partner, the transition to new Chair was easier and was achieved smoothly.
b. Provided the overall project coordination and financial administration
The STFC team ran the project coordination with the Assistant to the Chair (up to June 2016) acting as Project Coordinator and linking with STFC headquarters, while a consultant acted as the Project Manager taking care of the daily matters of the project, including the project planning and roles document, supervision of project tasks, collection of financial information every semester, preparing agendas and minutes for all StR-ESFRI PMB meetings, archiving of all StR-ESFRI documents, and keeping the Chair connected.
c. Took care of the administrative support for the experts who performed the ESFRI 2016 Roadmap projects evaluation and hearings. This included drafting and legally checking the contracts in cooperation with the ESFRI IG Chair and then executing the contracts and their payments with all the experts who performed the evaluation of the Roadmap proposals. Although this was a tedious work, it required a lot of time and effort interacting with around 25 persons.
d. Supervised the progress of all work packages and tasks.
Despite the special character of the project and the inherent difficulty that each partner is only involved in 1 work package (by design of the project), the STFC coordinating team strived to supervise all work packages and tasks. Overall, and with the support of the EC ESFRI secretariat, all Work Packages delivered good results in the first reporting period.
e. Organised the internal communication of the project and communication with the European Commission.
This activity was also quite challenging, as there have been multiple high-level people in the project (such as the ESFRI Chair, vice-Chair and EC officers), and in some cases access to information was not always straightforward across all project partners. The bootstrapping process was thus longer than the normal EC projects, but in the end a good communication overall has been achieved.

• D1.1 - Plan for support to the ESFRI Chair: January 2016
• D1.2 - Handbook for Handover to next ESFRI Chair: September 2016
• MS1 - Successful change of ESFRI Forum Chair: Election October 2015, Transition: July 2016

2. WP2 - ESFRI Roadmap Process Support (UMIL)
a. Provided support for the ESFRI Roadmap process, reporting back to the ESFRI Chair and Executive Board. It assisted all the Strategy Working Groups and the Implementation Group in their evaluations and reviews.
b. Organised related meetings in cooperation with the EC secretariat and STFC, such as dedicated EB meetings and the Roadmap 2016 hearings.
c. UMIL acted also as the main editor of the demanding ESFRI Roadmap 2016, not only the actual text but also the graphics and publication in the website (mini-site and a digital browse-able document format), in cooperation with the ATHENA RC team and external graphics experts.

• D2.1 - Peer Review Process for new ESFRI projects: August 2016
• D2.2 – ESFRI Roadmap publication 2016: March 2016 (Roadmap) August 2016 (Deliverable)
• MS3 - Print-ready ESFRI 2016 Roadmap document – March 2016
• MS4 - ESFRI Roadmap 2016 presentation event – March 2016

3. WP3 - Dissemination and liaison with key stakeholders (ATHENA RC)
a. Prepared a complete and comprehensive communication plan, outlining the communication strategy to strengthen ESFRI’s outreach and the visibility of its output work, along with the tools and media to be used.
b. Provided the necessary communication and dissemination actions around ESFRI and the ESFRI projects, including identity/branding, website and related tools and facilities (such as registration and storage libraries), social media outlets, news feeds, etc.
c. In parallel, STFC, coordinated the liaison with a targeted list of stakeholders, starting with e-IRG and planning also for RDA.
d. The ATHENA and STFC teams also provided support in the organisation of workshops and events, including the Roadmap launch event on the 10th of March 2016, including preparatory meetings, the first EoE workshop on the 9th of March, the joint meeting with e-IRG on the 11th of March (including a preparatory meeting) and finally the exhibitions stand for the International Conference on Research Infrastructures (ICRI 2016).

• D3.1 – Dissemination Plan: August 2016
• D3.2 – Stakeholders Liaison Plan: September 2016
• D3.3 – First dissemination and exploitation report and impact analysis: October 2016
• MS6 – Draft website established: June 2015
• MS7 – Full website and social media accounts established: October 2015
• MS8 – WP3 Workshop 1: March 201

4. WP4 - Exchange of Experiences and best practises and Monitoring (DLR)
a. Worked towards the provision of a platform for the identification of best practices and exchange of experiences between ESFRI RI projects, both for established ones and newcomers, and in particular for the benefit of the latter. The first EoE workshop on ESFRI Projects Preparatory Phases was organised successfully in Amsterdam on 9 March 2016, in the framework of the Roadmap 2016 launch event. An extensive report was drafted, including feedback from the participants which was overall very successful.
b. In parallel, a prototype monitoring system, called ESFRI-MOS, has been developed, capable of viewing, editing, adding, querying information on ESFRI projects and landmarks. This activity started with collecting requirements for the system and despite the faced challenges in agreeing on the information to be published and working towards its implementation, the activity delivered the prototype during the reporting period.
• MS11 – EoE Workshop concept: November 2015
• MS12 - Structure of webpage of Monitoring System: November 2015
• MS13 – Monitoring system up and running: July 2016

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The STR-ESFRI Project has contributed to all the impact areas of the RI work programme, having a direct relation with the objectives of the project:
Impact on “Support of ESFRI” and on roadmapping activities:
First of all, “Support to ESFRI” is directly included in Work Programme aiming to enhance the impact of ESFRI. In the years before StR-ESFRI, ESFRI concentrated most of its efforts on supporting the implementation and prioritisation of projects on the latest roadmap, while during the first 18 months of StR-ESFRI and ESFRI worked towards the publication of the next Roadmaps in 2016 (achieved in March 2016) and 2018 (currently planned). This included the adoption of the developed methods and tools to follow-up the new set of projects. Enhanced support to ESFRI has increased the probability to reach its challenging goals, as clearly showcased during the ESFRI 2016 launch event. Support also expanded to the ESFRI projects via the EoE workshop on the preparatory phases. As experienced by ESFRI the support action to RIs is much needed also in the early implementation phase. Officially launched RIs may still face fragile financial and human resource conditions concerning ramping up to full operation and medium-long term exploitation. Thus, the EoE workshops, and in particular the first one, already contributed towards achieving this impact.
Impact to exchange of experiences Following on the previous point, there are two more impact areas directly related to the exchange of experiences work (project sub-objective 4), namely the one referring to the facilitation of “exchange of experiences and good practices between the national and/or regional policies and programmes” and the one about “the pooling of resources between infrastructure operators at European level in order to face the grand challenges and to foster a culture of co-operation between them, and in particular “spreading good practices and encouraging infrastructures to develop in complementary ways”. StR-ESFRI, via the organisation of the first EoE workshop in March 2016, contributed to both of these points.
Impact on enhancing partnerships:
The goal of enhancing “partnerships between policy makers and funding bodies” is related to the liaison with key stakeholders (that is part of sub-objective 3), while “the development of appropriate decision making tools and control of their correct application” is related to the roadmapping activities (sub-objective 2). “The contribution towards the emergence of sustainable approaches in the field of e-infrastructures, for the provision of cross-disciplinary research services”, is related with liaison objective (sub-objective 3) and in particular with the links to e-IRG, as this refers to e-Infrastructures. A concrete step in this direction was the involvement of e-IRG in the Roadmap 2016 process on e-Needs (preparation and evaluation) and the joint ESFRI-e-IRG meeting in March 2016. In addition, there is on-going work between ESFRI and e-IRG on the provision of horizontal e-Infrastructure services to the vertical strategic areas of ESFRI, in particular in the area of data management and services and further coordination with RDA is planned. This impact point is also related to the work on the new roadmap (sub-objective 2), as the e-Infrastructure aspects will be also included as a requirement. In the framework of such interactions between RI and e-RI stakeholders, sustainable approaches may come out. Finally, the strengthening of “the development of a consistent and dynamic European Research Area policy for research infrastructures” is connected to the overall approach of the STR- ESFRI project and with all of its objectives, including the overall support to ESFRI (sub-objective 1) – as strengthening ESFRI will bring better and more coherent results in its policies, the roadmap (sub-objective 2) – that is directly related with the RI policies, the exchange of experiences and best practices of RIs (sub-objective 4) – will result in developing or shaping coherent and dynamic policies- and finally the liaison part (sub-objective 3) as interactions with other key players are required to achieve such consistent RI policies in the European Research Area.

All the above links of the work programme impact points with the objectives of the project are summarised in the following status bullets:

- Strengthen the development of a consistent and dynamic European Research Area policy for research infrastructures: Related to the project overall and all the sub-objectives.
- Facilitate the exchange of experiences and good practices between the national and/or regional policies and programmes: Direct relation with the exchange of experiences and good practices work (sub-objective 4)
- Enhance partnerships between policy makers and funding bodies and promote the development of appropriate monitoring tools for decision making: The partnerships are in direct relation with the liaison activities with key stakeholders (sub-objective 3), while the monitoring tools for decision making are more related with the roadmapping activities (sub-objective 2)
- Support to ESFRI to help ensure the ongoing effective implementation of those RIs that have reached implementation by 2015 as part of the Union flagship initiative on the implementation of 60% of the ESFRI projects by 2015: Direct relation with the project overall, the support to the ESFRI Chair (sub-objective 1) and the roadmapping activities (sub-objective 2).
- Contribute to the emergence of sustainable approaches, in the field of e-infrastructures, for the provision of cross-disciplinary research services: Relation with the liaison activities, and in particular with e-IRG (sub-objective 3) and also with the roadmapping activities (sub-objective 2)
- Encourage the pooling of resources between infrastructure operators at European level in order to face the grand challenges and to foster a culture of co-operation between them, spreading good practices and encouraging infrastructures to develop in complementary ways: Direct relation with the exchange of experiences and good practices work (sub-objective 4)

It has to be noted that the expected impact is not always easily measurable, especially points such as strengthening the development of consistent and dynamic RI policy, and the contribution to the emergence of sustainable approaches.

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