AimsMission Statement: Networking and coordination can improve the efficiency of national programmes.
Background:Instrumentation and infrastructure funding in life sciences is usually performed on the national level. Funding is mostly not coordinated across borders, but subject to national constraints; even within countries heterogeneous funding mechanisms are observed.
Approach:Information exchange between national funding agencies on infrastructure funding for life sciences can optimize access to and scientific output from existing and future instrumentation.
There is a clear need for action in the area of biological sciences as cutting-edge instrumentation becomes increasingly expensive and, yet, indispensable for world-class research., e.g. NMR and electron microscopy in structural biology, mass spectrometric techniques for proteomics, advanced microscopy in cell biology and medical biology, micro array platforms in genetics etc. A major advantage of an ERA-NET initiative by national funding bodies would be the possibility for coordination and, later, also evaluation of measures on the European level, while contacts to the scientists remain close and continuous and a broad experience with national infrastructure funding can be built upon. Networking the relevant funding agencies and research councils shall allow more effective exploitation of existing infrastructures and funding schemes.
Era-Instruments will create a platform to approach instrumentation related topics in the mid-size class of equipment for the life sciences. We define mid-size instrumentation as being larger than typical lab equipment that has at most regional relevance, but smaller than large European research infrastructures, such as the ESFRI projects, e.g. X-FEL in Hamburg or FAIR in Darmstadt. Mid-size instrumentation may well be within national budgets (with costs typically between 500 k€ and several millon €), but in our view would require a transnational discussion. At least initially we will focus on bioanalytical instrumentation in a broad sense.
- Compiling and comparing the different national funding systems and sources will help to analyze and potentially improve the individual procedures.
- Inventory of large equipment can elucidate the European
infrastructure for different areas of life science instrumentation
(e.g. NMR, microscopy).
Scientists can be provided with information on expertise and facilities for given equipment/techniques.
- Exchange of expertise for reviewing processes when national experts are few or conflicts of interest seem unavoidable.
- Establishing access rules for facilities across borders.
- Scientific workshops on cutting-edge techniques providing information on the pros and cons can guide the strategy/policy of the national funding bodies.
- Fast access to new technologies.
- Joint user workshops with scientists, manufacturers and funding organisations accompanying the installation of new instruments for overcoming unforeseen obstacles and for exchanging (technical) experience.
The Scientific Advisory Board:The major objective of this European activity is to optimize the access of scientists to leading-edge instrumentation. The coordinating actions are meant to be based on discussions with the scientific community identifying their needs and seeking their scientific advise. Practically, a Scientific Advisory Board shall be established by representatives (15-20) from different countries as well as different areas of life-science reseach.
The main task for members of the Scientific Advisory Board is in participating in discussions in the frame of a series of workshops (planned are five workshops in the 3-years duration of the ERA-NET). Relevant issues will be, for instance:
- What are the most important classes of instrumentation requiring European discussion (for the near future)?
- What are upcoming directions in technological developments?
- What are scientists’ views of the various funding schemes? How to improve?
- How should cutting edge instrumentation be optimally operated? in core-facilities?
- How can the development of new technologies and the transfer to research labs be accelerated?