Bridging the Divide: Addressing Key Challenges and Needs in RIs

Across various domains of Research Infrastructures, a comprehensive analysis reveals pervasive challenges and unmet needs that transcend specific disciplines. It is crucial to facilitate collaboration and interconnectedness between RIs from diverse domains, fostering synergies in addressing societal challenges, Horizon Europe missions, and the green and digital transition.

In addition to nurturing collaboration and interconnectedness, a crucial need is the formalised assessment and management of risks associated with the overreliance on external products and technologies. The current geopolitical context, underscored by supply chain vulnerabilities revealed during the Ukrainian conflict, emphasises the imperative for a robust risk assessment framework. This framework should prioritise the development of internal capacities and the strategic foresight to anticipate disruptions. European Research Infrastructures can inform policy decisions that protect and advance Europe’s energy independence, ensuring resilience against external economic and political pressures.

European RIs could identify possible technical solutions, including the new digital technologies, for safeguarding strategic autonomy and aligning with the European vision for a sustainable, green, and digitally integrated continent. Indeed, European deep technology is key for tackling the most pressing global challenges such as climate change, sustainable energy, health, as well as for accelerating innovation. Moreover, it would contribute to create new jobs and companies.

Competence development gaps, recruitment problems and the evolving nature of digital infrastructures underscore the necessity for RI-oriented prioritised skill development and training programs, notably through cooperation between RIs and academia. These programs should equip researchers with the capabilities to navigate and harness the benefits of emerging technologies, including Artificial Intelligence. A wider and more informed discussion about the ethical and societal implications related to the application of AI tools, particularly in the Social Sciences & Humanities and the Health & Food domains, is necessitated.

Retention of highly qualified staff is something that RIs are feeling as urgent. Training and professional development is a key solution to this challenge. Also, the development of HR policies and standardisation of competences for the mobility and career development of staff is needed. Projects such as RItrain 1 and 2 have reflected upon this challenge involving a variety of RIs from different disciplines.

Synergies and interoperability between RIs emerge as critical challenges, with the existing lack of smooth interaction between initiatives such as EuroHPC and EOSC impeding the realisation of potential impacts. To address this, there is a pressing need to focus on developing and promoting solutions, standards, funding instruments, and best practices for seamless data sharing, management, and interoperability across RIs and e-infrastructures.

Sustainable service provision and development of common technologies and corresponding funding models pose a perennial challenge, with fragmented and inadequate funding threatening the long-term added value of RIs. Establishing funding mechanisms that account for the full life cycle of RIs, as well as the different needs of distributed and single site RIs, is paramount to ensure continuity and adaptability to evolving research needs.

While crucial, international collaboration faces hurdles such as fragmented funding and limited coordination. A need exists to strengthen international collaboration efforts, fostering cohesion and aligning goals to address global challenges effectively. Furthermore, crisis preparedness and response mechanisms, despite their potential for cross-domain collaboration, currently lack the necessary interaction. Establishing mechanisms for cross-domain collaborations, assessing the impact of challenges such as air pollution, and exploring socio-economic effects are essential actions aligned with EU strategies.

Efficient policy directionality and governance structures are necessary to align RIs research outputs with societal goals and expectations. Policies and governance should be constructed to support both directed and ‘free’ research, and the important interactions between them. The evolution of research landscapes and societal demands requires articulating and integrating governance structures at various levels.

In summary, the interconnected nature of challenges and needs in the RIs landscape calls attention to the need of collectively addressing them. This approach would lead to a more cohesive, impactful, and adaptive research ecosystem.



Across all domains, common challenges emerge, including the imperative for cross-disciplinary collaboration, the multifaceted nature of societal challenges, and the need for inter-, multi-, and transdisciplinarity. The current chapter delves into the intricacies of interdisciplinary collaboration, digital integration, and multilevel articulation governance.

Governance structures at all levels should interact effectively to support the development of efficient, cost-effective, and dynamically developing RIs. Tools to support this include proactive RI self-assessment, governance structures which allow and encourage RI transformation and renewal to match evolving research developments and needs, training programs, and the definition and use of robust and effective Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in conjunction with qualitative assessments.

Addressing management challenges in several domains involves effective coordination of large-scale experimental facilities, managing the running and renewal of highly complex and expensive infrastructure projects with complex funding flows, and navigating regulatory landscapes. Using tools such as KPIs and structured self- and external evaluations, governance must tackle the unique challenges posed by the scale and complexity of, for example, Physical Sciences experiments, demanding highly competent and specialised management personnel and technical and management training programs.

Most critical gaps and needs revolve around ensuring long-term sustainability, with a special emphasis on the challenges of distributed RIs, efficiency, and innovation of Research Infrastructures. Governance interventions are crucial to addressing these gaps, ensuring stable funding, coordinated efforts, and the development of suitable managerial expertise.

Governance trends in DIGIT and ENE include strategic long-term resource allocation, increased international collaboration, and the need for more adaptable and responsive governance and financing structures for increased flexibility. Addressing challenges related to optimising resource allocation, navigating international regulatory differences, and balancing agility with stability require clear governance structures. This is crucial to shift towards transparent frameworks for resource allocation, streamlined international collaboration protocols, and comprehensive training programs for effective Agile governance. In the case of Digital RIs, governance must additionally address issues such as the smooth integration of digital tools, data management, privacy concerns, and the adoption of Agile governance models for efficient development.

Recognising the trend towards collaboration through digital technologies, Research Infrastructures of the ENV domain (with their grouping ENVRI) face challenges in seamlessly integrating digital tools across diverse environmental disciplines. Strategies for ENV RIs include the establishment of robust platforms for digital integration, the implementation of cross-disciplinary training programs, and the creation of standardised frameworks to facilitate smooth collaboration and communication across different organisational levels. Multilevel articulation, emphasising collaboration at both global and regional levels, gains prominence. Governance challenges in this domain emphasise the need for collaboration with RIs, European large initiatives such as Copernicus, space agencies and international programs such as GEO.

In the H&F domain, governance trends underscore and increasing focus on inclusive stakeholders’ engagement, including those from the civil society (e.g., patient associations and consumer associations). Stakeholders’ commitment and awareness and their conflicting interests are also crucial themes demanding attention. Other key challenges for governance include long-term sustainability, transparent data governance, ethical considerations and the need to implement standardised ethical guidelines, and heightened cybersecurity measures

Within the SSH domain, governance trends emphasise a commitment to long-term sustainability planning, smooth integration of digital technologies, and heightened strategies for public engagement. Challenges mainly revolve around stable funding, rapid technological changes, and effective communication of research outcomes to the public. To effectively tackle them, strategic planning, continuous digital literacy training for researchers, and comprehensive public engagement initiatives are essential. Governance challenges lie in balancing the interests of diverse stakeholders, addressing resource allocation (with special emphasis on the challenges posed by distributed RIs), ensuring transparent decision-making processes, and fostering effective international collaborations.



The funding landscape for European RIs stands as a critical determinant of their success and impact. Recognizing the evolving nature of RIs and the diverse challenges they encounter, a more streamlined, collaborative, and comprehensive approach to funding becomes imperative.

The ESFRI Stakeholders Forum identified, at its second meetup in September 2023, key challenges and proposed actionable recommendations to enhance the funding ecosystem for RIs. These recommendations offer valuable insights and potential solutions to address the intricate funding needs of RIs, facilitating their sustained growth and impact.

The R&I landscape includes a spectrum of activities, from RIs supporting fundamental research to more applied research, from technological development platforms (Technology Infrastructures) to innovation and commercialisation support mechanisms. Governance and funding mechanisms must allow and enhance effective development along the R&I development chain, and seamless interaction between actions and actors at different Technological Readiness Levels (TRL) along this chain.

The challenges within the funding landscape are multifaceted, ranging from distinct funding needs for single site and distributed RIs to complexities in navigating intertwined funding sources across multiple countries. The ESFRI Stakeholders Forum underscored the importance of sustainable funding for operations and upgrades, avoiding over-reliance on a single funding source, and managing node costs, subsistence, and user travel costs.

In response to these challenges, key actions were recommended. Among the proposed solutions, the following were included: stakeholders dialogue, cooperative efforts between RIs, targeted funding for missions and curiosity-driven research, sustainable operational funding with potential EC co-funding, strengthening of Transnational Access (TNA) schemes, addressing health data complexities, and fostering synergies between EU and national funding. The creation of a unified proposal management system and the development of impact assessment methodologies were also highlighted.

Regarding the Horizon Europe Work Programme (HE WP) and the Framework Programme 10 (FP10), recommendations included the establishment of integrated funding schemes, a boost in TNA schemes, and an augmented budget for RI framework programme. The overarching theme emphasises the necessity for a more streamlined, collaborative, and comprehensive approach to funding RIs.

Interdisciplinary collaboration emerges as a crucial aspect in cross-cutting funding considerations for ESFRI domains. Encouraging projects that span multiple domains promotes a holistic approach to research challenges, fostering innovative solutions. Adequate funding for robust data management practices and support for Open Science initiatives ensure transparency, accessibility, and reproducibility of research.

Funds allocated to integrate emerging technologies within Research Infrastructures keep the domains at the forefront of scientific advancements. Recognising the global nature of contemporary challenges, funding should support the competitiveness of the European RIs so to become strategic and attractive at international level.


Domain-specific funding considerations

The increasing reliance on digital technologies across all scientific domains is a prominent trend. In DIGIT RIs, focus on cybersecurity and data management is essential. Yet, funding gaps for developing and maintaining state-of-the-art digital infrastructures and addressing the digital divide require attention. A much stronger dialogue between all domains should not only be encouraged but realised fully through the awareness of the necessity of interdisciplinary research. Emphasis on digital and data-driven research methodologies is a growing trend.

Energy independence and security are vital for Europe. The ENE domain witnesses a transition towards sustainable and decarbonised energy sources, i.e. technologies that produce low net carbon dioxide emissions and are deemed environmentally, economically and socially viable for the long-term. The integration of smart technologies for efficient energy systems represents a growing trend. However, funding needs arise for the development and maintenance of energy-related Research Infrastructures. Support for research addressing energy storage, grid integration, efficient use of energy as well as the societal and environmental impact of energy transitions is crucial.

In the ENV domain, a growing awareness of environmental challenges has led to increased funding. While interdisciplinary collaboration is emphasised to address complex environmental issues, funding gaps persist for long-term observations and data collection projects. Financial sustainability for integrating new technologies into environmental infrastructures remains a critical need. A holistic view involves understanding the interconnectedness of ecosystems, underscoring interdisciplinary collaboration, prioritising long-term sustainability, fostering technological innovation, promoting global collaboration, engaging the public, and adapting to emerging challenges. The governance framework necessitates informed decision-making, aligning national strategies with European environmental goals, and optimising resource allocation for impactful research endeavours.

In the H&F domain, funding considerations encompass advances in precision medicine, personalised healthcare, prediction, and treatment, sustainable and resilient agri-food systems. It embraces the integration of big data, AI, and other technologies in health and agri-food research. Funding needs include support for implementation of cutting-edge medical technologies and equipment, as well as for tools in translational research aimed at bridging the gap between laboratory discoveries and clinical applications. Additionally, financial support is required for research on climate-resilient crops, and sustainable and environmentally friendly agricultural practices. Interdisciplinary projects addressing the whole health and the whole agro-food value chains require financial backing to ensure access to services by the RIs.

In PSE, advancements in technology and science drive the need for cutting-edge Research Infrastructures. While collaborative projects with industry accelerate innovation, persistent challenges include funding gaps for maintaining and upgrading equipment, financing the implementation and operation phases of large-scale RIs, and bridging the divide between academia and industry.

The recognition of the importance of SSH in addressing societal challenges and informing policymaking is evident. However, stronger ties should be established with researchers dealing with missions and societal challenges across all domains. Remote data access and specific questions of data security and privacy demand further development of infrastructure, as well as the integration of AI. Funding for large-scale, cross-disciplinary projects addressing the challenges of digital transformation is limited. However, this challenge requires sustained financial investments. SSH RIs are distributed Research Infrastructures with specific challenges for sustainable funding.