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Research infrastructures: Specific programme for research, technological development and demonstration: "Structuring the European Research Area" under the Sixth Framework Programme 2002-2006

The ability of Europe's research teams to remain at the forefront of all fields of science and technology depends on them being supported by state-of-the-art infrastructures. The term "research infrastructures" refers to facilities and resources that provide essential services to the research community in both academic and industrial domains. Research infrastructures may be "single-sited" (single resource at a single location), "distributed" (a network of distributed resources, including infrastructures based on Grid-type architectures), or "virtual" (the service being provided electronically).

The overall objective of this activity is to promote the development of a fabric of research infrastructures of the highest quality and performance in Europe, and their optimum use on a European scale based on the needs expressed by the research community.

Specifically, the aim is to:
- Ensure that European researchers have access to the infrastructures they need to conduct their research, irrespective of the location of the infrastructure;
- Provide support for a co-ordinated approach for the development of new research infrastructures, including the regional and trans-regional level;
- Provide support for the operation and enhancement of existing infrastructures, including where appropriate facilities of world-wide relevance not existing in Europe.

Where relevant, support for research infrastructures in this programme will be implemented in association with the thematic priorities of the framework programme and with the other available forms of support.
The objective of the activities carried out under this heading is to help establish a fabric of research infrastructures at the highest level in Europe and to promote the optimum use of these infrastructures on a European scale.
Five schemes for support are available under the "Research Infrastructures" action:

1. Transnational access to research infrastructures:
The objective is to sponsor new opportunities for research teams (including individual researchers) to obtain access to individual major research infrastructures most appropriate for their work. Community financing will cover the necessary operating costs of providing access to such infrastructures for research teams working in Member States and Associated States other than the state where the operator of a given infrastructure is located.

2. Integrating activities:
The objective is to support the provision of essential services to the research community at European level. This may cover, in addition to trans-national access, the establishment and operation of co-operation networks, and the execution of joint research projects, in order to raise the performance level of the infrastructures concerned. The scheme will also encourage the bridging of gaps that may limit the potential for exploitation of research results by industry and SMEs.
Integrating activities will be selected on the basis of a wide scale and flexible scientific and technological European programme aiming, where appropriate, at long-term sustainability. This scheme may be implemented through Integrated Infrastructure Initiatives and Co-ordination Actions.

3. Communication network development:
This scheme supports existing research infrastructures by creating a denser network between related initiatives. This activity will be conducted in conjunction with the priority thematic research area on Information Society Technologies. In particular, establishment of a high-capacity and high-speed communications network for all researchers in Europe (GEANT) and specific high performance Grids and testbeds (GRIDs), as well as electronic publishing services is envisaged.

4. Design studies:
The objective is to carry out feasibility studies and technical preparatory work undertaken in one or a number of Member States or Associated States, for the creation of new European scale infrastructures. The studies shall take into account the needs of all potential users and systematically explore the possibilities of contributions from other sources (such as the European Investment Bank or the Structural Funds) for the funding of these infrastructures.

5. Development of new infrastructures
The aim is to optimise European infrastructures by providing limited support for the development of a restricted number of projects for new infrastructures in duly justified cases where such support could have a critical catalysing effect in terms of European added value. This support, taking due account of Member States' opinion, may supplement contributions from the European Investment Bank or the Structural Funds to the funding of these infrastructures.

In general, funding provided for new or enhanced infrastructures will be limited to the minimum necessary to catalyse the activity. The major part of construction, operation and the long-term sustainability of the infrastructures in question will be assured by national and/or other sources of finance. Such funding would only be provided on the basis of a detailed justification, based on European added value, addressing the scientific, legal and financial dimensions of the proposed development.

Broadband communication networks, which are highly relevant to the political goals set out by the European Research Area and the e-Europe initiative, should also be used as a means to enhance scientific co-operation with third countries. Support for research infrastructures in this programme should, where relevant, take into account existing or future mechanisms for a co-ordinated approach to research infrastructures in Europe (e.g. National Research and Education Networks NRENS), as well as the scientific advice of existing European and international organisations (e.g. European Science Foundation ESF). Accompanying measures under this programme may be implemented, where appropriate, to sustain these mechanisms.

Four types of accompanying measures are provided in the programme:
a) Database Studies will explore the feasibility of or implement the creation, maintenance and distribution of databases, including Internet-based databases, either specific to a scientific domain or of trans-disciplinary nature, which are relevant to policy makers involved with research infrastructures.
b) Foresight studies will investigate the scientific needs in relation to a given class of infrastructure in Europe.
c) Exploratory workshops may enable potential partners in the field of research infrastructure that have little history of trans-national co-operation to explore strategies for a better co-ordination of their activities.
d) Round-table workshops will bring together operators of similar infrastructures (financed individually for trans-national access by this action) for the purpose of co-ordinating work under the contracts and in order to exchange experience.
The Commission is responsible for the implementation of the specific programme. The Commission draws up and updates the work programme, which identifies the instruments to be used on a priority basis, as well as any subsequent adjustment to their use. The Commission is assisted by a committee, composed of representatives of the Member States and chaired by a representative of the Commission.

The Commission regularly publishes reports on the overall progress of the implementation of the specific programme. Its reports also include information on the financial aspects. The Commission arranges independent monitoring and assessment of the framework programme to be conducted concerning the activities carried out in the fields covered by the specific programme.

Fundamental ethical principles must be respected during the implementation of this programme and in the research activities arising from it. these fundamental ethical principles include those set out in the Charter of fundamental rights of the EU. They include the following: protection of human dignity and human life, protection of personal data and privacy, as well as protection of animals and the environment. Protection is to be provided in accordance with Community law.
Participants in research projects must also conform to current legislation and regulations in the countries where the research is being carried out. Where appropriate, participants in research projects must seek the approval of the relevant ethics committees prior to the start of their research and development activities. An ethical review will be implemented systematically for proposals dealing with sensitive issues. In specific cases, an ethical review may take place during the implementation of a project.