Introductory address by Minister Stefania Giannini at the Informal Meeting of the Research Ministers of the European Union. Milano, July 22, 2014

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1 Introductory address by Minister Stefania Giannini at the Informal Meeting of the Research Ministers of the European Union Milano, July 22, 2014 Dear Commissioner, Dear Colleagues, Heads and Members of the Delegations, Ladies and Gentlemen, It is my great pleasure to welcome you all to this Informal Meeting of Research Ministers at the beginning of the Italian Presidency. To place growth and employment at the hearth of the European policies is, as you know, one of the three goals of our Presidency. And the primary task of this Meeting is to offer our contribution to achieve such a purpose. I think we can do that. I think we can do that, because European research infrastructures are crucial to boost competitiveness and consequently our economic and social growth. In the current era, we are moving from a system mainly based on national research infrastructures into a truly European one, with open access to all potential users. It's a big change and a big chance, both at political and cultural level and it calls for a clear- cut planning of the actions needed. But the concept of open access research infrastructures is not a new one. It pre- dates the European Union itself. The Medieval Libraries and Abbeys are the first example of Pan- European research infrastructures. Page 1 of 7

2 Libraries and abbeys preserved and transmitted theoretical and practical knowledge to the benefit of visiting scholars and researchers. They paved the way for the Renaissance. History runs on the same track. Now as then, the progress of knowledge, the advancement of science and revolutionary innovations require brilliant researchers and top class research infrastructures with open access to all potential users. Such an approach was in more recent times at the basis of Anton Dohrn s decision to set- up an open access marine biology laboratory in Italy, and more precisely. That happened in Naples, in 1872, with the support of Germany. Later on, because of a major crisis in science and society (after the Second World War) European International Organizations (CERN, ESA etc.) were founded and they allowed Europe to regain its world competitiveness in many fields: from Biology to Physics, Space Sciences and Astronomy. These few examples reveal the unique role played by research infrastructures towards the Knowledge Economy, under two different points of view: First: the historical interaction between knowledge production and the creation of new technologies and industries. Second: the strong and fruitful cooperation between different Countries, allowing Europe to speak with one voice. Today, our Countries support a huge number of research infrastructures in all disciplinary fields, which are open to international access also thanks to the strong support of the European Commission through the years, from the Third Framework Programme onwards. Page 2 of 7

3 In 2002 Europe took a very important step forward. In 2002 the European Strategic Forum for Research Infrastructure (ESFRI) was set up, with a very specific mission: supporting a coherent and strategy- led policy on research infrastructures, by means of building trust, sharing best practices, strategies and proposals. This European Roadmap has been unanimously approved and its implementation, nearing the 60% target, our Council has set for Now some more crucial steps forward are needed, both for new infrastructures of the ESFRI Roadmap, and for larger endowment of other European infrastructures. Dear colleagues, now it's our turn. As European Member States, we all are called to work jointly to plan a well- distributed and effective Research Infrastructures system, to focus on very advanced undertakings, and to avoid unnecessary duplication. This means to coordinate and pool in a more effective way national and European resources to promote excellence, with a view of long- term sustainability and competiveness. We have several important questions to consider together. Three of them are of crucial importance: 1. How can the European research infrastructure system effectively support European competitiveness? 2. Which instruments can guarantee excellence, promptness and the best use of our resources, at European and national level? 3. How can we ensure a long- term sustainability of this system? Page 3 of 7

4 The following are the ideas shared by our scientific community. First issue. Strategic planning. I would like to start from my national experience. I am glad to announce that in a few days I will release Italy s new National Plan of Research Infrastructure. It represents a decisive step to reshape research and innovation policy in Italy, and also towards a better use of structural funds. The plan is consistent with the vision of ESFRI and it clearly states objectives, resources and criteria for strategic planning. In the last years, many European countries concurred to define policies and roadmaps for improved research infrastructures and the reaching of this goal has been one of the main successes of ESFRI (a subset, about 50, of the nearly 300 relevant operational research infrastructures open to EU users). Our first challenge for the future is to consider the entire European system as a single system. Secondly, research infrastructures success has to be internationally benchmarked. Finally, we must also consider which new research infrastructure should be established on a global level. We believe that ESFRI which is already working on a landscape analysis of the existing could be the reference point of such a process. It is now preparing a new and innovative Roadmap, using both the previous experience and the recent analysis tools developed in the frame of the Prioritization mandate. This process will be a first all- round action on the European Research Infrastructures. This could help the European Commission and the Member States to direct their actions towards optimal synergies and returns. Page 4 of 7

5 Second issue. Guaranteeing excellence and the best use of resources. Is a fact that research infrastructures represent very relevant investments. At national level, 100 billion Euros overall, with operation costs of over 10 billion Euros per year, and about 350 million Euro per year at European level. Dear Colleagues, I think it's a duty, it's our duty to ensure both the best use of the infrastructures, and the best allocation of the available resources. Many Countries have adopted internal competitive evaluation systems to select the national RI to be supported. However, a possible European competitive evaluation system could help to drive a better use of both EU and national funding. Our view is that we should look at our best practices and consider whether the success story of the ERC could provide a shared model to promote excellence while granting financial support to the best infrastructures. The criterium is the following: funding a relatively small number of high quality researchers, selected through a competitive evaluation process. The funding is significant in size while limited in time. This way encourages host institutions and Countries to provide sustained support to the grant- winning researchers. We do believe that this positive feedback between EU and national resources could be applied to research infrastructures as well. By establishing an ERC- like high- level international evaluation system. Third issue. Ensuring a long- term sustainability to research infrastructures. This is probably the most crucial aspect. Page 5 of 7

6 Combining national, European in particular Structural and Investment Funds and private funding both for establishment and operation is certainly one of the major issues and priorities. But it's not enough. Public access to data and a welcoming attitude towards users from all nationalities will also strengthen the social support necessary for sustainability. Indeed it is really important to ensure the openness of the research infrastructure, as this a major factor determining the impact on innovation and growth. To the same extent, it's crucial to open services and data to public and private innovators, including industry and SMEs. Reinforcing partnerships with industry and transferring knowledge do usually produce new patterns and innovation. Come for free, and leave your know how here : this is what our infrastructures should tell the best researchers in the world. Ladies and Gentlemen, building the European Research Area is a great ambition. And it is our responsibility to make this ambitious a result. The new social, cultural and economic Renaissance that Europe must achieve now depends on our common effort to keep, upgrade and integrate the endowment of research infrastructures. In all different fields, from Humanities to Physics, from BioMedical to Environmental. I am sure that our discussion today will be fruitful and provide good elements of reflections for our future policies. Thank you all. Page 6 of 7

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