Research Infrastructures play an increasingly important role in the advancement of knowledge and technology and their exploitation. By providing access to users from different countries, by attracting young people to science and through networking of facilities, research infrastructures also help to structure the scientific community and therefore play a key role in the construction of an efficient research and innovation environment. Research infrastructures are at the core of the knowledge triangle of research, education and innovation.
The sheer size of research infrastructures often requires a joint effort by Member States. ESFRI - the European Strategy Forum for Research Infrastructures - and its Roadmap therefore play a major role in achieving a more coordinated approach to policy-making in the field of research infrastructures.
However, a major difficulty for setting up new European Research Infrastructures, apart from scarcity of resources and the complexity of technical and organisational issues, is the lack of an adequate legal framework allowing the creation of appropriate partnerships of different countries.
In this context, a Regulation on a Community legal framework (based on Article 171 of the EC Treaty) for a European Research Infrastructures Consortium (ERIC) has been established. This legal framework is a key initiative for implementing the European Research Area (ERA) and aims at facilitating the formation of consortia of Member States and other countries for the construction and operation of research facilities of pan-European interest. The ERIC proposal provides an easy-to-use legal framework with clear provisions on key issues, while leaving enough flexibility to individual consortia to develop rules for specific infrastructures. 19 ERICs were established by 2018: SHARE, CLARIN, EATRIS, ESS, BBMRI, ECRIN, DARIAH, CERIC, Euro-Agro, JIV-ERIC, ICOS, EMSO, European Spallation Source, LifeWatch, ECCSEL, CESSDA, INSTRUCT, EMBRC, EU-OPENSCREEN.
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