Evaluation of Pertinence and Impact of Research Infrastructure Activity in FP7 – EPIRIA

Language: English

Publication date: 15th August 2014

This study analysed the relevance, efficiency and effectiveness of the Research Infrastructures (RI) component of the European Commission Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), assessed its European Added Value, and suggested options for future Community RI actions.

The FP7 RI programme has made a significant step forward in the efficiency and effectiveness of its support to the European research infrastructure compared to the programme in FP6. The more coordinated approach to the funding of existing and new distributed research infrastructures or networks of research infrastructures in Europe, based on the ESFRI roadmap, constituted an important facilitator for this highly positive evolution. Crucial for the creation of the globally connected European Research Area in Research Infrastructure was also the shift in focus towards the delivery of user-tailored e-infrastructure services and the development of a multi-layer e-Infrastructure ecosystem and the Programme has brought e-Science in the European research system, creating a platform for research enhancement and allowing researchers and engineers to stay at the forefront of the state-of-the-art.

There is room for improvement. The most important needs are

  • Greater focus on exploiting the innovation potential of the Research Infrastructures
  • Even though progress has been made compared to FP6, the coherence of European RI policy making – and especially RI funding – needs to be improved and refocused on developing an holistic European vision
  • Stronger cooperation between the scientific and e-Infrastructure communities is crucial to strengthen Europe’s capacities in e-Science and Europe’s competitive positioning in research at the global level
  • Reducing the tendency to funding fragmentation at the EC level
  • There is a need for a strategic vision for Europe
  • The sustainability of the European Added Value is a major issue

Our recommendations were:

  • Tackle the sustainability issue through new funding and/or governance models
  • Promote a more holistic and comprehensive view on research infrastructure among national policy makers. This involves both developing a European vision and connecting it with the role of national and regional planners in using the Structural Funds, so it will involve not only funding programmes but also wider coordination activities
  • Consider whether it is satisfactory that the ESFRI roadmap should be the sole driver of EC RI funding priorities
  • Further strengthen the cooperation between ESFRI and eIRG and the scientific/e-Infrastructures communities as a whole
  • Improve the coordination of RI strategy among DGs
  • Improve synergies with other EC services/initiatives – beyond the Structural Funds
  • Support the development of distributed RI in Social Sciences
  • Strengthen the innovation element in the RI, e.g. through financial incentives for SME use of RI, stronger emphasis on economic impact and user-orientation as selection criterion, revision of regulations and access rules in line with industry needs.