A new position paper about the role of European Research Infrastructure Consortiums (ERICs) in the European Commission’s next funding programme has been published. The 10th Framework Programme (FP10) is due to be implemented from 2028-35 and follows on from the success of Horizon 2020 (FP8) and Horizon Europe (FP9) programmes. Published by the ERIC Forum – the body that brings together major research infrastructures (RIs) – the position paper covers six key areas for consideration: funding, consolidation, structural support, governance, innovation and access.
The paper acknowledges continuous support for ERICs in Horizon Europe (FP9), which has helped them to expand their operations and further enhance their contribution to Europe’s scientific landscape by becoming the most effective instruments for achieving scientific, technological and societal impact.
ERICs now offer services beyond their initial remit of delivering basic research services in that they provide evidence to help tackle broad societal issues and align with European Union policy goals.

“[ERICs] now offer services that not only support basic research but also serve investigators that tackle broad societal issues and align with EU policy goals, serving as key instruments in translating policies into actionable, impactful outcomes.”

The Paper states that financial support from Member States is linked to the initial remit and calls on the European Commission to engage with Member States in order to support enhanced budgets under Structural Funds, where applicable.
Reasonable additional direct support from the EC will underscore the mission and impact of ERICs and amplify their reach and visibility across Europe and beyond.
The Position Paper calls for the recognition of existing ERICs as Strategic Assets as well as a focus on new initiatives that bring existing infrastructures together rather than funding projects preparing to become ERICs.

“Together, they [ERICs] offer the broadest catalogue of services to scientific communities ranging from the social, life, and environmental sciences all the way to astronomy, physics and engineering.”

One area highlighted by the Paper is the need for Research Infrastructure costs to be distributed in a fair and balanced way to help broaden the involvement, impact and capabilities of Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries.
It is therefore recommended that FP10 includes more calls in the Widening Instrument to enhance participation and development of national nodes within ERICs, including support and access for countries who do not participate as ERIC members.
The Position Paper suggests that FP10 should support ERICs in refining their governance to remain agile and responsive to the changing research environment. This type of funding is outside the scope of most operational and research budgets for ERICs.

“Additional funding for governance development and management training in this area could have a significant impact on their effectiveness.”

The importance of integrating ERICs with industry is also highlighted by the Paper. It calls on FP10 to continue funding calls (such as the INFRATECH) that establish stronger links between RIs and industry.
Further support from the EC to enhance the visibility and promotion of critical interactions between the ERICs and industry – particularly through initiatives such as the European Innovation Council – are encouraged.

“Such innovation and service-related funding instruments – specifically targeting cooperation between ERICs, industry and the public sector – will exploit the potential ERICs have as a result of their unique assets and legal structure.”

FP10 funding should be made available for researchers to fully benefit from the services that are provided by the ERICs. Access and usage of these services should not be based on the availability of funding.
The Paper calls for funding that enables European researchers to benefit from the broad portfolio of ERIC services, to realize the full potential of the existing ERICs and the scientific services they provide.

“For researchers to fully benefit from the ERIC services now available to them, funding for access to and usage of these services (including physical, remote and virtual user access) at the European level should be continuously available.”

The Paper concludes that FP10 will help provide a successful future for all 28 ERICs and that ERICS are fundamental to achieve the ambitions of the European scientific community.
Read the ERIC FORUM Position Paper: The Role of ERICs in the 10th Framework Programme (FP10).