Europe's multinational RIs are crucial for promoting science and technology, and for tackling global issues such as climate change, environmental sustainability, energy and health. The infrastructures combine physical facilities with virtual platforms, bringing together expertise from all over the continent and beyond. The EU-funded project 'Copenhagen international research infrastructure conference 2012' (ICRI2012) represented a world-class event that addressed the need for global RIs. It looked at how to increase the use of these facilities, enhance their excellence and foster more synergies among them. The conference, which took place in Denmark in 2012, focused on the experiences of RIs and outlined recommendations on how international cooperation can support new and existing ones in the future. Examples of existing collaboration include the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) and the Global Science Forum (GSF) of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). From the successes of these current examples, the conference drew attention to future collaboration in areas such as health, climate change, energy and e-infrastructures. Giving prominence to the event were 77 speakers, including 3 notable EU commissioners, a Cypriot government minister, a Russian government deputy minister and a Nobel Laureate. Attracting 650 people from 48 countries, the event produced numerous conclusions on RIs, which were presented to stakeholders in a final document. Key discussions during the three-day conference focused on governance, global cooperation, open access to publications, citizen awareness, capacity building, policymaking and strengthening links with industry. The event also highlighted the importance of RIs in tackling global societal challenges and the need for new approaches to deal with data flows. Moreover, it underlined the importance of improving investment in research and innovation in order to stimulate growth, boost competitiveness and create jobs. ICRI2012 served to sustain global momentum on maintaining RIs, facilitating the establishment of new ones and developing more e-infrastructures. The highly successful conference also contributed significantly to discussions on the EU's future vision, Horizon 2020, helping to pinpoint the challenges that face Europe and consolidating resources to overcome them. A solid network of RIs will help Europe prepare for a better and more economically viable future.