Euro-BioImaging - Research infrastructure for imaging technologies in biological and biomedical sciences
The Euro-BioImaging infrastructure will be focused on imaging technologies grouped around different scales of biological organization, from the single molecule to the whole human organism. Euro-BioImaging will therefore develop a plan to construct and operate a set of complementary and strongly interlinked infrastructure facilities appropriately distributed across the European member states. To achieve this, Euro-BioImaging will define the legal and governance framework with its currently 22 member states and develop a finance plan in close cooperation with national funding bodies as well as with the European Commission. The key objective of the Euro-BioImaging preparatory phase project is to integrate these plans into an overarching business plan that provides a realistic basis for construction and operation of the Euro-BioImaging infrastructure. Through the combination of these technological and strategic objectives, Euro-BioImaging will be able to address the key elements of successful infrastructures: supporting research, training and innovation in biomedical imaging across Europe.
EUROPEAN MOLECULAR BIOLOGY LABORATORY
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
€ 1 494 328,05
Jillian Rowe (Ms.)
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AGENCIA D'INFORMACIO AVALUACIO I QUALITAT EN SALUT
AARHUS UNIVERSITETSHOSPITAL, SKEJBY
EIBIR GEMEINNUETZIGE GMBH ZUR FOERDERUNG DER ERFORSCHUNG DER BIOMEDIZINISCHEN BILDGEBUNG
€ 747 139
€ 198 840
€ 46 378
FUNDACIO CLINIC PER A LA RECERCA BIOMEDICA
€ 46 378
FUNDACIO CENTRE DE REGULACIO GENOMICA
€ 36 380
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€ 183 708
ECOLE POLYTECHNIQUE FEDERALE DE LAUSANNE
€ 51 627
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€ 197 833,57
ISTITUTO EUROPEO DI ONCOLOGIA SRL
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€ 182 054
€ 209 941
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€ 294 397
€ 129 898
UNIVERSITA DEGLI STUDI DI TORINO
€ 105 930
UNIVERSITY OF DUNDEE
€ 232 099,20
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€ 87 354,80
WEIZMANN INSTITUTE OF SCIENCE
€ 80 838
WESTFAELISCHE WILHELMS-UNIVERSITAET MUENSTER
€ 121 980
ZORGONDERZOEK NEDERLAND ZON
€ 18 457
AGENCIA DE QUALITAT I AVALUACIO SANITARIES DE CATALUNYA
€ 107 003,38
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€ 35 096
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€ 49 690
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€ 53 072
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€ 56 282
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€ 54 475
INSTYTUT BIOLOGII DOSWIADCZALNEJ IM. M. NENCKIEGO POLSKIEJ AKADEMII NAUK
€ 47 294
BIOTECHNOLOGY AND BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES RESEARCH COUNCIL
€ 31 030
CONSIGLIO NAZIONALE DELLE RICERCHE
€ 31 030
FRAUNHOFER GESELLSCHAFT ZUR FOERDERUNG DER ANGEWANDTEN FORSCHUNG E.V.
€ 38 787
NEDERLANDSE ORGANISATIE VOOR WETENSCHAPPELIJK ONDERZOEK
€ 60 990
INSTITUT NATIONAL DE LA SANTE ET DE LA RECHERCHE MEDICALE
INSTITUT NATIONAL DE RECHERCHE ENINFORMATIQUE ET AUTOMATIQUE
€ 3 210
CENTRE NATIONAL DE LA RECHERCHE SCIENTIFIQUE CNRS
€ 95 602
FRIEDRICH MIESCHER INSTITUTE FOR BIOMEDICAL RESEARCH FONDATION
€ 12 840
Grant agreement ID: 262023
1 December 2010
31 May 2014
€ 6 989 000,42
€ 5 198 244
EUROPEAN MOLECULAR BIOLOGY LABORATORY
Expanding bioimaging infrastructure and access
Grant agreement ID: 262023
1 December 2010
31 May 2014
€ 6 989 000,42
€ 5 198 244
EUROPEAN MOLECULAR BIOLOGY LABORATORY
Final Report Summary - EURO-BIOIMAGING (Euro-BioImaging - Research infrastructure for imaging technologies in biological and biomedical sciences)
The ESFRI research infrastructure Euro-BioImaging will provide open user access to a complete range of state-of-the-art imaging technologies in biological, molecular and medical imaging for life scientists in Europe and beyond. Euro-BioImaging will offer image data support and training for infrastructure users and providers and continuously evaluate and include new imaging technologies to ensure cutting-edge services in a sustainable manner. Through Euro-BioImaging, investment in imaging infrastructure will be used in the most cost-effective and efficient way by applying the highest quality standards in management, open user access and service of imaging facilities.
The Euro-BioImaging infrastructure will consist of a set of complementary, strongly interlinked and geographically distributed Nodes in different Member States. The physical user access will take place at these Nodes. The pan-European infrastructure will be empowered by a strong supporting and coordinating entity, the Euro-BioImaging Hub. The Hub will be the single entry point from which the users will be directed to their desired imaging technology as served by the respective Euro-BioImaging Nodes. At the Hub, dedicated data management and training activities tailored to the needs of users of the imaging infrastructure will be coordinated.
During its Preparatory Phase (2010-2014), Euro-BioImaging has conducted extensive consultation with the European scientific communities, gained support by over 3000 individual Stakeholders, extensively analyzed supply and demand of imaging technologies in Europe, successfully demonstrated technical feasibility of its operational model in a six months proof-of-concept phase, has identified and evaluated possible Nodes in its Member States and has finalized recommendations for the infrastructure model, governance structure and finance plan.
By now 9 European countries listed imaging infrastructure as high priority on their national roadmaps. Euro-BioImaging has driven the establishment of 24 national imaging initiatives across Europe that are coordinating imaging infrastructure activities at the national level, enabling better use of their capacities and speak to their national funders with one voice. Furthermore, Euro-BioImaging is in close communication with the European imaging industry through the Euro-BioImaging Industry Board that to date comprises more than 50 companies. In the past years, vibrant international cooperations were established with Australian and Indian national imaging infrastructure organizations, fostering exchange of knowledge and best practice principles.
In 2013, 71 imaging centres from 19 countries responded to the 1st Europ-BioImaging open call for Nodes and submitted their Expressions of Interest. Together, these potential Nodes could serve over 2200 research projects. Based on the evaluation by an independent high level international review board, the 1st generation of potential future Nodes is currently being constructed (202 million Euro have already been invested) or is negotiating the financial support for their required capacity upgrades with national funders.
The Euro-BioImaging Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was agreed by the Intergovernmental Working Group with delegates from 21 European countries and EMBL interested to participate in Euro-BioImaging`s implementation. So far the MoU has been signed by 12 countries (Belgium, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Israel, Italy, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, the Netherlands, UK) and EMBL. More countries are planning to join in the near future. MoU signatories have constituted the Euro-BioImaging Interim Board on 31 Mar 2014 that took on the responsibility for infrastructure implementation during the Interim Phase. The Interim Board will now invite enrolled countries to consider their interest in hosting the Euro-BioImaging Hub.
Project Context and Objectives:
In 2008, ESFRI included Euro-BioImaging - the European Research Infrastructure for Imaging Technologies in Biological and Biomedical Sciences – in the 2nd edition of its European Roadmap for Research Infrastructures. During the EC FP7-funded Preparatory Phase which lasted from 01 Dec 2010 until 31 May 2014, the Euro-BioImaging Consortium developed a consensus recommendation for the Euro-BioImaging infrastructure model supported by 24 national imaging chapters, 250 Associated Partners and more than 3.000 individual stakeholders.
The technical revolution in biological and medical imaging within the last 15 years has opened the door to answer many research questions that were difficult to be addressed before. This has led to a dramatically increased demand for access to a number of imaging technologies by the scientific community, which cannot be met by the currently existing imaging infrastructure.
In most cases, researchers can only access local imaging research infrastructure hosted by their university, research institute, hospitals etc. These institutions merely provide access to a very limited range of technologies, because they can simply not afford to purchase and maintain a broad range of cutting-edge instruments, especially in times of budget financial austerity. In addition, the degree of sophistication of innovative imaging technologies and their instrumentation is often requires specialized expertise to efficiently and successfully operate and analyse obtained image data.
Thus, the currently existing local imaging infrastructure in European countries does not exploit the full potential of these technologies. Many scientists at institutions without large core facilities have only very limited or no access at all to the imaging technologies they need. Even if technologies and expertise are accessible at other European institutions, currently these facilities by far do not have the capacity to host a significant number of external users (see Euro-BioImaging Survey ). Therefore the establishment of coordinated imaging facilities offering open access to external users is urgently needed.
The goal of Euro-BioImaging is to provide a clear path of access to imaging technologies for every life scientist in Europe. Euro-BioImaging brings together key research areas in imaging technologies stretching from basic biological to medical imaging. With this broad vision of imaging, Euro-BioImaging addresses the imaging requirements of both biological and medical imaging research communities by recommending a coordinated and harmonized plan for infrastructure deployment in Europe.
Euro-BioImaging will consist of a number of distributed Nodes, which will offer access to external users to the requested imaging technology. Activities of the Nodes will be coordinated by the Euro-BioImaging Hub, ensuring a consistent level of service provided to the Euro-BioImaging users and supporting all Euro-BioImaging activities, which cannot be done at the level of a single Node. Importantly, Euro-BioImaging will flank the access to technologies with high-level expert support, training activities, as well as data storage and processing solutions, all of which were requested by European scientists and are necessary for the successful usage of the infrastructure.
The Euro-BioImaging infrastructure will tackle the standardized and high quality education of tomorrow’s scientists in applying advanced imaging technologies, which is one of the big challenges in biology and medicine. The already existing lack of trained staff will become more momentous within the next years and has also to be approached as soon as possible in order not to lose alignment in the international standard and competition.
Objectives of Euro-BioImaging Preparatory Phase
The Euro-BioImaging Preparatory Phase Consortium consisted of 13 individual Work Packages. The strategic Work Packages WP1 to WP5 realized the ambitious overarching strategic objectives such as the recommendation for the governance structure, legal model and ethical regulations (WP2), the Euro-BioImaging survey, Euro-BioImaging vision, impact studies and the overarching business plan (WP3), the finance plan and cost model (WP4), involvement and communication with internal and external stakeholders (WP5). WP1 Project Management supported the Consortium throughout Preparatory Phase by providing the required administrative and managerial framework.
The development of the Euro-BioImaging infrastructure model was met by its five technology Work packages WP6 to WP10 that covered imaging technologies ranging from general advanced light microscopy, innovative ALM technologies, via molecular imaging to innovative medical imaging technologies up to population imaging. Each of these five technology Work packages first defined the needs of its user communities in the Euro-BioImaging survey and Proof-of-Concept studies and based on their identified needs, prepared the general and technology-specific criteria for construction and operation of Euro-BioImaging Nodes as published in the 1st Open call for Nodes in 2013.
Together with WP12, WP6 to WP10 developed a common user access policy valid for all Euro-BioImaging infrastructures irrespective of their specific technology they plan to offer. Similarly, WP13 developed a plan for training Euro-BioImaging users in the specific imaging methods to allow researchers to take full advantage of the access given and the services offered. In addition, when users apply any of the imaging technologies in their research, this generates large amounts of digital image data, which creates a common need for data management, processing, and storage tools. Therefore, WP11 developed an integrated plan for image data management methodologies and protocols, quantitative data processing.
A key objective of all Euro-BioImaging Nodes will be coordination. The Euro-BioImaging model foresees a strong European Hub as coordination platform for delivering knowledge and expertise, allowing exchange of methodologies and the joint use of acquired data. This coordination platform will serve European scientists by providing a clear path for access to advanced imaging technologies and at the same time provide the possibility for many existing imaging research institutions or laboratories to contribute to knowledge development and training.
In summary, the Preparatory Phase Consortium of Euro-BioImaging:
• Defined the needs of the biological and medical imaging user communities in a European-wide survey with more than 660 participants in 2011.
• Conducted in 2012 a six-month proof-of-concept operational phase that supported 110 user research projects in 41 Euro-BioImaging partner facilities in 14 countries, demonstrating that the Euro-BioImaging infrastructure and access models are operational and enable new research that is published in high impact peer review journals. 22 studies had been published by November 2013.
• Defined the general and technology specific criteria for construction and operation of Euro-BioImaging Nodes as published in the 1st Open Call for Nodes in 2013.
• Developed a plan for harmonized and standardized access to imaging technologies
• Developed a plan for harmonized and standardized training curricula in imaging technologies
• Developed a plan for image data management, storage and processing
• Defined recommendations for the legal and governmental framework for the construction and operational phase
• Defined a recommendation for the finance plan to support construction and operation
• Summarized the mission, services, infrastructure model, and recommendations for the governance, finance plan and legal framework in an overall business plan
• Integrated Euro-BioImaging into the European and global research infrastructure landscape.
The Euro-BioImaging preparatory phase has delivered a mature and tested research infrastructure model for imaging technologies. The model defines which imaging technologies need to be provided to Europe’s researchers, through which procedure they can be made openly accessible, and which highly evaluated potential future Nodes could serve them. The Euro-BioImaging model furthermore gives a clear recommendation for how the pan-European infrastructure can be governed by its Member States and coordinated and managed by its European Hub.
Objectives of Euro-BioImaging Interim Phase
In 2013, the Euro-BioImaging Preparatory Phase Consortium facilitated the establishment of the Euro-BioImaging Intergovernmental Working Group (IWG) comprising representatives from 21 different European countries and EMBL. Together, they defined and agreed on a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which provides its Signatories the framework to work together towards construction of Euro-BioImaging. The MoU has been signed by 12 countries (Belgium, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Israel, Italy, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, The Netherlands, UK) and EMBL. More countries are planning to join in the near future. MoU signatories have constituted the Euro-BioImaging Interim Board on 31 Mar 2014. Taking the preparatory phase recommendations into account the Euro-BioImaging Euro-BioImaging Interim Board now works on
• Criteria for the Hub and identification of Hub-hosting country
• Governance structure
• Legal model and statutes
• Finance plan
After approval in the Interim Board, the legal model, the governance structure, and the finance model for European-level infrastructure services provided by the Euro-BioImaging Hub will be laid down in the statutes of a Legal Framework. The future Euro-BioImaging Member States will launch Euro-BioImaging by signing the Legal Framework, and at the same moment the Interim Board will hand over the decision-making power to the Euro-BioImaging Board, at which point the Interim Phase will end.
During Preparatory Phase, the Euro-BioImaging Consortium has worked and agreed on the following recommendations for the Euro-BioImaging infrastructure model, user access policy, governance structure, legal model, and finance plan. The recommendations are based on the extensive communication with the Euro-BioImaging Stakeholders in form of five annual Stakeholder Meetings (200-250 participants each), a European-wide survey in 2011, 110 proof-of-concept studies in 2012, the 1st Open Call for Nodes in 2013, the continuous communication with national imaging chapters from 24 European countries as well as national and European funding bodies and policy decision-makers.
1. Euro-BioImaging Mission (see Deliverables WP3)
Euro-BioImaging is set to become an international organisation which will enable all European researchers to access and benefit from innovative biological and medical imaging technologies, expertise, service and training essential for performing cutting-edge research in the 21st Century.
Innovative imaging technologies developed in the last decade allow biological and medical scientists to visualize, characterize and measure molecular and cellular function with a precision never reached before. For the first time in history, we can visualize the molecular basis of human disease, including tumorigenesis, or Alzheimer’s disease in living cells and tissues in real time. These technologies allow direct translation of basic biological discoveries in cells into animal models of human disease and finally into patient care. Imaging technologies are thus the central technology platform that drives fundamental research in most disciplines within the biological and medical sciences.
However, these technologies are still not available to the majority of approximately 500.000 European life scientists (see Euro-BioImaging survey). Thousands of researchers from Europe have already got in touch with Euro-BioImaging requesting access to imaging technologies and the expert support necessary to apply the technologies most effectively. The main reasons for this lack of access are 1) the high costs of the required technology, 2) the high level of expertise required for using the technology is missing, 3) the existing imaging facilities are available for internal users only, or have insufficient capacity to host external users.
These restrictions will rapidly lead Europe to lose its global lead and its competitiveness in imaging research unless some action is taken. Joint efforts to implement shared open access infrastructure within the overall ESFRI initiative are urgently needed to provide access to imaging technology and protect European competitiveness. While the current plan can project the overall costs of implementing the Euro-BioImaging vision, the plan does not present the cost to Europe of failing to provide access to imaging technologies and the cost of not implementing Euro-BioImaging for the reason that such projections are overly contrived and depend on defining an arbitrary percentage of lost business and competitiveness. It can be clearly stated that not ensuring access to imaging technologies would significantly impact both European competitiveness and quality of life (due to lack of access to most recent medical imaging technologies.
In times of financial austerity, Euro-BioImaging provides the only solution to this problem by opening access to the complete range of cutting-edge imaging technologies while at the same time sharing and reducing the costs of deployment. World-class imaging centers (Euro-BioImaging Nodes) across Europe will be accessible to all life scientists based on a scientific merit-based access policy.
In 2013, Euro-BioImaging invited imaging facilities across Europe to express their interest in becoming part of the Euro-BioImaging infrastructure as prospective Euro-BioImaging Nodes in a 1st Open Call for Nodes. 71 facilities from 19 countries applied and also presented 2,200 well-defined research projects from scientists and industry. This extraordinary and unanticipated response underscores how much the European research community needs and supports the Euro-BioImaging infrastructure concept.
During the Euro-BioImaging preparatory work, the strong need for imaging technologies and expert support became visible to the whole scientific community (see Euro-BioImaging survey, Proof-of-Concept studies (PCS) and 1st Open call for Nodes). More importantly, the Euro-BioImaging infrastructure model tested in the PCS already demonstrated that it delivers rapid publication of high-impact scientific results (see PCS which enabled by now over 32 publications and 22 additional manuscripts submitted or in preparation). Euro-BioImaging will provide a successful solution for the existing lack of access to all innovative imaging technologies and directly support, accelerate and integrate cutting-edge research in the European Research Area.
2. Overview: Euro-BioImaging Services (see Deliverables WP6, WP7, WP8, WP9, WP10, WP11, WP12, WP13)
Euro-BioImaging will provide very valuable services to European researchers and industry:
• ACCESS: Open access to innovative imaging technologies that are currently under-supplied in Europe
• Support and training of technology users (hands-on-training for use of instruments)
• Advanced training of facility staff/technology experts (“train the trainer”)
• General training in imaging technologies (e.g. regular courses on specific imaging modalities, e-learning, summer schools etc.)
• Data analysis support for user image data
• Data storage capacities for user image data
• Open access to datasets of public interest
• INDUSTRY: A platform for close interaction between industry, technology developers and researchers
• STANDARDS: High-quality standards for image acquisition, training and data management
• COORDINATION: Support of national and scientific imaging communities to organize themselves and to interact with each other at the European-level, giving European scientists a voice to express their needs.
3. Euro-BioImaging infrastructure model (see Deliverables WP2, WP3, WP6, WP7, WP8, WP9, WP10, WP11, WP12, WP13)
Euro-BioImaging will become a pan-European research infrastructure with a distributed “Hub-and-Nodes” structure. The Hub will be established and operated by an international consortium of Member States and intergovernmental organizations. Imaging facilities in European countries will enter into collaboration agreements with the Hub and thereby acquire the official status of Euro-BioImaging Node. The collaboration agreements will define the relationship between the Hub and the respective Node, in particular the respective obligations such as the services and capacities that a Node will contribute as part of Euro-BioImaging. Collaboration Agreements will ensure open and transparent access to all Euro-BioImaging users. The national institutes hosting the Euro-BioImaging Nodes will keep their own legal identity and only this part of the imaging facility which provides the services to the Euro-BioImaging users will be accountable for these services to the pan-European research infrastructure Euro-BioImaging.
The Hub will provide dedicated support allowing the users to identify, locate and apply for the requested imaging technology at one of the Euro-BioImaging Nodes. The Hub will have its own governance structure comprising decision-making, executive and advisory bodies and carry out coordinating and supporting activities for Euro-BioImaging at European level such as
Supporting User Access
• Web portal for submission of user project proposals
• Common first consultation point for users (technical experts support users to identify the most suitable imaging technology, the most suitable Node)
• Administrative framework for transparent scientific evaluation of user projects
• Coordination and support of user training activities
• Dissemination and advertisement of Euro-BioImaging training courses
• Coordination of design and execution of RI facility staff training courses
• Management of and access to common repository for training activities in biological and medical imaging
• Provision of access to standardized, annotated data repositor(ies) of general relevance for the research community e.g. for Biological Imaging in collaboration with ELIXIR (European Life Sciences Infrastructure for Biological Information)
• Access to common European repository of standardized and quality controlled tools for image data analysis
• Coordination of common European cloud computing services for standardized image processing
Furthermore, the Hub responsibilities include the overall coordination and administration of Euro-BioImaging (see also section 184.108.40.206).
The Nodes will host the imaging infrastructure and provide it to external researchers (Euro-BioImaging users). They will be set-up by upgrading existing or creating new imaging facilities. National imaging facilities will obtain the status of a Euro-BioImaging Node after succeeding in an open Node application process. Regular calls will allow selecting the strongest contributions from all national imaging communities into the pan-European research infrastructure. The preceding process of national coordination and prioritization for the Euro-BioImaging open calls is entirely in the responsibility of each country. After application to Euro-BioImaging, the review of the Nodes will be carried out by the Scientific Advisory Board. Before Euro-BioImaging implementation in the 1st Open Call, the review was done by an Independent Evaluation Board of international non-European senior experts leading in the imaging technologies of this call. For detailed information on the 1st Open Call, see below.
Nodes will evaluate the technical feasibility of user proposals, and when the proposed projects fit their expertise, they will provide access to the requested imaging technologies and support users with the experimental preparation, image acquisition, data analysis and storage. In addition, the Nodes will organize hands-on training in usage of imaging instruments as well as regular user training courses. Based on the number of sites, there are two types of Nodes:
Single-sited Nodes providing the complete service package in a single geographical location,
Multi-sited Nodes providing an integrated service package with a single point of entry for the user.
A single-sited Node can consist of one or several institutes. Several institutions can collaborate to jointly offer complementary services to users. A single-sited Node that gives physical access to users can be operated by one or by several institutions, which are in the same location. However, these institutes must create a single legal entity, under whose umbrella combined services are offered to the users. A Node could as well become multi-sited if required to optimally serve the user community. A multi-sited Node comprising several sites run by one or several legal entities can only be considered if these are integrated into a single legal entity and offering a single point of entry for the user. Alternative legal models can be developed and added in the future as soon as available and if appropriate.
Based on the offered imaging technologies, there are two types of Nodes envisaged:
Single Technology Flagship Nodes would offer an innovative technology at European leading level.
Multimodal Technology Nodes would provide excellence by the integration of multiple imaging technologies at one site.
4. User Access Policy (WP12), Training (WP13) and Image Data Management (WP11)
User Access Policy
User access in Euro-BioImaging will be rapid, supportive, transparent, open and - if agreed by the future Euro-BioImaging Member States - free at the point of service by providing the user with the required funding for access. Such funding of the fees to access imaging technologies (so called ‘fund the user’ concept) in facilities is already implemented and/or anticipated in many funding instruments including ERC grants. In other words, rather than a grant requesting the funds to buy an expensive piece of equipment, the grant will request the much lower access fees to access the instrument in an open access facility instead. Euro-BioImaging will provide the user with the required services and information at all stages of the access procedure. All Euro-BioImaging users will enter the research infrastructure via the web-access portal of the Euro-BioImaging Hub. Users will be guided to the appropriate imaging technology for their scientific questions and obtain an overview of the Nodes where the needed technology is available, before they submit their project proposals. Evaluation of proposals will occur in a rapid two-step procedure: first, scientific evaluation of the user proposal by a standing panel of leading experts in the field will be performed organized and administratively supported by the Hub. Secondly, technical feasibility review and final approval for user access will be done by the selected hosting Node. Evaluation criteria for user project proposals comprise scientific and technical quality, soundness of concept and progress beyond state-of-the-art, associated work plan and technical feasibility. The whole evaluation process will be performed in 2-4 weeks and warrants that user access will be based on scientific merit and feasibility only. Euro-BioImaging will also be open to users from industry. In contrast to academic users, industrial users will be expected to pay full costs user access fees as required by law in many European member states.
In addition to access provision, standardized and high quality training of tomorrow’s researchers in imaging technologies and image data management and analysis tools is essential to ensure the excellence of European life science. Euro-BioImaging has identified this correlation and by improving the current situation will extend the success of its major vision – to provide open access to the full range of imaging technologies. To address this important aspect of access provision Euro-BioImaging has developed a “Strategy for a pan-European educational portfolio based on biomedical imaging infrastructures” (D13.3) which strives to create a pan-European coordinated and modular system of training in biological and medical imaging complementing the access to the imaging technologies itself. The training strategy will be implemented during the Construction Phase and focuses on users, including potential users (Master and PhD students, post-graduates, senior scientists, technicians) and staff of the imaging facilities across Europe and is divided into three pillars:
• a user training programme incorporated in the Euro-BioImaging open access procedure (hands-on-training for use of instruments)
• a system for training of the imaging facilities’ staff (“train the trainer”)
• general training in imaging technologies as part of the continuous professional development (e.g. regular courses on specific imaging modalities, e-learning, summer schools etc.)
To implement the training strategy, the Euro-BioImaging Hub will provide additional services as described in section 220.127.116.11.
Data management infrastructure:
Imaging data will create the largest volume of data in the future of the life sciences. In biological imaging, technologies such as multi-dimensional fluorescence or high-content screening are becoming standard approaches to reveal fundamental biological mechanisms that explain human physiology and disease. Datasets produced by these technologies are routinely 10’s to 100’s of GBs, and in some cases, many TB’s. In this new age, processing, storing, analysing and sharing of image data based on conventional desktop-base solutions simply is no longer possible.
Euro-BioImaging plans to offer image data services including
• Data storage and support for data management, analysis and processing from users’ experiments/projects (service offered by Nodes)
• Access to tools for image processing (service offered by Hub)
• Common repositories for reference image data for sharing and re-use (service offered by Hub)
• Access to academically owned cloud storage and compute services (service offered by Hub)
The Euro-BioImaging e-infrastructure strategy plans to use academically owned cloud storage and compute capacity and is preparing for this through EMBL, in partnership with CERN and ESA in the Helix Nebula project (www.helix-nebula.org). Cloud compute services of the Euro-BioImaging Hub for member states can follow an “embassy” model that allows algorithms from all member states to effectively access the common image data repositories at the hub. Imaging data will be the largest volume of data in the future of the life sciences. The future Euro-BioImaging infrastructure will therefore be a major driver and best practice model for the resulting connectivity and cloud compute requirements. Euro-BioImaging’s Preparatory Phase Project coordinator EMBL is already engaged in discussions with the major e-infrastructure providers including Geant, to establish pilot concepts for high bandwidth links to major image data producing centers. To add maximal value to imaging data, Euro-BioImaging is closely collaborating with ELIXIR to provide integrated database solutions that link molecular and imaging data. In addition, Euro-BioImaging is collaborating with Infrafrontier and BBMRI to establish interoperability of imaging data with other life science data types within the EC cluster project BioMedBridges.
Both Euro-BioImaging’s comprehensive training strategy as well as its plans to create a standardized data management infrastructure are complementing its mission to provide open access to imaging technologies and will therewith increase the scientific impact of Euro-BioImaging significantly.
5. The Euro-BioImaging Governance Structure (see Deliverables WP2)
The recommended model for the Euro-BioImaging Governance Structure comprises the Euro-BioImaging Board as decision-making body, an Executive Management Body, and a Scientific Advisory Board.
The Euro-BioImaging Board will be the principle decision-making body for overall strategy and the policy for integrated operation and further development of Euro-BioImaging. The Board will be composed of Delegates of the Euro-BioImaging Members (countries and intergovernmental organizations). Delegates will be appointed by each Member. It will take all strategic decisions including
• Adopt strategic plan (technological, scientific and administrative), based on advice from the SAB,
• Adopt budget,
• Approve provisional estimates of expenditure for the following year,
• Approve audited annual accounts,
• Approve the annual report presented by the Euro-BioImaging Director,
• Approve application conditions and criteria for Nodes, based on advice from the SAB,
• Approve inclusion of new and exclusion of existing Nodes, based on advice from the SAB,
• Oversee the performance of the Hub and Nodes’ activities based on advice from the SAB and the report by the Euro-BioImaging Director,
• Appoint the Euro-BioImaging Director,
• Approve the appointment of Heads of Sections,
• Establish advisory bodies (e.g. Industry Committee, National Coordinator Committee, Ethics Committee) as deemed necessary,
• Adopt rules of procedure for the Hub.
Each Member State has one vote in the Board and sends one administrative and up to two scientific delegates. The scientific delegates will be independent scientific experts i.e. they are not head of a Euro-BioImaging Node.
The Board is supported by an Executive Management Office headed by an Executive Director. The Executive Director represents the infrastructure to the outside and executes the Board’s decisions. The Executive Management Office supports and coordinates the activities of the infrastructure, manages the distribution of resources and produces the necessary financial and scientific reports.
The Director will
• Implement the strategy as adopted by the Board in accordance with the budget,
• Prepare a budget with detailed estimates of income and expenditure for consideration and approval of the Board,
• Report to the Board on Euro-BioImaging’s activities,
• After consultation with the Panel of Nodes report to the Board on Node specific issues and developments,
• Coordinate the assessment by the SAB of the existing Nodes’ activities on the basis of their reporting,
• Execution of decisions regarding quality assurance and coordination of evaluation of Nodes and Hub activities,
• Present applications and funding status for candidate and for renewal of existing Nodes to the Board,
• Coordinate application procedure for new Nodes,
• Negotiate the collaboration agreements with the Nodes,
• Represent Euro-BioImaging externally, including towards Member States, Funders, EC, ESFRI RIs, Stakeholders in the European as well as global landscape of imaging research infrastructures,
• Identify additional external funding opportunities,
• Involve other Advisory Bodies established by the Board where necessary for the above tasks.
The Director’s office will support the Director in his tasks and in the overall coordination and administration of Euro-BioImaging including:
• Administrative support of the Executive Management,
• Public relations and communication,
• Support and interlink all national imaging initiatives,
• Facilitate and coordinate quality control functions and support quality assurance measures at the Nodes as determined by the Euro-BioImaging Board,
• Strategic support of upgrade and maintenance of RI,
• Organizational framework for governance (Organization of Euro-BioImaging Board meetings, support of Board members, preparation of meetings etc.),
• Set-up and maintenance of Euro-BioImaging website,
• Initiation and maintenance of industry relations,
• Stakeholder management,
• Support and coordination of SAB and other advisory bodies once established
In addition, the Heads of Sections will support the Director in these tasks as far as they require community-specific implementation (see below). Community specific tasks can be delegated to Community Specific Sections by the Director.
The Board and the Executive Director will be advised by an independent Scientific Advisory Board, which oversees the quality of the Euro-BioImaging activities at the coordinating Hub and the technical Nodes, including the evaluation of new Nodes. The Scientific Advisory Board shall be composed of independent and highly qualified, international scientists selected on the basis of their competence in all aspects of Euro-BioImaging. Members will be appointed by the Board.
If feasible and requested by the Euro-BioImaging Board, Euro-BioImaging will have additional advisory bodies, which would give advice to the Executive Director and the Euro-BioImaging Board.
6. Legal structure (see Deliverables WP2)
Euro-BioImaging will be established as a distributed European research infrastructure with a “Hub and Node” structure that will have a legal entity allowing it to handle the infrastructure budget, employ staff, etc. WP2 “Governance, legal and ethical issues” has analyzed all currently available legal models for pan-European distributed research infrastructures in depth and has identified all three models to be suitable for Euro-BioImaging:
Euro-BioImaging as European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC): In general, ERIC would be a suitable legal framework for Euro-BioImaging, and using this model would allow Euro-BioImaging to have a permanent structure and to profit from having a legal personality recognized by all EU Member States and privileges linked to it. However, it is up to the Member States to decide within their national laws whether or not they would accept a Research Infrastructure as an institute that profits from certain privileges. The ERIC would be bound to national regulations of those countries that host the ERIC seat and other sites.
International Consortium Agreement linked to an existing Intergovernmental Organisation such as EMBL (mixed model): The future Euro-BioImaging members – states and intergovernmental organisations – would conclude an International Consortium Agreement and decide to use an existing legal entity for legal actions or to establish a new legal entity for these purposes. The agreement would endeavour to make sure that Euro-BioImaging becomes a research infrastructure with its own identity and visibility. In this mixed model, Euro-BioImaging, i.e. the coordinating Hub, would make use of an existing international organisation, which would at the same time become an International Consortium Member. If this legal model is chosen, the member states of the Euro-BioImaging International Consortium and EMBL will conclude an International Consortium Agreement that deals with the Partner’s obligations. EMBL would agree to provide services, offices and facilities to the infrastructure’s management (e.g. Director and Secretariat) and employ staff that would work for Euro-BioImaging. Euro-BioImaging would benefit from EMBL’s existing intergovernmental legal personality.
International Consortium Agreement linked to a company limited by guarantee: Another alternative of a mixed model would be the establishment of a new legal entity by the member states of the International Consortium for the Hub activities. This could be for example a company limited by guarantee based on national law such as the German GmbH, the UK Private Company Limited by Guarantee or the French Société Civile. The model “International Consortium Agreement linked to a company limited by guarantee” would be suitable for Euro-BioImaging, providing Euro-BioImaging a legal personality. The governance structure is easy to adopt and includes a clear line of authority and responsibility covering scientific, technical and administrative aspects of the facility. However, the restriction to national law has some downsides for an international infrastructure, and many countries will no be able to become partners of this infrastructure as experienced by other ESFRI infrastructure projects. Therefore this last model is the least favoured one by Euro-BioImaging Consortium.
The final decision on the legal model of the hub will depend on the Hub-hosting country and the decision taken by the future Euro-BioImaging Member States. The MoU Signatories indicated their preference for the ERIC model in their meeting on 19 May 2014 in Warsaw, and decided to take the final decision by written procedure shortly after the end of the Preparatory Phase.
7. Cost and finance model (see Deliverables WP4)
The Euro-BioImaging cost structure clearly distinguishes between construction and operation costs necessary for its European Hub and Nodes: the Hub will require construction of the physical infrastructure to carry out its coordinating and support services for Nodes and users. Construction of the building comprising staff offices and a data center will be financed by the Hub hosting country, while its operation will be commonly funded by all Euro-BioImaging Member States (estimated costs € 3 Mill. for supporting 25 Nodes with 1000 users/year).
Nodes’ construction will be funded by the Euro-BioImaging Member State hosting the Node. Node operational costs will be recovered through the user access fees, which will be paid for by user access grants received from national funding sources and European-level instruments for transnational user access such as EC Horizon 2020. Based on the information submitted in the 1st call for Nodes, the following costs for the construction and operation of Euro-BioImaging Nodes were projected:
Node’s capacity upgrade (Median Value) Node operation costs per user (Median value)
Biological Node € 1.3 Million € 9,000/user (30 users/year)
Molecular Node € 6.7 Million € 13,000/user (55 users/year)
Medical Node € 7.2 Million € 62,000/user (22 users/year)
Table 1: Expected costs for the capacity upgrade and operation to become Euro-BioImaging Nodes. Costs of the upgrade of Biological Imaging Nodes range from €0 to €20 Million (median absolute deviation of €1,1 Million), for Molecular Imaging Nodes from €0 to €20 Million (median absolute deviation €3,7 Million) and Medical Imaging Nodes from €0,3 to €13 Million (median absolute deviation €2,5 Million). User access cost for Mixed Nodes, providing a unique combination of Biological/Molecular/Medical imaging technologies lays with € 24.000 per user in the range of the three main technology fields.
In many European countries a large fraction of national investments, i.e. € 202 Mio has already been made into imaging facilities, that are proposed to become Euro-BioImaging Nodes. Furthermore countries have also formally expressed their interest to contribute their capacity to the pan-European infrastructure. Another 142 Million Euro has additionally been applied for by potential future Nodes in the framework of national infrastructure funding instruments. Because of Euro-BioImaging, these funding commitments are now coupled to open user access in many countries adding significant value to the investment by impacting many more scientists than comparable investments in the past. Euro-BioImaging is set to grow, particularly in the first years, and all costs of Node and Hub operation are scalable to the actual need. The number of Euro-BioImaging Nodes will be driven by user need and decided by the Euro-BioImaging Member States.
8. Euro-BioImaging 1st Open Call for Nodes and Evaluation Process (see deliverables WP3, WP5, WP6, WP7, WP8, WP9, WP10, WP11, WP12, WP13)
From January to April 2013, Euro-BioImaging ran the 1st Open Call for Nodes and invited imaging facilities in all ESFRI countries for the first time to formally express their interest to join the future Euro-BioImaging infrastructure by becoming Euro-BioImaging Nodes.
In this 1st Open Call Euro-BioImaging invites expressions of interest for the following technologies:
Biological Imaging (including Multi-modal Advanced Light Microscopy, Correlative Light-Electron Microscopy, Functional Imaging, High-throughput Microscopy, Mesoscopic Imaging, Super Resolution Microscopy);
Multi-Modal Molecular Imaging
Medical Imaging (including High-Field MRI, Phase Contrast Imaging, MRI-PET, Population Imaging)
Data Infrastructure: Challenges Framework
Except for population imaging and data infrastructure - challenges framework, that will provide remote access and services, the 1st Open Call focused on technologies that will provide physical open access to the user. Prior this the open call user need was demonstrated (see Euro-BioImaging survey), an infrastructure model and service package were defined (see Technology Specific Review Criteria) and demonstration of feasibility has been provided by the proof-of-concept studies (PCS) or equivalent .
Being committed to an open and comparable Node evaluation mechanism, Euro-BioImaging and its External Advisory Board installed the Independent Evaluation Board (IEB) consisting of international leading experts for imaging technologies and infrastructures. The IEB evaluated all EoIs against the set of general and technology specific review criteria defined by the Euro-BioImaging preparatory phase consortium and made recommendations regarding their inclusion in the future European imaging infrastructure. Please see www.eurobioimaging.eu for the complete list of IEB members and all documents including the criteria for the 1st Open Call.
71 Imaging facilities from 19 countries submitted their Expression of Interest (EoI) to Euro-BioImaging (see Figure 7). 25 of the submitted Nodes’ Expressions of Interest are highly recommended by the Independent Evaluation Board to become part of the future Euro-BioImaging infrastructure.
All EoIs demonstrated the broad user interest and need for the Nodes’ future services they plan to offer. In total, the Node applicants submitted more than 2200 research project proposals from users who plan to access Euro-BioImaging in the first two years of operation, for conducting research they are currently unable to do due to lacking access and expertise in imaging technologies. Almost 70% of these users are requesting transnational access to Euro-BioImaging Nodes.
The IEB highly appreciated the concept of Euro-BioImaging as a truly pan-European infrastructure network for imaging technologies and stated that it will provide an excellent resource and benefit to the European research community for many years to come. The Board in particular welcomed the infrastructure model centred on open access to imaging core facilities, that will support European users with an easily accessible and integrated service package, along with appropriate training and data handling capabilities. The IEB acknowledged the on average high quality of submitted Expressions of Interest (EoI), the well-coordinated process of (EoI) submission as well as the transparent provision of clear general and technology specific review criteria. In the opinion of the IEB, the Open Call process provided Euro-BioImaging with an excellent basis to incorporate the best technologies and technical services into the future distributed infrastructure, which in turn will provide open access to these capabilities to European and hopefully also international scientists. National and European aspects were formulated by the IEB for the consideration of the Euro-BioImaging Member States:
For countries, in which the infrastructure is technologically very mature and/or is already nationally coordinated and/or funded (examples: France, Germany, The Netherlands, United Kingdom) the Euro-BioImaging upgrades and open access policy will bring significant added value for national and international researchers as well as for the national imaging facilities. The leading imaging expertise in these countries mandates them to offer this to European scientists with the best research proposals and to support other countries in their efforts to improve their imaging expertise and infrastructure. These countries are therefore highly encouraged to actively participate in Euro-BioImaging and provide their expertise and service. Although in some of these countries national imaging infrastructure networks are in place, establishing national coordinating entities that would create a second layer of access administration for Euro-BioImaging users in addition to the Euro-BioImaging Hub was deemed as an unnecessary duplication of efforts by the IEB and might endanger to provide user access as rapidly and directly as possible.
Imaging infrastructures in new Member States (examples: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia): Although sometimes not offering the full range of imaging technologies or a comparable level of scientific track record when compared to old member states, the applying imaging facilities were often found to have great potential to reach highest excellence and/or to be important for the European region. The IEB proposes to install a concept of mentoring programs by partnering facilities between new and old member states to support these facilities to realize their potential as soon as possible and sees the strongly interlinked Euro-BioImaging infrastructure as an ideal mechanism to promote this. 9. Euro-BioImaging “Quality Seal“ (see deliverables WP12)
Euro-BioImaging will apply a defined set of quality management tools at the Hub and all Nodes to maintain, standardize and optimize the entire range of services. The Euro-BioImaging “Quality Seal” - awarded to Euro-BioImaging Nodes, which successfully pass regular quality checks – stands for five key service components, which the facility visibly provides:
• Open and transparent access to imaging technologies based solely on scientific merit of the user proposal
• State-of-the-art imaging equipment
• Availability of leading expertise
• Quality management in place
• Professional operational and management model in place
Nodes that do not meet these requirements at the moment of evaluation will be guided through the process of service improvements. They will lose their status as Euro-BioImaging Node if the requested improvement is not detectable or achievable until their next evaluation.
The Euro-BioImaging quality management systems will optimize and standardize the entire range of services of an access-providing imaging facility. Euro-BioImaging aims at becoming a high-class quality label for imaging infrastructure. For facilities of different kinds and in different environments, this can only be achieved by defined quality standards and formalized quality management procedures. Quality management is defined here as quality assurance and quality control and regarded by Euro-BioImaging as core responsibility of Nodes.
Quality assurance comprises measures to provide and maintain excellent instrumentation, staff, materials and services. Measures include calibration, supply control, service personnel certification etc. All Euro-BioImaging Nodes will apply formalized documented quality assurance measures.
One very important feature in the Euro-BioImaging web access portal will be the quality control tool. It will measure user satisfaction, amount of publications and other success indicators such as research grants where access to Euro-BioImaging is mentioned or acknowledged. The User satisfaction survey is mandatory and done on-line after the project is performed. The quality control tool will provide templates for acknowledging Euro-BioImaging and also automatically remind the users about notifying Euro-BioImaging when the performed work has been published.
10. Relationship with industry (see Deliverables WP3)
During Preparatory Phase, Euro-BioImaging Consortium has already assembled an Industry Board, which comprises currently more than 50 vendors and producers of biological and medical imaging equipment. A list of all industry partners is provided at the Euro-BioImaging website (http://www.eurobioimaging.eu/content-page/euro-bioimaging-industry-board). The Industry Board allows all European imaging companies to speak with one voice and formulate their position towards Euro-BioImaging as providers and users of imaging technology. The Industry Board has published an official position paper that summarizes why European bioimaging industry regards the implementation of Euro-BioImaging of key importance for Europe:
• A single pan-European infrastructure will unite Europe’s national strengths and add value to make Europe internationally leading in imaging research.
• Euro-BioImaging will strengthen Europe’s leadership in developing and implementing cutting-edge imaging technologies.
• Through Euro-BioImaging companies can access the best expertise in Europe in order to develop the next generation of imaging instruments.
• Euro-BioImaging nodes will provide the test ground for manufacturers to validate their new innovative technologies in their early phases together with the users.
• Euro-BioImaging will provide a clear pipeline for commercialization of new technology developments, including early user access and timely evaluation of market potential, thereby accelerating innovation.
• Industry will be able to communicate with the broad Euro-BioImaging user community to learn about new and challenging applications for existing and future innovative technologies.
• Euro-BioImaging allows coordination of common training programs with industry at the European level, thereby opening these programs also to the new European Member States and Associated Countries.
The Euro-BioImaging Industry Board has expressed its strong wish to continue its active participation in Euro-BioImaging in the operational phase. The current members have decided to open a position for an Industry Board Manager who will be financed by the Industry Board (via an annual membership fee) and who is physically located at the Euro-BioImaging Hub as part of the Hub staff. This person shall organize regular Industry Board meetings and maintain and update a dedicated webpage. In addition, this person shall inform the Board on countries’ specific activities in imaging, co-organize common activities with and at Nodes, co-organize training activities with and for industry among further activities.
11. Next steps towards implementation
Euro-BioImaging has developed a mature and tested research infrastructure model for imaging technologies. The model identifies which imaging technologies are needed by Europe’s scientists to remain at the forefront of biomedical research and the procedure through which they can be made openly accessible. Euro-BioImaging has also gathered a recommendation for the Euro-BioImaging Member States as to which potential Nodes could provide the needed imaging technologies. Euro-BioImaging furthermore developed a clear recommendation for how it can be governed by its Member States and coordinated and managed by its European Hub. Over 2,200 already well-defined research projects of European scientists are waiting to be carried out as soon as Euro-BioImaging is launched, demonstrating that imaging technologies are indeed the central technology platform of the life sciences of the future.
Euro-BioImaging has finished its Preparatory Phase and successfully and started the Interim Phase, during which the basis of the Euro-BioImaging infrastructure, including the governance, funding, legal framework and user access policy, will be finalized and agreed by the so called Interim Board. Furthermore the the hub hosting country will be identified.
The Interim Board is constituted of the representatives of European countries who expressed their interest in constructing Euro-BioImaging by signing together a Memorandum of Understanding (entered into force on 27th January 2014). New countries are invited to join the Interim Board at any time. Once the Interim Board has agreed on the Euro-BioImaging infrastructure model and framework, the construction and operation phase will start. At this point, Euro-BioImaging will be governed by the Euro-BioImaging Board and owned by the Euro-BioImaging Member States.
Euro-BioImaging is now gathering momentum with the countries joining the Interim Board and with investments in imaging facilities that applied in the Euro-BioImaging 1st Open Call for Nodes already being made across Europe. The imaging technology portfolio offered by the proposed Nodes corresponds to the user needs, which had been carved out in the Euro-BioImaging Survey and the Proof-of-Concept Studies. The Interim Board will now make the final proposals on the future Nodes to construct and include in the open infrastructure, setting a path for the full operation of Euro-BioImaging and provision of imaging technologies to all European biological and medical researchers.
Imaging technologies have become the central technology of the Life Sciences and will even gain in importance. However, they have also become technically so advanced that no single European country can run a world-leading imaging infrastructure covering all technologies requested by European researchers. There are therefore three major European added values of Euro-BioImaging. First, by combining the strengths in imaging technology of all Member States, Euro-BioImaging allows Europe to attain global leadership in imaging-based life science research and imaging technology development.
Second, the pan-European commitment to imaging infrastructure in Euro-BioImaging will provide long-term sustainability for research infrastructure in imaging technologies.
Third, scientists will gain open access to all relevant imaging technologies they need in their Euro-BioImaging partner countries delivered by the best experts in the field.
Regarding pan-European and regional coverage, Euro-BioImaging`s distributed nature with a Hub and Node model ensures that it can serve scientists in all Member States and regions. The mobility of national scientists to the closest suitable imaging facility was already impressively demonstrated in the 110 projects (of which more than 60% were transnational access) during Euro-BioImaging’s test operation phase. Even more impressive was the response to the first open Call from 71 imaging core facilities from 19 countries that are interested to contribute their capacities to Euro-BioImaging. The fact that they could serve users from all European regions is demonstrated by the over 2200 user projects that were submitted as part of the open call, which covered 25 European Member States. Euro-BioImaging’s open, scalable and adaptable infrastructure model is therefore ideally suited for providing access to every scientist in Europe and beyond. In the Intergovernmental Working Group, 21 countries and 1 international organization demonstrated their interest in Euro-BioImaging by commonly preparing the governance of the Interim Phase, and by May 2014 twelve countries (BE, IL, ES, IT, FI, UK, NL, NO, PL, CZ, SK, FR) and EMBL have signed the Euro-BioImaging Memorandum of Understanding.
Euro-BioImaging - Scientific Impact
The last 15 years witnessed a revolution in imaging technologies, allowing biological and medical scientists to visualize, characterize and measure molecular and cellular function with a precision never reached before. Imaging became so central to today’s biomedical discoveries that more than 70% of all high-impact biosciences publications rely on advanced light microscopy techniques. It is expected that imaging will even gain in importance. To participate in this revolution the approximately 500.000 life scientists in Europe need access to a broad range of biological and medical imaging technologies. However, imaging technologies have become technically so advanced that no single European country can afford to run a world-leading imaging infrastructure covering all technologies required by its scientists to remain at the forefront of their research.
Euro-BioImaging’s open access infrastructure, expertise, training and data services meet the urgent need for access to cutting-edge imaging technologies and will massively improve the research conditions for life sciences in the ERA. A significantly higher number of researchers will gain access to the full range of innovative imaging technologies. This will result in more discoveries in inter-disciplinary scientific areas, more high-impact publications, innovations and technology developments, and extensive collaborations between researchers all over Europe. At the same time, Euro-BioImaging will generate an infrastructure of highly competitive and world-leading imaging facilities - the Euro-BioImaging Nodes - offering services at the highest level delivered by the best experts in the field.
One of Euro-BioImaging’s first achievements was to demonstrate that an unmet need of Europe’s biological and medical scientists for access, training and data management in imaging technologies exists and to refine the specific needs in terms of the two communities (medical and biological), different imaging methodologies and geographical distribution. To do so, the Euro-BioImaging consortium performed a pan-European survey first, from June until July 2011, in which researchers (users and providers) from all sectors of the biological and medical community (academia being best represented), funders and industry were asked to complete a comprehensive questionnaire on the available capacity and their unmet needs as to imaging infrastructure. The high number of interpretable responses received (more than 660 participants), already showed that Euro-BioImaging had “hit the mark” and that the projected need is quantifiable. The results of the Euro-BioImaging Survey were extensively described in deliverable D3.4 “Inventory map / review of existing infrastructures and summarized in a “Strategic Inventory Map (SIM)” of European’s imaging landscape. Three major results as to open access were:
• Most imaging facilities do not provide national and/or international external access above 10% of their capacity.
• In biological imaging, external access capacities are lowest for multiphoton systems and correlative light and electron microscopy.
• In medical imaging, external access is not provided for MR-PET and is low for intra-operative imaging for image-guided therapy, and 7T MRI.
The 2nd invaluable source of data refining the need for a pan-European infrastructure was the Proof-of-Concept Studies (PCS) conducted from January to July 2012. In only four weeks, 228 researchers from 25 European countries and abroad (including USA, India, Australia, Singapore) submitted project proposals and 110 user projects were prioritized and conducted at 41 imaging facilities located in 14 European countries. The principles and procedures of Euro-BioImaging opening access to cutting-edge technologies in biological and medical imaging were practically tested and specific community needs for access to different imaging technologies were identified. The mobility of national scientists to the closest suitable imaging facility was already impressively demonstrated in the projects (of which more than 60% were transnational access). The PCS further confirmed the Survey’s result and together with the continuous consultation and exchange between Euro-BioImaging and the 24 national imaging communities and its 3000 Stakeholders added to refine the unmet user needs and existing differences in different member states as well.
By November 2013, already 32 research publications and another 22 manuscripts in preparation had been enabled by the 6 months Euro-BioImaging Proof-of-Concept studies clearly demonstrating the significant impact of open access to cutting-edge imaging instrumentation on the competitiveness of the ERA.
The response to the First Open Call was impressive when 71 imaging core facilities from 19 countries expressed their interest to contribute their capacities to Euro-BioImaging. It is remarkable, that over 2,200 projects were submitted by potential users located in 30 different countries as part of the Call that are well-defined and waiting to be performed as soon as Euro-BioImaging is launched. More than 50% of these researchers asked for transnational access confirming their willingness to travel in order to access Euro-BioImaging. This high number of submitted user projects again demonstrates the urgent demand for the identified technologies. Based on the overwhelmingly positive feedback from the PCS and the 2,200 Open Call user projects Euro-BioImaging foresees 1,500 – 2,000 user access requests for its first year of operation.
The increased and concentrated usage of emerging technologies by many users from different sites in Europe (and even outside Europe) firstly adds to the further dissemination and acquisition of these innovative technologies by the broad scientific community. International, multi-disciplinary projects will increase the potential for scientific breakthroughs, potentially also in new research fields, that are not represented by the national imaging community.
At the Euro-BioImaging Nodes, the continuous exchange with external users bringing in new ideas, scientific questions and expertise will also result in the boost of their own research and technology development and leads to application-driven further developments of imaging technologies (often in collaboration with imaging manufacturers). These innovative developments are customized to specific scientific needs and not available on the market yet. As a result, new patents and inventions are generated, which in many cases are being commercialized later through collaborations with industry (for more details on economic aspects, see below).
Euro-BioImaging plans to award these “highly recommended” imaging facilities that meet the highest quality standards with the Euro-BioImaging “Quality Seal”, which is expected to have a strong influence on funding decisions by national authorities and funding agencies on Node implementation. This attestation stands for five key service components, which the imaging facility should provide:
• Open and transparent access based on scientific merit of the user proposal
• Provision of state-of-the-art imaging equipment
• Availability of leading technical expertise
• Quality management in place
• Professional operational and management model in place
In order to achieve and maintain this certification, Euro-BioImaging Nodes will be regularly evaluated according to defined criteria (see above). Through this continuous quality assessment Euro-BioImaging makes sure, that the facilities remain cutting-edge in a long-term perspective. Nodes that do not meet these requirements at the moment of evaluation will be guided through the process of service improvements. They will lose their status as Euro-BioImaging Node if the requested improvement is not detectable or achievable until their next evaluation.
The Euro-BioImaging Node status (= Euro-BioImaging “Quality Seal”) will generate additional benefits for the respective imaging facility increasing its competitiveness and attractiveness in various aspects.
1) The Node status confirms the facility’s high significance in the European imaging landscape. By facilitating interactions with the international imaging community the international visibility of the facility will be increased.
2) It will attract additional international users, which in turn will lead to an increase in attractiveness of the facility for vendors of imaging technology (a single lab is not representative for the market, core facilities with a bigger user pool are). The manufacturers may then provide commercial solutions for specific problems or together with the Node develop and test innovative and demand-driven solutions that might be commercialized later.
3) Nodes will benefit from Euro-BioImaging’s close communication with national and international funding bodies in Europe e.g. by increased awareness for the needs of the imaging community and the importance of adequate funding.
4) The Euro-BioImaging “Quality Seal” will attract young and talented scientists and promote international knowledge exchange.
5) The possibility to serve international customers with varied, inter-disciplinary scientific questions and imaging technology applications together with the Euro-BioImaging training strategy for facility staff will lead to increased knowledge and expertise at the core facilities, which will both further improve the services for the internal users as well as boosting the facilities own science and technology development.
Euro-BioImaging - Economic Impact
By opening access to the complete range of cutting-edge technologies while at the same time coordinating and sharing the costs of deployment, Euro-BioImaging will allow its Member States a much better return on investment for biological and medical imaging platforms. The harmonization of access and the close collaboration of Euro-BioImaging with all related ESFRI Research Infrastructures (e.g. ELIXIR, Instruct) will overcome the current duplication of European infrastructure investments in this area. The Euro-BioImaging infrastructure with Nodes in different European regions will create new job opportunities for high potentials (researchers, engineers, technical and managerial professions). It will benefit the European economy by attracting the best professionals to the world-class imaging facilities created by Euro-BioImaging (“brain gain instead of brain drain”). With the Nodes providing all their expertise and the Hub delivering supporting services, visiting scientists can conduct their research at the highest quality standard and achieve the most efficient image acquisition and analysis. At the same time, Euro-BioImaging will provide the best return on investment with the instruments’ capacity being fully utilized (many expensive instruments even when available in better funded institutions are heavily under-utilized most often due to a lack of expertise). This form of infrastructure organisation will guarantee the most cost-effective use of investments and the application of the highest quality standards. Importantly, Euro-BioImaging while requiring additional investment in the short term to establish the infrastructure is expected to yield significant cost savings and improve quality in the longer term. This re-allocation of funding will be implemented at the level of the member states but it can be envisaged that providing open access to imaging facilities will reduce the need for the member states to equip individual labs and departments and instead much more cost effectively provide access to a richer landscape of imaging platforms available in the Euro-BioImaging facilities. The innovative technology development environment around Euro-BioImaging Nodes will lead to founding of new biotech and bio-optical companies that commercialize newly developed imaging technologies. In addition, the competitiveness of existing companies will be increased by joint technology development with Euro-BioImaging facilities (more representative of the market than individual labs), resulting in new inventions and improved access to the latest innovative imaging platforms.
In summary, the following aspects of economic benefits of Euro-BioImaging can be identified:
1. Euro-BioImaging is optimizing research infrastructure investments for biological and medical imaging
2. Recruiting and keeping high-qualified researchers (“Brain gain instead of brain drain”)
3. Development and commercialization of new and innovative technologies
Euro-BioImaging already had a major impact on research infrastructure spending on imaging technologies in its future member states during its preparatory phase. Imaging technologies have formally been incorporated onto the national infrastructure roadmaps of 9 European countries and in another six countries imaging infrastructure is evaluated in their current national roadmap processes. In addition, in 24 countries national Euro-BioImaging communities have been formed (AT, BE, BG, CR, CZ, DK, FI, FR, DE, GR, HU, HR, IL, IR, IL, LU, NL, NO, PL, PT, ES, SE, CH, UK, TR) and national coordinators have been elected to promote the process of national roadmap incorporation and infrastructure funding.
In many European countries a large fraction of national investments, i.e. 202 million Euros have already been made into potential future Nodes of Euro-BioImaging, that have formally expressed their interest to contribute their capacity to the pan-European infrastructure (see Figure 10). Another 142 Million Euros has additionally been applied for by such potential future Nodes in the framework of national infrastructure funding instruments.
Acknowledging that these funding commitments are a credible proof of politicians and national funders being convinced by the project’s value and impact, Euro-BioImaging should not be seen as an increase in total investment into imaging infrastructure. Instead, because these investments are now coupled to open user access many more scientists are reached and will profit from fundamentally improved research conditions then by comparable investments in the past. By opening access to the complete range of cutting-edge technologies while at the same time sharing the costs of deployment, Euro-BioImaging will therefore allow its Member States a much better return on investment for biological and medical imaging platforms. The coordination and harmonization of access to imaging technologies across Europe will overcome the existing duplication of infrastructure investments in the Member States. Additionally, the close collaboration of Euro-BioImaging with all Biological and Medical Sciences ESFRI Research Infrastructures will add to resolve the current fragmentation of the European research landscape in this area.
This is especially relevant to researchers from Member States, in which access to imaging infrastructure is not yet well established or from Member States in which budget cuts have led to decreases of available research funds (e.g. Spain , Greece etc.). Without Euro-BioImaging, researchers in these countries would quickly fall behind and it would be very hard and expensive to bridge the arising gap later. By offering these scientists the opportunity to access the imaging technologies they need in neighbouring countries Euro-BioImaging will also harmonize emerging differences in the level of equipment of researchers in different European regions.
The pan-European commitment to imaging infrastructure in Euro-BioImaging will also provide long-term sustainability for all European researchers using imaging infrastructure. The long-term sustainability of Euro-BioImaging is achieved through the realization of access fees collected from the base of users. Euro-BioImaging, through its Proof-of-Concept Studies and also through analysis of currently running and successfully self-supporting European imaging facilities in the First Open Call for Nodes, has proven the feasibility of this expectation and has mapped out the roadmap of how to get there.
Euro-BioImaging fosters the development and commercialization of new and innovative technologies: Nodes benefitting from the interaction with the users (e.g. serving international customers with various scientific questions and imaging technology applications) are enabled to push the limits of innovative techniques according to their demands and to drive the further technological development of their instruments through extensive collaborations with manufacturers of imaging instruments (e.g. Leica, Nikon, Zeiss). Besides the scientific impact the technological progress also holds great potential for economic impact. Newly developed imaging applications might lead to the generation of new patents, creating commercial value to the patent holder and/or after extensive testing at the facilities are commercialized by biotech/bio-optical companies.
The innovative technology development environment around Euro-BioImaging Nodes also stimulates the founding of new biotech and bio-optical companies across Europe, or as mentioned above of new products from existing European companies that are currently world market leaders, both of which may commercialize newly developed imaging technologies or provide imaging related services. Another positive economic aspect is that the competitiveness of existing companies will be increased by joint technology development with Euro-BioImaging, new inventions and access to the innovative imaging platforms.
Formally, the inclusion of the imaging industry has been endorsed by the Euro-BioImaging Industry Board, which comprises more than 50 vendors and producers of biological and medical imaging instrumentation (see section 18.104.22.168). Because they regard Euro-BioImaging as essential, the companies united in the Euro-BioImaging Industry Board are prepared to financing an industry relation’s officer at the future Euro-BioImaging Hub.
The societal impact is being assessed by the combination of the scientific and the economic impact above.
The massively improved research conditions for life scientists will increase European competitiveness, open new fields to European research and fundamentally advance the molecular understanding of health and disease. New and faster drug development will be enabled, leading to better diagnosis, therapy and disease prevention and therewith increasing the quality of life for patients. Euro-BioImaging will provide the essential imaging infrastructure for European scientists to carry out cutting-edge research and to develop the innovative solutions for the grand societal challenges including health, food security, bio-economy, inclusive and innovative societies. It will increase Europe’s knowledge-based industry and competitiveness, and foster the development and utilization of intellectual property.
By harmonizing existing and emerging differences in available imaging infrastructure in different Member States Euro-BioImaging will make sure no country falls behind in the rapid development of imaging technologies and will offer ALL European scientists the highest-quality access and service in imaging.
Euro-BioImaging will increase Europe’s knowledge-based industry and competitiveness, and foster the development and utilization of intellectual property. It will enable European life scientists to tackle the Grand Societal Challenges, for example by:
Health, demographic change and wellbeing:
• Visualizing the molecular basis of human health and disease in living cells and in animal models
• Offering non-invasive technologies for imaging of early disease states to allow effective intervention.
• Enabling new and faster drug development leading to better diagnosis, therapy and disease prevention.
Food security, sustainable agriculture, marine and maritime research, and the bio-economy:
• Providing imaging platforms for plant, animal and marine sciences essential for understanding plant and life stock disease and to understand the ocean ecosystem
• For example, Plant biology is an area of great importance as the impact of climate change and the increasing demand for food means that new ways must be found to increase crop yields and increase crop resistance to extreme conditions such as drought and flooding.
Inclusive and innovative societies:
• Enabling European scientists to conduct world-class research for increasing Europe‘s knowledge-based industry and competitiveness
• Providing open access to image data and software tools’ online repositories
• Training and sharing of expertise and best practice in imaging technologies and facility management across the ERA (mentorship programs)
• Driving innovation in imaging technologies in collaboration with industry
Although the investments into a pan-European imaging infrastructure may appear considerable at first, European societies will actually benefit from reduced costs for research and health care enabled by
1) a better return-of-investment for biological and medical imaging platforms (many more researchers are reached because now being coupled to open user access)
2) coordinating and sharing the costs of infrastructure deployment, which will end currently existing duplications of infrastructure investments in the Member States.
The best young scientists quickly move to the best international environment for their research. By creating highly-visible and competitive Nodes that – ensured by Euro-BioImaging’s quality management - continuously offer the most needed cutting-edge imaging technologies and highest-quality services to the next generation of scientific leaders, Euro-BioImaging will allow Europe to attract the best talents from other countries rather than losing its own. Additionally, the construction of new or upgrades of existing imaging facilities in different European regions will create new job opportunities for high potentials, including for researchers, engineers, technical and administrative professions, benefitting the European economy by attracting the best professionals to the world-class research and technology environment created by Euro-BioImaging. To accommodate this fact a major fraction of the investment planned to construct Euro-BioImaging Nodes will be dedicated to increase the facilities’ capacity to offer state-of-the-art biological and medical imaging technology and to employ high-specialized staff to provide an optimal support for the increased numbers of users.
Euro-BioImaging – The platform for integration of scientists and stakeholders (see also Deliverables WP1, WP5)
Euro-BioImaging has already become the European communication platform for European scientists and stakeholders that are involved in biological and medical imaging technologies. Euro-BioImaging will serve the potentially biggest scientific user community in Europe of 0.5 million European life scientists. Its current more than 2.500 interested stakeholders come from
Universities and academic institutions (e.g. life scientists interested as future users, imaging facilities’ staff interested as future providers)
• 24 national imaging communities
• Other European research infrastructures
• Non-European imaging infrastructures
• Scientific communities and organisations
• Research ministries
• European, national and regional funding organizations
Through continuous communication with these stakeholders representing 28 different countries, Euro-BioImaging secured interest and participation of future users, providers, industry, representatives of countries and funders in the Preparatory Phase.
Future users are closely following the progress of Euro-BioImaging, and waiting for future Euro-BioImaging Nodes to open their doors allowing them to perform their research. Until now, 2200 researchers have sent letters of intent to use the future Euro-BioImaging infrastructure, and 110 users already participated successfully in the Proof of Concept Studies (Euro-BioImaging test operation) in 2012.
Euro-BioImaging secured the support of imaging technology providers as well: In the 1st open call for Nodes, 71 Expressions of Interest were submitted by 221 top research institutes and universities from 19 European countries (see 1st Open Call). Highest interest by active participation of imaging technology providers was also evident in the Proof of Concept Studies, during which 63 imaging facilities offered to open their door and instruments for free to European researchers (see chapter 2).
Most importantly, Euro-BioImaging is in regular contact with national and European policy makers and funders. Euro-BioImaging has driven the establishment of 24 national imaging initiatives across Europe that are coordinating imaging infrastructure activities at the national level. Their goal is to synchronise plans and activities of the imaging community in their country, communicate the importance of imaging to funders and policy makers with one voice, enabling better use of funds and capacities. A smooth transition to implementation is ensured through the Euro-BioImaging Intergovernmental Working Group (IWG), which currently comprises national representatives from 21 countries, who are mandated by their ministries and/or national funding bodies, and EMBL. In 2013, the IWG provided the platform for interested Member States to start discussion on the Euro-BioImaging infrastructure model and to agree on the Euro-BioImaging Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). The MoU came into force in January 2014, currently signed by 12 countries (BE, IL, ES, IT, FI, UK, NL, NO, PL, CZ, SK, FR) and EMBL. The signatories form the so-called Interim Board, which will be in the driving seat towards Euro-BioImaging implementation during the Interim Phase.
On the level of the European Research Area, Euro-BioImaging established intense collaboration with the other 12 ESFRI Biological and Medical Sciences research infrastructures, opening doors for future partnerships and networking. Through these collaborations and synergies, Euro-BioImaging users will have a direct access to other services and infrastructures, which are relevant for their research.
Euro-BioImaging has established itself as a global player in imaging infrastructure planning. It has signed collaboration framework agreements with the three national imaging infrastructures: Australian Microscopy & Microanalysis Research Facility, National Imaging Facility Australia and India BioImaging. For the latter initiative, the first of its kind in India and also a showcase of success in the Indian – EC collaboration, Euro-BioImaging served as the model to create a pan-India Imaging Technology Infrastructure Project. The ongoing collaborations comprise exchange of best practice on imaging infrastructure, facility management, training programs, and common web-tools. Together with the Indian partners, Euro-BioImaging is strengthening and extending common training activities with a special focus on facility staff (“training of trainers”). Based on the close interaction with most leading imaging centers in the U.S. that are represented in the Independent Evaluation Board, a future alliance with a U.S. network of imaging core facilities is envisioned.
In the years to come, Euro-BioImaging will continue to support communication among imaging technology users, providers, national imaging initiatives etc. and policy-makers in the research infrastructure field. The Preparatory Phase recommendations for the Euro-BioImaging infrastructure model including training and image data management, user access policy, governance structure, legal model, and finance plan are summarized and published in the Euro-BioImaging business plan.
List of Websites:
Grant agreement ID: 262023
1 December 2010
31 May 2014
€ 6 989 000,42
€ 5 198 244
EUROPEAN MOLECULAR BIOLOGY LABORATORY
Deliverables not available
Publications not available
Grant agreement ID: 262023
1 December 2010
31 May 2014
€ 6 989 000,42
€ 5 198 244
EUROPEAN MOLECULAR BIOLOGY LABORATORY
Grant agreement ID: 262023
1 December 2010
31 May 2014
€ 6 989 000,42
€ 5 198 244
EUROPEAN MOLECULAR BIOLOGY LABORATORY