Definition of the day: European Research Infrastructures (RIs)

Research infrastructures (RIs) will play an important role in the advancement of knowledge and technology and their exploitation in the context of Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions. Here is a quick recap of what they are.

a laboratory employee at work © EU

What are the Research Infrastructures (RIs) used for? RIs are facilities, resources and related services used by the scientific community. They are used to conduct top-level research. RIs cover a large range of research fields, from social sciences to astronomy, and genomics to nanotechnologies. They also may be used within the framework of education or public services.

Examples of RIs. RIs can be, for example, singular large-scale research installations, collections, special habitats, libraries, databases, biological archives, clean rooms, integrated arrays of small research installations, high-capacity/high speed communication networks, highly distributed capacity and capability computing facilities, data infrastructure, research vessels, satellite and aircraft observation facilities, coastal observatories, telescopes, synchrotrons and accelerators, networks of computing facilities, as well as infrastructural centres of competence.

Some of the most well-known RIs include the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) (the world's largest particle physics laboratory), the Infrafrontier Research Infrastructure (a world-class research infrastructure that provides the biomedical research community with the tools needed to unravel the role of gene function in human disease) and the GÉANT high speed network.

Sites. RIs may be:

  • Single-sited (a single resource at a single location),
  • Distributed (a network of distributed resources),
  • Virtual (the service is provided electronically).


European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI). This strategic forum supports policy-making on RIs in Europe. Under Horizon 2020, the objective is to ensure the implementation and operation of the ESFRI and other worldclass research infrastructures, including the development of regional partner facilities, integration of and access to national research infrastructures, and the development, deployment and operation of e-infrastructures.

RIs and Horizon 2020. In the paper “Draft Horizon 2020 Work Programme 2014-2015 in the area of ‘European research infrastructures’ (including e-Infrastructures)” (not yet endorsed by the Commission) several future calls for proposals are outlined for European Research Infrastructures:

  • Developing new world-class research infrastructures,
  • Integrating and opening research infrastructures of European interest,
  • e-Infrastructures,
  • Support to Innovation, Human resources, Policy and International cooperation.


More information on RIs

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