On 11 February 2020, the agreement for Estonia to join the Nordic e-Infrastructure Collaboration NeIC was signed at the Delta Centre in Tartu. This agreement gives Estonian research infrastructures the possibility to maintain and enhance their competitiveness and do more international cooperation.
The agreement was signed by Arne Flåøyen, Director for NordForsk, an institution that facilitates and provides funding for cooperation on research across the Nordic region, and Andres Koppel, the chairman of the board of the Estonian Research Council.
Andres Koppel, Arne Flåøyen and the Director of NeIC
Gudmund Host (from the left). Photo: Henry Narits.
"The agreement signed today is a remarkable step forward for Estonia as a well-known digital country. It gives our researchers the possibility to contribute with their knowledge to the cooperation between Nordic countries and thus maintain and enhance the competitiveness of our research infrastructures. Estonian Research Council is especially glad that our cooperation with NordForsk has been steadily intensifying over the last year", stated Andres Koppel.
With its combined population of 27 million and high-quality register- and data collections, the Nordics has a competitive advantage. "We believe that a joint Nordic-Baltic collaborative effort will benefit all of us, because Open Science is also about maximising returns on public investment in research. By giving access to research data to others who may have completely different backgrounds, we see the data with fresh eyes. Moreover, Estonia is known for having great e-infrastructure and highly competent experts in the field. We believe this holds enormous potential for learning even more", stated Arne Flåøyen.
Estonia's rapidly developing high-level science and research stands out among the small countries of the European Union, noted Katrin Pihor, the Head of the Research Policy Department of the Ministry of Education and Research. "Estonia's success is based on close international cooperation, especially with the Nordic countries. We hope that the agreement provides an additional boost to the development of data economy and IT research as well as Estonia's researchers have opportunities to contribute to the developments that Estonia alone would never be capable."
NeIC is the Nordic e-Infrastructure Collaboration hosted by NordForsk through which most of the strategic collaboration on Nordic e-infrastructures is conducted. One of the main objectives of NeIC is the joint development and operation of high-level services of e-infrastructures in the strategic fields, including open science, important for the Nordic research community. This primarily includes Nordic High Performance Computing (HPC) collaboration projects, but also other e-infrastructures in various research fields. For example, the collaboration helps to securely manage the sensitive data sets from human research without exchanging or sharing copies of source data among partners.
For Estonian research infrastructures, which have significantly developed in recent years, cooperation with the Nordic countries is unavoidable in order to maintain and improve its competitiveness. NeIC's activity is mainly carried out through collaboration projects. After Estonia became an observing member of NeIC in 2018, Estonian research infrastructures have already had the opportunity to take part in many NeIC projects.
Joining NeIC takes places at the level of research councils and the authorisation for the substantive work is given to the countries' scientific computing centres. In Estonia, the substantive collaboration with NeIC will be coordinated by the Estonian Scientific Computing Infrastructure (ETAIS, Eesti Teadusarvutuste Infrastruktuur) led by the University of Tartu and partnered with Tallinn University of Technology, National Institute Of Chemical Physics And Biophysics and Information Technology Foundation for Education (HITSA,Hariduse Infotehnoloogia Sihtasutus).
According to the CEO of ETAIS, Ivar Koppel, full NeIC membership is a recognition of Estonia's e-infrastructures and a mark of their quality, and proves that Estonia is indeed able to participate at the high level of the Nordic countries. "With regard to full membership, Estonia will have to opportunity to influence developments in infrastructures and participate in influential collaboration projects. Thanks to NeIC, Estonia is involved in the European High-Performance Computing Joint Undertaking EuroHPC LUMI consortium and in the project coordinating the creation of the Nordic science cloud, EOSC-Nordic. The volume of financing allocated to Estonia in all NeIC projects is already about six million euro", noted Ivar Koppel.
Estonia's membership agreement was concluded for an initial period ending at the end of 2022 when the valid NeIC general Memorandum of Understanding expires. As agreed between countries, the Memorandum of Understanding is extended by five-year periods. Since last year, NeIC is also on the list of Estonian Research Infrastructure Roadmap.