17 / 03 / 2021
On 16 March 2021, Science|Business published an article which aimed at raising the topic of Technology Infrastructures and taking input from the EARTO Annual Conference 2021 held on 12 March 2021. More precisely, in the article of Goda Naujokaitytė:
The EU has made significant investments in research infrastructures. It now needs more and better technology infrastructures, to help innovations reach the market and scale up, say experts
“I think it’s time now that we say Horizon Europe needs to fund technology infrastructure at the same level [that] we are funding research infrastructures,” said Pia Sandvik, CEO of RISE, Sweden’s research institute. Large-scale, open technology infrastructures could be a potential antidote to Europe’s translation and scale-up issues. Scaling up is “Europe’s Achilles’ heel,” said Antti Vasara, president of EARTO. The Commission is working on a potential governance structures for technology infrastructures and on prioritising access through the new European Research Area policies. Anna Panagopoulou, acting director for research and innovation outreach at DG Research, said “In the middle of that, we can see a new strategic role for technology infrastructures.” Operational costs are often shared by industry as payment for using the resources. But Sandvik says industry contributions must be combined with stable long term investments to ensure sufficient funding.
Fast and smart
Funding is important, but the EU also has to act faster and be strategic about building technology infrastructures, with Josef Wuensch, chair of the SusChem Board, the European Technology Platform for Sustainable Chemistry, saying sluggish EU bureaucracy impedes progress. Sandvik said Europe needs to be faster in two aspects: developing technologies and making investments. But before Europe starts putting more money into technology infrastructures, it needs a plan, along the lines of that drawn up for research by the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures, Panagopoulou said. “We first need to map what we have, how we can bring existing technology infrastructures in a cluster approach to work together and to make them provide services in concrete priority areas.” Wuensch called on counterparts to help. As a first step towards a systematic approach, SusChem recommends establishing clusters of technology organisations that boast similar or complementary capabilities, which could create pan-European networks of infrastructures.