Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

The objective of communication of European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) entitled "European roadmap for research infrastructures" is to inform the scientific community about the working methods and the processes to be used by ESFRI to prepare a strategic roadmap for Europe in the field of research infrastructures for the next 10 to 20 years (until 2015 - 2025).


The preparations for the next (Seventh) European Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development covering the period of 2006-2010 (FP7) are under way. In its Communication of 16 June 2004 on the priorities of the future European research policy, the Commission identified "Developing research infrastructure of European interest" as one of the six main priorities. A European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) has been given the mandate to prepare a strategic roadmap for Europe in the field of research infrastructures for the next 10 to 20 years. The roadmap will be used to facilitate decision-making by Member States and the European Commission.
ESFRI is a forum bringing together representatives of the Member States who are decision-makers on research infrastructures policy in their country, appointed by ministers in charge of research, and a representative of the European Commission. The objective of ESFRI is to provide an overview of the needs for research infrastructures of pan-European interest in different fields of science and technology. Launched in April 2002, it aims in particular to support a coherent and strategy-led approach to policy-making on research infrastructures in Europe and to facilitate multilateral initiatives leading to better use and development of research infrastructures.

In the context of the ESFRI roadmap, the term "research infrastructures" refers to the necessary tools that provide essential services to the scientific community for basic or applied research. They may concern the whole range of scientific and technological fields, from social sciences to astronomy, genomics and nanotechnologies. Examples of research infrastructures include libraries, databases, biological archives, clean rooms, communication networks, research vessels, satellite and aircraft observation facilities, coastal observatories, telescopes, synchrotrons and accelerators. They may be "single-sited", "distributed" or "virtual".

The roadmap for new research infrastructures corresponds to the first stage in a stage-gate approach leading to the development of future research infrastructures in Europe. At this initial stage, the scientific and strategic criteria are the most important. In the subsequent stages, which will develop out of ESFRI, the technical and financial criteria would become more and more precise and important.


To prepare the roadmap, ESFRI sets up Steering Groups. The countries represented in ESFRI and the European Commission are invited to nominate a delegate into each Steering Group. The Steering Groups are chaired by ESFRI members. In every ESFRI meeting, each chair will report on the progress in his/her Steering Group.

Three Steering Groups have already been set up. They cover the following areas:
- "Physical Sciences and Engineering"
- "Biological and Medical Sciences"
- "Social Sciences and Humanities"

New Steering Groups may be set up at any time.

The work of the Steering Groups is two-fold:
1. Collection and analysis of the existing information
In a first stage, the Steering Groups will take stock of the existing roadmaps at national or European level in the fields concerned. In case European roadmaps already exist, ESFRI will examine their adequacy and completeness. The Steering Groups will also use the foresight studies made by the European Science Foundation (ESF) and the Global Science Forum (GSF) of OECD, as well as the recommendations made by different advisory committees.
Steering Groups will collect information from formal groups of the scientific and industrial communities and will solicit the views of important stakeholders in the field of research infrastructures. They also will make use of information contained in contracts or studies supported by the European Commission.
2. Setting up of Expert Groups
In a second stage, where existing roadmaps are not available and where gaps are identified, ESFRI's Steering Groups may create dedicated Expert Groups as appropriate. This may be needed, for example, for domains in which the scientific community is not yet structured, for cross-cutting domains at the frontier of the steering groups or for interdisciplinary or newly emerging fields. Members of Expert Groups will be nominated by Member States and the European Commission. They may include non-European experts. Contrary to the situation in the Steering Groups (and ESFRI itself), the members of an Expert Group are not considered to be delegates of a research minister. The results of the work of the Steering Groups will be presented as an advice to ESFRI.

A number of criteria will be used to select the research infrastructure projects that can become part of the strategic roadmap. Some criteria may have to be tailored to the specific situation of the field. The criteria can be classified into three categories:

a. General criteria
The infrastructure projects to be included should:
- comply with the general definition of the "research infrastructure" given above;
- be new infrastructures or major upgrades of existing ones.

b. Scientific/Strategic criteria
The infrastructure projects should:
- correspond to a real need for the development of the specific research field in Europe;
- be supported by the appropriate scientific community at European level;
- be of pan-European interest;
- be multi-user facilities offering an open access (physical or virtual) for scientists from all over Europe;
- be relevant at international level.

c. Technical and financial criteria
The infrastructure projects should:
- be timely and mature;
- be technologically feasible;
- open new possibilities or offer improved technological performance;
- have evaluated construction and operating costs;
- offer good possibilities for European partnership and commitment of major stakeholders.


A clear and transparent method will be used in the preparation of the roadmap. The overall process should provide all guarantees for impartiality and should be recognised by all stakeholders. A stage-gate approach with strict guidelines will be followed before a specific infrastructure can be included in the roadmap. This approach and the guidelines have to be developed by each Steering Group and submitted to ESFRI for approval. Once ESFRI has taken a decision on a roadmap, it will be immediately put on the ESFRI website.

Interested parties in the field will be given an opportunity to inform the process, but without unduly influencing the outcome. Workshops convened by the Expert Groups could play an important role in building the evidence and advancing discussion and agreement. The members of the Expert Groups will have to declare any conflicts of interest.

The preparation of the roadmap will be an ongoing process, extending over several years. The Steering Groups will start their work in January 2005. A first roadmap will be presented to the Commission and to the Member States in March 2005. After that, a yearly update of the roadmap will be provided.

The European Commission intends to use this roadmap as a basis for establishing a list of priority projects for new research infrastructures of trans-European interest. The list will be regularly updated and will have to be approved by the Council. The priority projects will be developed with Community support within the Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development. In this context, the Member States are invited to develop their own processes and timescales in parallel.


The record is based on the ESFRI communication of 17 December 2004.
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