The Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research (FAIR) is a planned particle accelerator complex. It will be an integrated system providing high-energy and high-intensity beams of ions of all stable and unstable elements with unprecedented quality. In addition to facilitating cutting-edge research in several fields of physics, applications such as radiological risk assessment for manned space missions and novel energy-production strategies will also be on the research agenda. As the largest research infrastructure on the 2008 European Strategy Forum for Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) Roadmap to move into implementation phase, it is truly a pioneering endeavour. The EU-funded project 'Facility for antiproton and ion research' (FAIR) covered the preparatory phase of FAIR construction. No technical work was included in the work packages. It focused on strategic, legal and financial matters, and governance and management as well as coordination of research and accelerator construction. The project was a joint effort of 11 ministries/funding agencies and 14 research institutions. EU funding enabled the consortium to quickly form the international project team whose work led to incorporation of FAIR GmbH as well as the signing of the FAIR Final Act and FAIR Convention, the intergovernmental agreement. Important activities within the start-up phase of FAIR GmbH included development of contract management for the corporation as well as a business management contract with the host lab GSI (Helmholtzzentrum Fuer Schwerionenforschung GmbH). Financial management and project management protocols were also developed, as was a system for coordinating research and accelerator experiments. With important EU financial support, FAIR established the organisational, managerial, strategic and governance foundations necessary for implementation of the FAIR particle accelerator research complex. Coordinated access to the state-of-the-art facilities will no doubt have significant impact on understanding of particle physics and on relevant applications.