Brussels, 01 Oct 2003
The European strategy forum on research infrastructures (ESFRI) has claimed that it is ready to optimise its role and become a vehicle for the 'open method coordination' (OMC) in the area of research infrastructures.
ESFRI was set up in 2002 under the auspices of the EU to investigate all issues relating to large scale infrastructures within the European Research Area (ERA). Bringing together senior decision makers, namely representatives from Member States and the Commission, the forum seeks to support a coherent and strategy-led approach to policy making on research structures, and to facilitate multilateral initiatives.
Although ESFRI was not set up as an implementing instrument of the OMC as such, the forum does already fulfil some of the criteria described in the Lisbon Council's definition of OMC, namely the exchange of information to enable national decisions take into account a broader European context.
In its first annual report, the forum reports that since its inception, it has successfully helped facilitate the exchange of information on the need for strategic facilities in a number of domains, namely neutron source, marine sciences, and free electron lasers.
However, given the need to develop a strong knowledge based society, the forum is keen to extend its mandate to other areas. For instance, it considers consolidating its role in new domains in which concepts of research infrastructures may differ, such as life sciences and nanotechnology.
In order to be seen as a practical application of OMC, the report states that further examination is needed of how Member States and relevant institutions can make fuller use of ESFRI. In addition, members of the forum will, for their part, start addressing a number of challenging issues, namely the forum's capacity to carry out analyses in different domains of research and to facilitate the diffusion of best practice; domains with which the forum should not deal because they are already supported by other fora; and the potential reporting role of the forum to the Competitiveness Council.
Most importantly, the report notes that given the ambitious EU policy of increasing research investment to three per cent of GDP by 2010, the forum should also identify opportunities for pilot projects related to research infrastructures involving voluntary participation in variable geometry initiatives.