FP7 to strengthen support for pan-European research infrastructures

EU Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik has provided details of how the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) will continue to support the development of integrated research infrastructures of pan European interest.

Speaking to an audience at the German Science Council in Mainz on 7 July, Mr Potocnik said that researchers were increasingly finding it difficult to complete their research projects within the confines of their own laboratories.

"In many cases, for the most ambitious projects, they need to rely upon the services of a larger research facility. Accessing research facilities in a foreign country has in the past often been associated with more or less administrative and financial burden," he said.

Reacting to this situation, the European Commission has developed a number of initiatives within the Framework Programme (FP) to help researchers overcome these difficulties. They include the financing of 'Transnational Access', which fund access to major research infrastructures actions for research teams. This will continue under FP7, assured the Commissioner.

With the start of Sixth Framework Programme (FP6), the Commission went even further, noted Mr Potocnik, introducing 'Integrated Infrastructure Initiatives', through which Research Infrastructures (RIs) can coordinate their services and their development to fit better the needs of the scientific community. This programme combines, within a single contract, networking activities (including consortium management); provision of access to transnational users; and joint research activities.

Key to the development of RIs is the work undertaken by the European Strategy Forum for Research Infrastructures (ESFRI). Established in 2002, the Forum brings together representatives of EU Member States and Associated States, as well as the Commission, to support a coherent approach to policy-making on research infrastructures in Europe, and to act as an incubator for international negotiations on concrete initiatives.

Together with the Commission, ESFRI is set to produce the first roadmap for new infrastructures. To be launched in the autumn, the roadmap will identify new infrastructures of pan-European interest (or major upgrades) corresponding to needs of the European research communities, covering all scientific areas, regardless of possible location.

"It will therefore be a useful tool for every policy maker in Europe in offering numerous options for research investment," said the Commissioner.

In a recent review of its national research projects, the German Science Council concluded that several projects were of such a dimension and scientific aspiration that they would be better pursued jointly at international level. These included the Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research (FAIR) and the X-Ray Free Electron Laser (XFEL). Furthermore, The Council also recommended that research vessel Aurora Borealis be realised as a joint European effort.

"This makes these project natural candidates for the European Roadmap. The Commission intends to use the ESFRI list of projects for focusing its support activities for new construction projects under FP7," said Mr Potocnik.

He went on to note that in FP7, the Commission will expand its support to international consortia, which will eventually result in facilities built on a joint basis. "The Commission has indeed the capability to play a catalysing role in the negotiations for intergovernmental agreements," said the Commissioner.

Regarding construction of such facilities, Mr Potocnik suggested that Community support could take the form of sharing some of the construction costs, as well facilitating loans through the new Risk Sharing Finance Facility. "This facility offers the promise to start a new era, not only with much easier access to research funds, but also for managing differently research projects," concluded Mr Potocnik.

For more information on the ESFRI, please visit:
http://cordis.europa.eu/esfri/home.html

Copyright ©European Communities, 2006
Neither the Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, nor any person acting on its behalf, is responsible for the use, which might be made of the attached information. The attached information is drawn from the Community R&D Information Service (CORDIS). The CORDIS services are carried on the CORDIS Host in Luxembourg – http://cordis.europa.eu.int. Access to CORDIS is currently available free-of-charge.

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