Overall strategyBased on national experience and expertise, national networks with the scientific community, and national legal and formal frames, we intend to bring infrastructure funding in the life sciences from the national to the European level. Networking and coordination of the national organisations that are engaged in the relevant areas of infrastructure funding will be advanced in a bottom-up approach where national schemes and views are brought together in the forum of ERA-Instruments. The driving force is the desire to improve the national schemes by additional information, knowledge, and expertise which is in fact available in the European partner organisations.
Work packages (WPs)The network will be formed by establishing personal contacts and by knowledge exchange (WP 1). Differences and similarities in national tools for funding RI now (current schemes) and in the future (roadmaps) will reveal potential for improvement and harmonisation by small steps that can be implemented in the respective countries. We believe that the European level will allow every partner to improve the tools in the national RI funding toolbox. Based on the network, measures for existing infrastructures (WP 2) will comprise first joint activities which in turn will strengthen the links between partners. The benefit from knowledge exchange and, generally, from broadening the own view from a national perspective to a European one is obviously not the accumulation and storage of information, but the application of this additional knowledge for improving the national schemes. This will in turn lead to an optimised approach to infrastructure funding with related benefits for all scientific fields that depend on that kind of infrastructure (WP 3). The activities that are proposed comprise the same measures that every country otherwise would have to deal with individually. We are therefore not creating additional “get-together” work load, but rather try to bring the “everyday business” to a European level, meaning that national acting is based on a European level of information and background provided by joint activity and that it can make use of the established network when appropriate. We do not intend to enforce joint action on national issues. We emphasise cooperation, not competition. An explicit aim is therefore the communication with and link to existing and upcoming EU projects such as life science related ERA-NETs, integrating actions and, importantly, the ESFRI preparatory phase projects (within WP 1 and 2). Most important for all activities, in the national and in the European context, are the needs and views of the scientific community (WP 4). All measures proposed in ERA-Instruments aim at improving the availability of frontier instrumentation for as many scientists as possible (within the limits of the available national budgets). Our activities should not only be embedded in the European context, but will also use input from the international context (WP 4). Last, not least, the ERA-NET will establish a secretariat for the usual administrative and managerial work (WP 5) that needs to be done to establish the organisational structure of the ERA-NET and to run it smoothly and productively.
New partnersAn aspect that merits attention is that all European countries and organisations that have a focus on infrastructure funding in the life sciences, specifically in the fields of bioanalytics and high-throughput biomolecular analysis are welcome to participate in our activities, discussions and work shops. An increasing number of participants broadens the scope and increases effects of synergy so that ERA-Instruments is always open for new associated partners to join in.
Relation to other ERA-NETs and to ESFRIWith a view towards the European Research Area it is important to note that this ERA-NET aims at sustainable coordination and networking as the purpose of the action, even more than other ERA-NETs and the ESFRI projects that have a stronger focus on funding science in a specific area. The ESFRI projects are driven by the scientific community to realise defined research infrastructures and the related “preparatory phase” actions try to bring together funding organisations (e.g. partners of this ERA-NET) with a focus on fund-raising. The aim of ERA-Instruments is not the realisation of defined large scale facilities for support to a given scientific area, but to provide the broad research community with cutting edge infrastructure on a, financially speaking, sub-ESFRI level. Viewing the ESFRI projects as coming top-down from the European level we intend to start from the national context below. By networking, coordinating and jointly acting we will build a ground at the European level that can also be used as stage for the ESFRI projects. The fact that most of the partners of this ERA-NET are also involved in several other ERA-NETs as well as in the ESFRI process is very beneficial in that it facilitates contact to and coordination with the aforementioned European actions. Simultaneous participation in ESFRI preparatory phase projects and this ERA-NET is helpful in identifying potential for cooperation and need for demarcation.