In this extensive Q&A, Paco Colomer, the chair of the ERIC Forum, explains all you need to know about the platform and the benefits of being ERIC!
What is actually an ERIC?
ERIC – The European Research Infrastructure Consortium is a legal framework introduced in 2009 to support the establishment and operation of large-scale research infrastructures of pan-European interest. The ERIC community has been expanding in the last ten years, and until May 2022, it counts 23 established ERICs and almost 10 European research infrastructures aspiring to become an ERIC. The added value of these research infrastructures is considered a crucial pillar for the success of the European Research Area (ERA). The variety and diversity of ERICs make them important players in European Science excellence that respond to various societal challenges: this results in ground-breaking scientific achievements in different domains, supports science diplomacy, and creates bridges between research communities within Europe and worldwide.
What is needed for a Research infrastructure to be qualified and established as the ERIC?
Formally, a minimum of three European Member States (or one Member State and two other countries that are either Member States or associated countries) agree to participate in an ERIC. In many cases, these are interested in scaling up and coordinate the resources provided by their national research infrastructures into a much larger collaboration of European scope. The ERIC regulations detail the procedure, which is validated by the European Commission.
What are the benefits of being established as an ERIC?
Since membership in the ERIC is decided at the governmental level, these Research Infrastructures have strong support from their funders to provide expert services to the scientific community. The pan-European nature of ERICs facilitates data and knowledge exchange. Other important advantages, like VAT exceptions and excise duties, make these legal entities attractive.
ERIC Forum is now an essential stakeholder when shaping or discussing the European landscape of Research Infrastructures.
What is the purpose of the ERIC Forum?
The ERIC Forum was formed in 2017 to bring together the community of ERICs to strengthen its coordination, advance ERIC´s operations, collectively respond to common challenges and effectively interact with the European Commission and key stakeholders. The Forum also strategically contributes to the development of ERIC related policies, making it one of the leading science policy voices in Europe.
What are some of the outcomes and achievements of the ERIC Forum?
Through the ERIC Forum implementation project, financed by the EC Horizon-2020 program, the Forum has produced: a) several position papers about topics ranging from KPIs, ERIC´s contribution to Horizon Europe Mission Areas, EOSC, and more, b) policy briefs on funding models for access to research infrastructures, scaling projects through ERICs, and socio-economic impact. The ERIC Forum project also serves as a foundation for developing relevant guidance documents, training, and best practices that would support the ERICs in the preparatory phase and the established ERICs. By the end of 2022, the project will deliver proposals on topics ranging from:
- human resources for ERICs, including best practices for hiring and secondment of staff,
- budgeting, financial reporting, procurement and VAT exemption of ERICs,
- insurance, contracting, and Intellectual Property (IP) aspects,
- sustainability of ERICs, including all aspects impacting its planning: socio-economic impact assessment, analysis of KPIs, evaluation and monitoring,
- research quality and reproducibility,
- and the long-term sustainability of the excellent collaboration that the ERIC Forum brings for all Research Infrastructures involved.
In this sense, the ERIC Forum also supports in fostering ERICs’ visibility by showcasing their added value and contribution to grand societal challenges, including the UN SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals).
What are the ERIC Forum plans for the foreseeable future?
The ERIC Forum has proven very successful in engaging all ERICs in the issues of common interest and has the ambition to continue on the same path also after the end of the current implementation project (2022). ERICs have a voice in the discussions towards the implementation of the ERA in all aspects in which Research Infrastructures are involved. There are still challenges ahead, like the eligibility of ERICs in the national funding streams, the possibility of a European contract for the ERIC staff, etc., which we will better push forward together for the benefit of the ERIC community, the users and their science, and the ERA as a whole.
What is your ultimate personal goal as the ERIC Forum chair?
Increasing the visibility of ERICs has already been a major achievement, and the ERIC Forum is now an essential stakeholder when shaping or discussing the European landscape of Research Infrastructures. Chairing the Forum is a great experience, allowing me to meet many colleagues with exceptional skills. Building trust and maintaining this community, working together towards our common goals honestly and transparently, secures a bright future to place ERICs precisely where they belong, in the centre of the resources that ERA provides for the best competitiveness of European science.