If supported, small and medium-sized research infrastructures have the potential to increase the resilience of European society

One of the focuses of the Czech Presidency of the Council of the European Union in the field of research is the role of research infrastructures, including their potential to improve the preparedness and resilience of European society to socio-economic and health crises.

Small and medium-sized research infrastructures are neglected

Large research infrastructures are well recognized at national and European level for their crucial role. However, the equally important role of small and medium-sized research infrastructures* for European research and innovation is usually overlooked.

Various actions have helped to recognize research infrastructures over the past few years. These initiatives were presented at the International Conference on Research Infrastructures 2018 (ICRI 2018). However, they were all focused on larger infrastructures. The Czech Presidency is committed to adopting Council conclusions and has called on EU Member States to prioritize investment as part of their public spending on research and innovation. It is essential that small and medium-sized infrastructures are also included in this initiative.

“EU-LIFE highlights the key role of small and medium-sized research infrastructures for the European research ecosystem”

“As an alliance of research institutes advocating excellent research in Europe, EU-LIFE highlights the key role of small and medium-sized research infrastructures for the European research ecosystem. Without these infrastructures located in research institutions across Europe, the European Union’s research and innovation goals cannot be achieved,” commented Marta Agostinho, Executive Director of EU-LIFE.

How can these research infrastructures be supported?

The need for specific support of these small and medium-sized infrastructures has been highlighted for a long time. To respond to the conclusions of the 2018 ICRI debate, EU-LIFE issued a call to action for small and medium-sized research infrastructures, which includes six specific recommendations:

  • Clear recognition and recognition of the important role of small and medium-sized research infrastructures for European research and innovation.
  • Map and understand the needs and challenges facing small and medium-sized research infrastructures in Europe.
  • Address these needs and challenges while promoting the contribution of these research infrastructures to the sustainability of the research and innovation ecosystem.
  • Include specifically the dimension of small and medium-sized research infrastructures within the European Research Area (ERA) and the plan for the sustainability of European research infrastructures.
  • Involving relevant stakeholders for small and medium-sized research infrastructures in the policy process, as successfully done in the past in DG Research and Innovation.
  • Provide proportionate support under Horizon Europe to small and medium-sized research infrastructures for training, innovation and transnational access, as foreseen in the conclusions of the Competitiveness Council of May 2018.

These guidelines are in line with the priorities of the main stakeholders in the European research ecosystem, who participated in a special workshop as a follow-up to the above-mentioned call for action.

What is the contribution of EU-LIFE?

Since then, EU-LIFE’s efforts to enhance the impact of small and medium-sized research infrastructures have focused on supporting these facilities at European level and making recommendations on how to recognize their contribution to research, how best to develop careers of the research infrastructure staff and how to ensure the sustainability of the basic facilities.

In addition, a survey was recently conducted among 126 infrastructures from 12 of the 15 EU-LIFE partner institutes to compare their different financial, operational and management models, as well as staff careers and support. This benchmarking led to a comprehensive report that was produced earlier this year.

“The report is a useful reference tool for insight into operational and financial strategies in research infrastructures. The task force also used the exercise to identify specific challenges and launch new initiatives to develop sustainable basic facilities as well as to evaluate existing ones,” said Sophie Kellerup Christensen, EU-LIFE Project and Policy Officer and lead co-author of the study report.

An overview of the benchmarking results will be presented at the International Conference on Research Infrastructures (ICRI 2022) and will be available on the EU-LIFE website. ICRI 2022 will be held in Brno (Czech Republic) from 19 to 21 October.

* Large research infrastructures cater to specific needs of specialized user groups that require highly sophisticated and/or expensive infrastructure and as a result have a European user base. On the other hand, small and medium-sized research infrastructures have a local user base that allows them to develop and implement new technologies and train the next generation of scientists.

Written by EU-LIFE. EU-LIFE is an alliance of research centers whose mission is to support and strengthen European scientific achievements. EU-LIFE members are leading research institutes in their countries and are internationally renowned for producing excellent research, widely transmitting knowledge and nurturing talent. Since its foundation in 2013, EU-LIFE has been a stakeholder in European politics, participating regularly in the EU political dialogue.

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