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RESEARCH INFRASTRUCTURES FLAGSHIP CONFERENCE Enhancing Long Term Sustainability and Opening Up RIs to Society and Industry

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - OpenRIs (RESEARCH INFRASTRUCTURES FLAGSHIP CONFERENCE Enhancing Long Term Sustainability and Opening Up RIs to Society and Industry)

Reporting period: 2017-11-01 to 2018-08-31

Bulgarian Presidency Flagship Conference

Research Infrastructures beyond 2020 – sustainable and effective ecosystem for science and society

Sofia, 22-23 March 2018

Preconditions for long-term sustainability of RIs have been identified by the European Commission through broad stakeholder consultation launched in December 2015, which resulted in a report published in May 2016. At the same time, the Competitiveness Council underlined the importance of this challenge and invited the Commission to prepare, together with ESFRI and relevant stakeholders, a targeted action plan. In response, ESFRI established a dedicated Working Group which proposed seven high-level recommendations in its report adopted by the Forum on 21 June 2017. Further, the European Commission, drawing on the work of ESFRI as well as considering input from other stakeholders, developed a Staff Working Document (SWD) where 42 elements were identified as a basis for a future Action Plan.

In this context, the overall objective of the conference was to explore and discuss a concrete set of actions to foster sustainability and impact of European research infrastructures on industry, policy and society.

Discussions focused on three strategic areas that require particular attention and where concrete actions should be considered.

Strategic Area 1 – Synchronisation and alignment of Research Infrastructure policies and investments at different levels;
Strategic Area 2 – Develop a more robust and seamless funding landscape for Research Infrastructures across the lifecycle;
Strategic Area 3 - Improve the impact of Research Infrastructures as knowledge hubs.

Planning the project involved considering Presidency calendar of events, specific thematic strategic documents (referring to ERAC, EC, ESFRI, Ministry of Education and Science) and continuity of joint efforts of parties involved.
This high-level event was linked to the regular annual meeting of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) and the meeting of the Executive Board of the ESFRI in Sofia from 19 to 21 March 2018. This involved the participation of more high-profile representatives of Member States and associated countries. ESFRI members were invited as lecturers and moderators during the conference.

The Ministry of Education and Science of Bulgaria (MES BG) was the sole applicant and beneficiary for the project. Planning, both financial and in terms of organization, had started upon the approval of the initial concept for the conference presented to and approved by the Minister of Education and Science of Bulgaria Mr. Krasimir Valchev in the beginning of May 2017.

The Advisory Board has supported the project for the conference by providing advice and competence in regard to the conference programme and conference output, nominations and contacts with speakers, key stakeholders, renowned and influential thematic field representatives, policy and decision makers.
"Adhering to the approved concept refined by the Advisory Board, the purpose and goals set for the conference, conference structure and content was coherent with the Bulgarian Presidency priorities regarding science and education (knowledge and skills). Balance was sought with regards to political commitment, excellent science, EU/EC strategy, leading Research Infrastructures (consortia) presented, relevant financial instruments, competitiveness on global level, knowledge and skills needed, sustainable development and management, concepts and viable solutions to support RI opening up to industry and society and finally – RIs as centers for innovation and for development of working solutions to global societal challenges. For speakers and panelists balance was also sought with regards to male/female expert perspective on the topic and countries represented.

The profile of the participants was various and contributed to achieving maximum possible in-conference promotion and coverage. Registered participants represented European institutions (Bulgaria, EC, EU Member states), agencies and regulatory bodies, universities and research centers, international thematic projects, ERICs, international organizations and companies, NGOs, research infrastructures and research teams.

The exhibition, a side event to the flagship conference ""RIs beyond 2020 – sustainable and effective ecosystem for science and society"", was planned and organized in such way so that it would best match and contribute to the conference content and goals.

At the opening of the conference Minister Krasimir Valchev and Jean-David Malo had welcome speeches and Commissioner Moedas had a video message to the participants. The structure of panels was the same during the conference days which also facilitated better time-management. Planned discussions were carried out with Q&A sessions of appr. 20 minutes at the end of each session. Moderators controlled and directed the panels successfully. Full video of all sessions is available on the conference website in the Library section.
Conference conclusions were submitted for further presentation to SECRETARIAT DGG3C Research in the beginning of May 2018 and were disseminated by SECRETARIAT DGG3C Research and SECRETARIAT DGG3C ERAC the same day.

Strategic dissemination and communication of key conference outcomes is expected to have the following positive impact:
• To raise awareness in EU Member States, associated H2020 partnering countries and beyond on the need to harmonize efforts, practices and models for sustainable consolidation, and development of RI across Europe;
• To bring to the attention of EU policy makers the regional and innovation aspects of RIs in the context of Europe’s R&D and business competitiveness, and to raise awareness among stakeholders on the possibilities presented by these new aspects at regional and international level;
• To facilitate more productive dialogue among researchers. stakeholders, policy makers and the civil society in the context of developing new and improving existing models and practices for managing and developing relevant RIs; nurture project co-ownership of stakeholders, e.g. spin-offs and public-private partnerships involving NGOs, civil society organizations, scientists, researchers, industrialists, investors, universities and schools; facilitate future interdisciplinary projects;
• Highlight relevant EU instruments and initiatives that can support the establishment and further development of regional clusters and scale up initiatives. Such instruments currently are Horizon 2020, the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) and the smart specialisation strategies (RIS3) as well as venture capital funds, risk investments, etc. Further exploring the concept of Fund of funds, the role of European Innovation Council and EFSI.

In further details the Bulgarian Presidency Flagship conference outcomes will provide for:
1. Policy actions that could foster long-term sustainability of Research Infrastructures in Europe;
2. Input for the discussions and preparations of the next Multiannual financial framework and the preparation for the EU 9th Framework programme for Research and Innovation;
3. Impetus for Europe to further boost broad-based innovation and business models, and increase the impact of research and innovation results on markets, policy and society towards future-proofing European RIs.