ESFRI Workplan 2022-2023

Ιn November 2021, the Competitiveness Council endorsed the Council recommendation and a Pact on Research and Innovation was adopted, which contains 10-year priorities to deliver on European Research Area. These long-ranging priorities were addressed in the ERA Policy Agenda, which lays out the three-year actions, to progress towards the priorities of the Pact. Of particular relevance is Action 8 of the ERA policy agenda, which is dedicated to Research Infrastructures. Further indications regarding the activities of ESFRI were provided by the Competitiveness Council in its Council Conclusions of 2nd of December 2022 on Research Infrastructures.

The ESFRI Workplan for 2022-2023 primarily focuses on the implementation of the activities entrusted to ESFRI by the aforementioned Council Conclusions and Action 8. To this end, dedicated ESFRI expert groups were established to implement the different mandates and propose relevant action plans for ESFRI and the broader RI community. Areas of work include improved access to RIs, RI funding for sustainability, the energy crisis, RI impact assessment, RI cooperation with industry and Technology Infrastructures, international cooperation, strategic analysis of the European RI landscape, the Landmark Monitoring framework implementation, increased transparency of ESFRI, improved Stakeholder engagement, and more. 

Described below are the ongoing activities of the current ESFRI Drafting Groups and other expert groups, aligned with the implementation of the ambitious ESFRI Workplan.


Access to RIs

The recent pandemic and energy crises, along with rapid digital developments, have drastically changed the conditions for accessing Research Infrastructures (RIs). Despite the continued EU and national support that facilitated transnational and virtual access to RIs for many researchers, there are still challenges hindering broader and more sustainable access to European RIs and their services. To address these challenges, the ESFRI Drafting Group on Access to RIs is conducting a comprehensive analysis of RI access, considering various modes of access and their key dimensions (such as technology, data, and legal issues Their goal is to find ways to overcome these challenges and potentially revise or add elements to the European Charter for Access to Research Infrastructures. In this work in progress, the Drafting Group utilizes political statements and policy documents reflecting the EU R&I ecosystem positions on access to RIs as valuable input to inform their action plan.

RI Funding

European RIs are a key component of the European Research Area (ERA) and ESFRI has played a a crucial role in their strategic planning. As of 2021, 63 RIs are listed on the ESFRI Roadmap, made possible through national and regional investments, catalysed by EU funding.To ensure their long-term sustainability and further development, a coordinated and multi-level European effort should be implemented, with funding as a critical aspect to examine. To this aim, ESFRI has established a Drafting Group to analyse funding practices and prepare recommendations. The Group's focus is two-fold: to identify national and EU funding practices, including multi-level funding synergies, as well as bottlenecks and opportunities, and provide ESFRI recommendations; to provide future insights in the scientific and funding needs of RIs, in order to identify opportunities for additional financial support to RIs at the European level (i.e. for transnational access, digitalisation, alignment with national and European policy goals, etc).

Impact of RIs

RIs have become increasingly important in all fields of research, providing essential resources for scientific innovation and improvement. Founded when traditional funding mechanisms are insufficient, RIs are often collaborative efforts between multiple countries, research institutions, and researchers, and require large investments. As funders and policymakers are interested in the performance and impact of RIs, a dedicated ESFRI Drafting Group was created to work on providing definitions and guidelines for assessing investments in RIs, from an ESFRI perspective. Its work is focused on examining the relevance and importance of impact assessment for RIs and builds upon the work conducted within ESFRI on the Monitoring of RIs Performance, ultimately aiming to outline guidelines for assessing the impact of ESFRI landmarks and projects, and non-ESFRI RIs, beyond the core functioning and performance, to gain a better understanding of their broader impact on science, society, and the economy.

Communication, Transparency and Outreach

ESFRI has relied on its members, the ESFRI Secretariat and the relevant EC Units, to communicate its activities and outputs, making it a well-recognized body in the European research and innovation community. To build upon the existing tools and activities, a Drafting Group has been created to develop a high-level communication and outreach strategy that will be aligned to the ESFRI Workplan and effectively communicate that the Forum has entered a new period of its lifecycle, where transparency and engagement with the RI and R&I community are key. The Group works to design carefully customized approaches to meet the complex communication needs of the diverse ESFRI stakeholder community, put in place internal communication processes and strengthen two-way communication channels. Looking beyond the RI community, the communication strategy will seek new avenues to establish links to civil society and the public, engage industry and make ESFRI messages visible to public authorities.

Landscape Analysis

ESFRI has included the Landscape Analysis in its Roadmaps since 2016 to provide an overview of the European RI ecosystem, by identifying prominent RIs offering transnational access across all research fields, new and ongoing projects, and the global landscape of relevance. The LA has evolved over time, becoming a more comprehensive and strategic document that includes trend analysis and examples of RI services and their impacts in specific areas (2018 and 2021 updates). ESFRI has since decided to de-couple the Landscape Analysis process from the Roadmap, and in 2023, the Forum will publish a more strategic Landscape Analysis report, as part of ERA Action 8, to provide the framework for the next ESFRI Roadmap and contribute to the EOSC Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda. To this aim, the Landscape Analysis Drafting Group works on a comprehensive analysis of the European RI landscape to identify existing synergies, persistent deficiencies, and proposed improvements for accessibility, networking, and integration of RIs. The report will include services, technology, data, and impact across national, European, and global scales and will involve RIs and RI stakeholders a source for relevant information.

ESFRI Monitoring Committee - Landmarks Monitoring

ESFRI Landmarks were introduced in the ESFRI Roadmap 2016 as reference RIs and are pillars in the ERA landscape offering not only services to academic research, but also supporting development and innovation. Guaranteeing the excellence of the Landmark label, ESFRI has responsibility for monitoring the quality of the RIs listed in the ESFRI Roadmap as Landmarks. Since 2018, an ESFRI Working Group and an Implementation Group have worked on the Landmark monitoring exercise, producing reports with assessment criteria and a proposed methodology for the monitoring of Landmarks on the ESFRI Roadmap. The Landmark Monitoring process, started in 2022 and coordinated by the ESFRI Monitoring Committee, will cover Landmarks which have already started their operational phase and actively provide services. Monitoring will be based on qualitative information gathered through a questionnaire and quantitative information represented by KPIs, complemented by hearings and site visits. The outcomes of the Landmark monitoring exercise will provide insights into the functioning of the European RI ecosystem as a whole and will contribute to the identification of gaps in the European landscape and future opportunities for the RIs in Europe.

Stakeholder Engagement

This activity will foster the engagement of RIs and their umbrella organisations with the broad range of research and innovation stakeholders including user organisations and broader scientific communities, organisations and networks of research performing organisations, actors in the innovation ecosystem, stakeholders from business communities as well as national and regional authorities and funding bodies. A key element of this action will be the adoption and implementation of a comprehensive ESFRI strategy for stakeholder engagement. This will include, among others, the ESFRI Stakeholder Forum, development of its activities together with stakeholders and their consequent implementation.
The activity will seize opportunities from ESFRI and the EOSC tripartite governance to expand and accelerate cooperation among generic and thematic infrastructures across the institutional, national, regional, and European levels and a further engagement with stakeholders and international partners. It will also strengthen the impact of European research infrastructures and the EOSC on the long tail of science, opening up data and digital services to all European researchers.

Energy and Supply Challenges

The Russian aggression on Ukraine, in conjunction with the COVID-19 pandemic aftermath, has wide-ranging consequences for the EU, including an immense energy cost increase, and a shortage of critical resources. Both of these have pronounced effects on the sustainability and operations of RIs several of which face difficulties in providing continuous service. To collect information about the challenges and possible ways of addressing them, a dedicated drafting group looks into the present challenges and their extent, as well as the policy responses from ESFRI members. The outcomes will enable ESFRI members to discuss ways to increase sustainability of RIs and their services, and elaborate scenarios to manage possible upcoming crises, including energy supply difficulties. 

International Cooperation

The main objective of the work is to elaborate the ESFRI’s approach to international cooperation, linking the European, national and regional RIs in a multi-disciplinary and cross-sectorial way with the macro-regional and global levels. To this end, the political priorities of the EU’s external relations in the field of research and innovation will be examined through the lens of RI policy and RIs. The main global macro-regional actors to engage with will be identified, and the policy cooperation mechanisms will be examined, in order to deliver on the indications of the Competitiveness Council - cooperation with 3rd countries on a case-by-case approach based on shared fundamental values and principles.

RIs’ Cooperation with Industry and Synergies with TIs

The relationship between Research Infrastructures (RIs) and industry is well understood and has been in existence for many years. The ambition of the drafting group is to get an even better understanding of the collaborative relationships between RIs and industry to identify the areas where RIs need further support to collaborate effectively with industry, and where industry could benefit more from RIs. In view of the on-going discussion on Action 12 of the new ERA, the group will also aim to identify a better understanding of the roles that both Research and Technology Infrastructures (TIs) will play going forward and, more importantly, how they can both complement one another and contribute to a coherent landscape of infrastructures to support Europe’s science base in development of effective solutions to pressing socio-economic challenges.