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Research Infrastructures - Needs, Gaps and Overlaps

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - RINGO (Research Infrastructures - Needs, Gaps and Overlaps)

Reporting period: 2018-09-01 to 2020-02-29

The Flightpath 2050 (FP2050) strategy document has provided Europe with a vision for aviation and air transportation, identifying goals for the research community and policy makers alike. In order to achieve these challenging long-term goals, it is imperative to ensure that the required infrastructure for research activities addressing these challenges is available both to the necessary extent and in the required timeframe.
The aims of RINGO are to deliver a cohesive and coordinated approach for the identification and assessment of the needs, gaps and overlaps for strategic aviation research infrastructures in Europe; and to analyze potential sustainable business models and funding schemes for maintenance and improvement of existing and development of new research infrastructures.
This cohesive and coordinated approach for the identification and assessment of aviation research infrastructures in Europe, needed for meeting FP2050 goals, will be delivered through:
1. Establishing an overview of the existing situation of currently available research infrastructures in all European countries and owned by any entity in- or outside of the RINGO consortium.
2. Identifying and assessing the needs, gaps and overlaps related to all strategic goals defined in Flightpath 2050 for strategic aviation research infrastructures in Europe.
3. Analyzing potential sustainable business models and funding schemes for the maintenance and improvement of existing or development of new aviation research infrastructures.
In order to achieve these objectives, RINGO will both join forces with project partners – contributing high levels of expertise and broad experience in this area – and involve further experts from relevant key stakeholders in the European aviation community. Such experts and key stakeholders will be specifically identified and invited to attend structured sessions – i.e. workshops, interviews and surveys –, organized to assess and investigate all relevant FP2050 topics within the RINGO study.
A catalogue containing about 350 RIs operated mostly by research organisations and universities, but also by private companies, has been compiled and delivered to the commission. This catalogue uses data from several prior existing catalogues as well as information obtained from questionnaires sent directly to infrastructure owners. An interactive online tool (interactive RI map) has been also developed to ease the catalogue consultation and is currently publicly available to all interested parties on the RINGO website.

The identification of RI needs has been mainly based on external experts input. Starting from relevant FP2050 goals and respective capabilities mentioned in the Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA), major topics, for which research is needed in order to reach those goals, are identified. Needed research infrastructures were discussed in relation to the thematic fields included in the SRIA, with the particular focus on those infrastructure needs requiring major investments and effort to make them available for the aviation research sector. Overall 16 workshops were conducted across 18 thematic fields, such that all FP2050 goals were covered. A careful selection of experts ensured a fair distribution across European countries and affiliation types among the experts.

A large number of Research Infrastructure Needs has been identified by this process and grouped into three categories, Identity, Asset Gaps and Capability Gaps. In total 158 unique RINs have been identified, out of which 61 can be filled with already existing facilities (Identity), 56 require an upgrade of an existing facility (Capability Gap) and 41 require a completely new facility. It can be observed that most RIs are needed in the vehicle related disciplines such as aerodynamics, aero-elastics, acoustics, and propulsion. Here it is quite interesting to note that for the more traditional research topics the number of “Identity” is rather high, indicating that for these topics facilities exist that can deal with most of the research needs even for the future. Also the number of “Capability Gaps” is quite high in these topics, indicating that upgrading the existing facilities will cover most of the gaps already. On the other hand for new research topics such as electric and hybrid propulsion, not surprisingly most of the RINs cannot be satisfied with the existing facilities and quite a few completely new RIs will have to be constructed.

Roughly one quarter out of the identified RINs are rated to be of highest priority, meaning that the research topic supported by the RI is vital to reach Flightpath 2050 goals, the RI is vital for the research topic, and the facility is needed immediately. From the total of 45 RINs of such high importance 9 require a new facility and 15 can be filled by upgrade of an existing facility. These 24 asset and capability gaps, which are listed one by one in this report, should be addressed as soon as possible.

Suggestions for sustainable operational and business models have been derived from the information gathered and from looking at best practice results also from other domains than aviation as well as outside of Europe. Regarding operational and business models the most important conclusions are that better synchronisation between different roadmaps is required and novel financing schemes such as a voucher system or public private partnerships need to be implemented.
Finally budgeting requirements for RIs on a European scale to maintain global competitiveness have been approximated within a separate activity following a special request from the commission. This activity was performed in the following steps:
• Macroeconomic overview of GDP and investment level
• EU development of public and private commitments
• Benchmark of EU-wide and international key players
• Recommendation of success factors, budget needs and EC’s commitment
As a result it was found that a large increase of investments into RIs is required for the EU to remain competitive with other countries such as USA and China. Additional funding is also required to be used for enhanced collaboration and providing access to existing facilities.
The project has developed a methodology to collect and assess information about RI Needs from experts, to gather data about the existing RIs, and to match this information to identify RI Gaps and Overlaps. It also developed a methodology to identify shortcomings in operational and funding models of large RIs in Europe and to identify concepts how these can be overcome. The methodology development started out by looking at methodologies used in other projects (like the very successful OPTICS project). It combines top-down and bottom-up elements, starting from an analysis of the FlightPath 2050 goals (high level), looking at the SRIA , but also asking open questions to experts in the field. This methodology has helped the project to achieve the goal of submitting a Preliminary Report in time and to go into more detail for the second phase of the project.
The output of the project will be highly useful to the entire aviation community to help in strategic planning of RI development. The Preliminary Report delivered in Dec 2017 is already in use by policy makers to help shape the Horizon Europe research programme.