Research infrastructures play an increasing role in the advancement of knowledge, technology and their exploitation. They need a broad range of expertise to be developed and should be used and exploited by a large community of scientists and industries on a European scale.
What's the benefit for citizens:
A few examples of research infrastructures include radiation sources, data banks in genomics and in social sciences, observatories for environmental sciences, systems of imaging, clean rooms for the development of new materials or nano-electronics, computing and communication based electronic infrastructures, and telescopes. These facilities, resources or services have the ability to bring together people and investment and to contribute to national, regional and European economic development. They are therefore important for research, education and innovation.
What's the benefit for researchers:
Cutting-edge research infrastructures need a broad range of expertise in order to develop. At the same time they have the ability to create rich research environments and attract researchers from different countries, regions and disciplines. Thousands of scientist and students from universities, research institutes or industries from Europe and abroad, benefit from research infrastructures.
Research infrastructures can be seen as strategic Centres of Excellence for research and training as well as facilitators of public-private partnerships in research. The benefit of cross-disciplinary and institutional collaboration lies in the personal interactions of researchers coming from different countries, disciplines and work places. Since activities in these facilities lie at the frontiers of science, they stimulate the interest of young people and motivate them to embrace scientific careers.
What's the benefit for industry and SMEs:
Industry uses research infrastructure facilities in collaboration with researchers. Their construction and maintenance create important supply and demand effects. Such innovation capacities can be seen through the public-private mobility of researchers and the new technologies applied in building world-level research installations or spin-off products and/or start-up companies. Research infrastructures clearly stimulate industrial impacts and play an outstanding role in building the interface between science and industry.
They also have socio-economic impacts, for example where pan-European research infrastructures have their site, often "technology clusters" of associated industry or so-called technology parks can be found. Such strategic centres for transfer of knowledge offer either better possibilities for interdisciplinary research contacts or greater attraction to high-tech firms.
As a result, different regions often compete to attract new installations and this can be an opportunity to also increase the public-private interaction in the funding of research activities.