30.10.2018
The updated Strategy Report and Roadmap 2018 of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures, a true success story of the European Research Area, was officially announced in a vibrant and successful event which took place at the Jesuit Hall of the Aula der Wissenschaften, in Vienna, Austria. 
 
On 11 September 2018, more than 300 high-level participants from the world of science, policy-making, innovation and technology came together to celebrate the announcement of the ESFRI Roadmap 2018, a vivid demonstration of the high merit and potential of European collaboration in developing visions and sustainable perspectives for an interoperable Research Infrastructure ecosystem as a key asset of Europe. The Roadmap 2018 displays the ESFRI Landmark portfolio of 37 long-term engagements in all fields of science and 18 ESFRI Projects, with 6 new entries in the Energy, Environmental research, Health and Food and Social and Cultural Innovation domains.
 
Daniel Weselka, the Austrian ESFRI Delegate, opened the event, which was hosted by the Austrian Presidency of the EU Council and co-organized by ESFRI and the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research, in close cooperation with the European Commission.
 
On behalf of the Austrian Presidency, Barbara Weitgruber, Director General, Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research, welcomed the participants and congratulated ESFRI for its great achievement in shaping the European Research Infrastructures ecosystem. Representing a national authority, she identified a need for better coordination among existing national and Pan-European RIs with central support at the European level, before giving the floor to Giorgio Rossi, the ESFRI Chair
 
 
6 new projects and 8 new landmarks are entering the Roadmap 
Giorgio Rossi’s speech was celebrating in tone and informative in nature. The ESFRI Chair enthusiastically presented the ESFRI Roadmap 2018, a result of a long learning process throughout the years, in which ESFRI accumulated valuable experience in designing the RI landscape and developed its strategic vision. Stressing the added value of this document, he highlighted its new elements: 6 new projects and 8 new landmarks are entering the Roadmap to fill gaps in the diverse thematic domains, covering all fields of science and innovation. 
 
 In this fifth Roadmap, the Landscape Analysis becomes a key ingredient of ESFRI methodology and the landmarks portfolio has a strengthened role. Also, two high strategic potential areas of research in the field of social and cultural innovation are identified: Religious studies and digital services for open science.  
 
 
ESFRI Roadmap is the result of a positive collaboration
Pointing to the evolving role of Research Infrastructures in science and society, he proudly noted that Europe is the only place in the world where a Roadmap covering all fields of science is being produced. At the same time, the RI landscape is taking shape as a connected ecosystem and policymakers in the field have to face many challenges: not only specific for each scientific domain, but also transversal to all domains such as the internationalization of excellent research, ensuring interoperable and accessible RIs, building open integrated research environments, providing measurable evidence of the direct and indirect impact of RIs on society and economy, controlling the quality of scientific data, enabling multidisciplinary research, warranting long-term sustainability etc. In this direction, ‘this Roadmap represents a big and exciting effort with a goal to build a sustainable vision. ESFRI is a realization of a positive collaboration where everyone is doing its best’ Rossi concluded. 
 
The role of ESFRI is evolving: a need for empowering the monitoring process 
In the same celebrating tone, Jean-David Malo, Director for Open Innovation and Open Science, Directorate General for Research and Innovation, European Commission, called the participants to be proud of what has been achieved in this collective work which represents an ecosystem of many billions investment and has an impact on the lives of European citizens. Noting that the challenges that the RI ecosystem faces today can only be addressed from a multidisciplinary perspective, he called for better alignment of the decision making process at the national level, situated a need for encouraging collaboration with the world of enterprises and stressed that the monitoring process should acquire a greater role towards implementation. In an environment where the role of ESFRI is also evolving, the Commission committed to continue supporting ESFRI. 
 
Jan Hrusak, ESFRI Vice-Chair and Chair-elect, opened the floor for discussion. Issues raised evolved around the ESFRI’s role in the ERA, internationalization, and ESFRI’s plans to stimulate interconnectivity across RIs. It emerged that ESFRI was given a clear mandate to optimize the member-states investment in the field of e-infrastructure and data management (e-needs) and that there is a need to further develop synergies with different initiatives and to foster co-operation through concise methodologies. Participants were also highly concerned with the issue of integration of funds and optimal alignment of the funds from different origins. All speakers expressed political willingness to look into this matter and head towards the standardization of accounting procedures. When the issue of the Landmarks’ evaluation came up, Giorgio Rossi talked about ESFRI’s new mandate to develop a monitoring methodology to evaluate the performance of RIs, based on the adoption of key performance indicators and announced that ESFRI has already set up a new ad hoc working group to address this mandate. It also emerged from the discussion that since the RIs are treated as amplifiers of research, their potential should be more exploited in training and higher education. 
 
The route to ESFRI success: Highlights from former ESFRI Chairs  
The next session represented an effort for internal reflection on ESFRI’ route through the years. All the former ESFRI chairs were invited to transfer their wisdom and expectations for the future of ESFRI in a panel that symbolically represented all the work that has been done since ESFRI’s very first mandate. 
 
Hans Chang -the first chair of ESFRI from 2002 to 2005- praised the tremendous effort carried out for producing this Roadmap and realized that ESFRI is a big success when someone looks in the RIs of Europe that are in operational mode today. When it comes to the future, he strongly advised “ESFRI 2.0” to focus on implementation issues within the narrative of landscape analysis. 
 
 
For John Wood (2005-2008), ESFRI should map strategic development goals, enhance the visibility of RIs, prioritize training issues and ensure that the society and citizens are involved with the RIs. 
 
Carlo Rizzuto (2008-2010) pointed out to specific ‘bugs’ that ESFRI has failed to anticipate: sustainability issues that could not be forecasted before the crisis and the lack of mobility in the personnel of non-distributed RIs. 
 
As Beatrix Vierkorn-Rudolf (2010-2013) was not able to attend personally, in her video contribution she stressed the indispensable role of the RIs in producing new ideas and innovation and listed the achievements during her chairmanships such as the Roadmap 2010 and the development of the cooperation with eIRG and countries outside Europe. 
 
The session closed with John Womersley (2013-2016) who talked about the new elements introduced in the Roadmap 2016 update such as a serious evaluation of the steps towards implementation for all the projects, the concept of landmarks, a set of stricter criteria for entering the Roadmap. He went further to suggest that ESFRI has to think how to prioritize and bring its approach to areas where there is not a single Pan European Initiative and how can it coordinate and promote the activities of national RIs by creating pan European networks in a single area. ‘If we are going to have any hope of managing the lifecycle of RIs, the best way is by connecting RIs together and helping governments to understand the continuous scientific value of their scientific investments’, he stated. 
 
eLTER project: an essential component of world-wide efforts to better understand ecosystems
The next session was devoted to 3 of the new projects that entered the Roadmap. The first speaker, Michael Mirlt was representing eLTER, an umbrella network for Long-Term Ecosystem Research (LTER) in Europe. Its members are national networks of eLTER sites. Long-Term Ecosystem Research (LTER) is an essential component of world-wide efforts to better understand ecosystems. Through research and monitoring, LTER seeks to improve our knowledge of the structure and functions of ecosystems and their long-term response to environmental, societal and economic drivers. Having a mission to track and understand the effects of global, regional and local changes on socio-ecological systems and their feedback to environment and society and to provide recommendations and support for solving current and future environmental problems, eLTER has an important economic and societal impact. 
 
DiSSCo: the largest ever agreement to unify European science collections 
Dimitris Koureas, representative of DiSSCo project, presented this new pan-European Research Infrastructure with a vision to position European natural science collections at the center of data-driven scientific excellence and innovation in environmental research, climate change, food security, health and the bio-economy. It has been the largest ever agreement to unify European science collections since is currently bringing together 115 European museums from 21 countries, offers unified services for access to collections and introduces a novelty in the way scientists interact with natural science collections. 
 
 
EHRI: Introducing innovation to the Holocaust research 
EHRI, the European Holocaust Research Infrastructure was presented by Conny Kristel. With a mission is to support the Holocaust research community by building a digital infrastructure and facilitating human networks, EHRI provides online access to information about dispersed sources relating to the Holocaust and tools and methods that enable researchers and archivists to collaboratively work with such sources. Seeking to overcome one of the hallmark challenges of Holocaust research: the wide dispersal and fragmentation of the archival source material across Europe and facilitating an extensive network of researchers, it promises to bring about innovation in Holocaust research and to initiate new transnational and collaborative approaches to the study of the Holocaust.
 
The consolidation of the European RI Landscape 
The European RI Landscape and its consolidation was the focus of the next session. Comments on the process of consolidation were expressed from different perspectives: The European, the national and ESFRI’s viewpoint. Philippe Froissard, Head of the Unit in Research Infrastructures, offered the European Commission’s perspective stating that the consolidation is both a challenge and an opportunity for member states and that Europe has a role to play by supporting and fostering consolidation. So far, this support has been focusing on the early phase/ preparatory phase of the RI projects, it is essential however to also look to other areas e.g. provide dedicated support for clustering or help RIs to revise their services offered. 
 
The position of the member states was articulated by Björn Halleröd, Secretary General, Swedish Research Council (ESFRI Sweden Delegate), who stressed that ‘even though there is European planning, it is the member states that carry most of the investment. At the same time, international RIs become more important but the cost of the RI burdens the national research budget on one way or another, which brings some kind of instability in the system when it comes to long-term sustainability’. For Hallerod, it emerges that ESFRI should develop indicators that guide countries in shaping their strategic priorities in the field of RIs. 
 
ESFRI’s role in the consolidation process 
Jan Hrusak was asked to speak on ESFRI’s role in the consolidation process. Over the 15 years of its existence, ESFRI has demonstrated its ability to develop a strategic vision and has repeatedly confirmed its capacity in providing policy recommendations and contribute solutions to complicated problems. At this stage, ESFRI is building on the collective experience and knowledge gained throughout the years, to fully understand the evolution of the entire RI ecosystem and its specialties and receive all the new issues that are emerging. ESFRI is ready to enhance its perception of strategic investment and immediately start discussions about the new concept of the monitoring process. In this direction, it is important to value a process of internal reflection – one which started in the previous session of former chairs-. 
 
Representatives of the RIs were also given the opportunity to enter the discussion and comment, adding their perspective to the consolidation process. The complicated issue of how to distribute the cost of RIs to users that are allocated in other countries raised considerations that the cost is not always allocated where the benefits are. Also, the role of the industry in the consolidation process was touched. Looking at the involvement of the industry in the RIs as users, it was stressed that there is a strong relationship between the RIs and the industry even in the construction phase where new technology is developed focusing on the needs of users’ communities.  The industry’s role as suppliers of innovation for RIs was however prioritized and the work of the ESFRI innovation Group was cited. 
 
METROFOOD project: developing high quality metrology services in food and nutrition
Continuing with the presentations of the new projects that entered the Roadmap 2018, Giovanna Zappa and Claudia Zoani took the floor to present the METROFOOD, a new distributed Research Infrastructure of global interest, providing high quality metrology services in food and nutrition, comprising an important cross-section of highly inter-disciplinary and inter-connected fields throughout the food value chain, including agro-food, sustainable development, food safety, quality, traceability and authenticity, environmental safety, and human health. The general objective is to enhance scientific excellence in the field of food quality & safety by promoting metrology in food and nutrition, allowing coordination on a European and increasingly on a global scale.
 
EU-IBISBA project will support industrial biotechnology 
Michael O’Donohue talked about EU-IBISBA, a new European project focused on supporting industrial biotechnology. IBISBA aims to create a coordinated network of research infrastructure facilities that support industrial biotechnology, a hybrid technology that embraces biocatalyst design and bioprocess development, together with synthetic biology in a field that has recently provided advances for designing new enzymes and cell factories. The work of the consortium is to offer open access to first-rate research facilities and lay the foundations for a permanent research infrastructure that will address some of the main challenges that are currently hampering the development of industrial biotechnology, a key enabling technology (KET) of Europe’s bio-economy.
 
IFMIF-DONES project will support the construction of the DEMOnstration Power Plant 
Recognizing the need of a neutron source for the qualification of materials to be used in future fusion power reactors, EU has launched activities for the design and engineering of the International Fusion Materials Irradiation Facility-DEMO Oriented Neutron Source (IFMIF-DONES) facility. Carlos Alejaldre presented IFMIF-DONES giving a brief description of the current needs in the field of energy and stressing that the construction of the DEMOnstration Power Plant (DEMO) is critical in scale and has global significance.
 
Increasing the visibility of services through a catalogue of services: opportunities and challenges 
Data Services of Research Infrastructures emerged also as a hot topic on the agenda. Philippe Froissard was the first panelist to point to the EU recommendations for increasing the visibility of services provided in the RIs through a catalogue of services. Such a catalogue will provide an opportunity for RIs to adapt their services, broaden their user-bases and identify gaps in the services. A challenge ahead in this task lies in the interconnections which need to be made with the catalogue of services at EOSC where there should be clear complementarities. 
 
What are the dimensions of quality data, how they lead to replicable science and why research infrastructures need to invest in quality data services – both internal and external? In his speech, Yannis Ioannidis, Director General of the “Athena” Research Center, highlighted the importance of FAIR data -data that is findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable- and the major role that research infrastructures have to play in allowing, delivering and guaranteeing controllable data quality available to scientists.
 
Nikolas Blomberg, ELIXIR Director, the next panelist, prompted participants to think about Research infrastructures in the context of facility access and data access, highlighted the transnational access program, which has transformed access to research facilities within the discipline of biosciences, and referred to excellent research examples independent of state capital. Participants contributed to the panel with fruitful comments regarding the diverse catalogues of services, the imperative for this catalogue to be dynamic, opportunities found at EOSC and the need for broadening RI user base. 
 
ESFRI has become a true landmark of the European Research Area
Overall, it has been an important day for research in Europe and conclusions were plenty. Jean-David Malo noted that ESFRI has become a true landmark of the European Research Area and not only has to remain an incubator of RIs but also has to strengthen its catalytic role in a more and more mature RI landscape.
 
Giorgio Rossi concluded the day picking up on the points expressed by the former chairs -referring to the ‘bugs’ in RI ecosystem- and promised that ESFRI will deal with these ‘bugs’ even better in the future: ‘ESFRI represents a financial effort equal to 50% of the overall portfolio of the RIs in Europe; the crisis may have put some bugs with respect to sustainability, but ESFRI has been an optimizer in the presence of the economic crisis… This role would be enhanced if a mandate was given to ESFRI to optimize also the investment on eInfrastructures, high performance computing networks and data infrastructures’. He closed with a suggestion to member states: ‘Investing in infrastructures is possible during the crisis and keeps the level of competence of your country and the level of readiness to intervene in all domains quickly and effectively very high’. 
 
Towards the next Roadmap Update
Τhe next update of the Roadmap will be presented in 2021 and an announcement of the launch of the procedure is expected in June 2019. Before that, a lot of work lies ahead for both the projects and ESFRI. The event was recorded live and a full video of the sessions can be found HERE. Interested parties may search for the presentations and photo albums in the event’s webpage. Video interviews with key ESFRI Roadmap stakeholders will be released soon to complement the valuable conclusions and discussions which took place during the ESFRI 2018 Roadmap Launch event.


Find more about the event, presentations and live stream HERE. Browse through the photo album HERE  
 
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