The European Commission published the final report of the High-Level Expert Group to Assess the Progress of ESFRI and Other World Class Research Infrastructures Towards Implementation and Long-Term Sustainability.
The report is titled "Supporting the Transformative Impact of Research Infrastructures on European Research".
This report by an independent group of experts carries out a thorough assessment of EU support to the preparatory phase and implementation of pan-European Research Infrastructures, looking at the evolution of funding instruments and formulating recommendations for ensuring the long-term sustainability of the European Research Infrastructure system.
The report also includes assessments of 43 individual Research Infrastructures on their progress towards implementation and long-term sustainability from the lifecycle perspective.
The report findings suggest that future Horizon Europe funding instruments should address Long-Term Sustainability early in the lifecycle of Research Infrastructure development. To this end this report makes a number of recommendations:
- A staged approach with funding targeted at helping Research Infrastructures to move through defined lifecycle stages or readiness levels, with checkpoints to verify progress, should be adopted.
- A panel of independent experts should be set up by the European Commission in collaboration with the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) to assess and verify progress at the end of each Framework Programme-funded grant or contract and to recommend future actions. Guidance and templates should be developed for reviewers and experts to operationalise this when new proposals are submitted, and later assessed.
- The fact that a Research Infrastructure is on the ESFRI roadmap should not lead to an automatic expectation of financial support from the European Union. The Research Infrastructure should fulfil certain criteria and should show the progress made before applying for the next round of funding support.
- To allow for more effective proposal reviews, a 'dossier' for each Research Infrastructure should be created tracking its funding history and successful achievement of its own goals against its schedule. The Research Infrastructure-dossier should be the reference for all assessments.
- In order to improve the prospects for sustainability, the European Union should insist on Member States' contributions to the funding of Preparatory and Implementation Phases with a significant element of this funding being provided as cash.
- Projects should be encouraged to work to increase financial commitment from Member States alongside political endorsement.
- Integrating Activities (IAs) have been key to the development of Research Infrastructures and their services. A clear way forward for those IAs that could realise important Research Infrastructure services, without creating new entities - Research Infrastructures, European Research Infrastructure Consortiums (ERICs) or similar - should be considered by the European Union to enable valuable networks to continue to operate effectively.
- The requirement on Research Infrastructures to align to, and actually contribute to the definition of, the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) services and operational instruments requires a higher level of coherence in the funding from different chapters (RTD, CONNECT) of the Framework Programme, and across the three pillars of Horizon Europe.
The full report is available for download.