Key Science Policy

Role of ERICs in European science policy and research strategy

WP6 of the ERIC Forum project is devoted to preparing and organizing regular ERIC Forum seminar discussions where National, European and International science policymakers, funding agencies, ERIC governance bodies, research institutions and representatives of the research communities meet to jointly address science policy issues raised by the development of science and technology, and by the impact of ERICs on the European research ecosystem. It is co-led by LIFEWATCH-ERIC and ECRIN-ERIC and throughout a period of 4 years, it will produce policy briefs on a yearly basis. 

During the first two quarters of 2019, WP6 created a Forward Looking Task Force (FLTF) to identify the key scientific policy issues and create the policy briefs. The FLTF is composed of representatives from 22 partner ERICs and associated organisations [1], who work in a broad array of research domains. All ERIC Forum beneficiaries were invited to join the FLTF on a voluntary basis, through an email consultation. Partners who agreed to join the FLTF then selected the representatives from their organization to represent them in the FLTF.

With the FLTF in place, the following step was to select the first topic to be addressed in the very first ERIC Forum Seminar and Policy Brief. In order to define the priorities for the next ERIC Forum seminars, a preliminary list of topics was created and discussed at the project’s kick-off meeting in Amsterdam; additional topics were added during the meeting. A shortlist was then created with the topics that could be of high importance to all partners and that would be simple to address. The shortlist was disseminated within the FTLF and votes were collected. The first topic selected was: “Funding models for access to ERIC multinational / transnational services”.

The rationale for this topic is the following: The ERICs were created as pan-European instruments boosting scientific excellence by providing access to services, facilities, samples or data for the whole European research community. Due to the broad diversity in the mission of the ERICs and in the nature of access and services, the needs in terms of funding for projects supported by the ERICs are highly variable. However, a common denominator is the need for funding mechanisms that are able to support transnational or multinational projects and/or access.

Raising awareness of funders on the complexity of the problem through an in-depth analysis, discussion and recommendations is critical to unlock the scientific potential of the ERICs, as limitation in the funding of ERIC-supported projects is now seen as a bottleneck restricting their potential impact on Europe’s scientific competitiveness. As they were designed as pan-EU research instruments, ERICs cannot fulfill their mission if they have to rely on national funding sources only, and cross-border funding instruments are needed.

Based on a series of use cases, the first ERIC Forum science policy document will illustrate the diversity of funding challenges. Keeping in mind that the funding of a research project may be far broader than the funding of the services provided by the ERIC, external or internal funding mechanisms will be discussed for services supported by:

  • ERICs providing virtual access vs. physical access,
  • ERICs providing access to facilities as short-term mobility,
  • ERICs providing access to samples,
  • ERICs providing access to national services,
  • ERICs providing access to transnational services,
  • ERICs providing access to multinational, distributed services.

with the objective to establish a taxonomy of ERICs based on their funding needs (in terms of funding mechanisms, and also in terms of volume of funding per project).

Based on this analysis, a discussion with the funding bodies will explore the possibilities offered, and the challenges raised by:

  • national funding schemes,
  • ERA-Net / EJP mechanisms,
  • regional funds,
  • the ERC funding scheme,
  • the H2020 or PPP (Public-Private Partnership) cooperation programmes,
  • short-term mobility programmes and fellowships,
  • through the H2020 Transnational Access scheme.

Currently, the FTLF is preparing the first draft of the policy brief. The outline of the policy brief was defined and the core of the brief was divided into subchapters on the different funding mechanisms. Members of the FLTC selected their preferred subchapter and worked collaboratively in drafting the subchapters during the months of August and September.

A full draft of the policy brief will be circulated amongst the FLTC and all members will be able to provide feedback, which will be integrated into a second draft of the policy brief during the months of October and November. The draft will then be shared and discussed in a dedicated seminar, to which key stakeholders will be invited. This seminar will take place back-to-back with the next ERIC Forum meeting on Q1 of 2020.