Preparing the PLUS Change project as seen by the coordinator
The European Commission (EC), the College of Commissioners, has adopted a long-anticipated decision to establish the Extreme Light Infrastructure (ELI) as a European Research Infrastructure Consortium - ERIC with its seat in Dolní Břežany, Czech Republic. The EC decision will come to force by its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union, expected in early June 2021.
ELI ERIC is the world´s most advanced multi-site, high-power, high repetition, short-pulse laser research infrastructure, with facilities in Dolní Břežany (ELI-beamlines) and Szeged (ELI-ALPS).
ELI beamlines and ELI-ALPS. © courtesy of ELI DC AISBL.
This success can be looked upon from many different angles. The angle of expert research and design, governmental negotiations, siting done by governments, national funding, or structural funds funding. We will concentrate on the influence of European Union´s Framework Programmes for Research and Technological Development (FP) projects on the setting up of ELI ERIC and its initial operations.
The whole endeavor of deciding to build ELI on EU soil began during the work on the first ESFRI Roadmap 2006 into which the Extreme Light Infrastructure (ELI) project was included. Consequently, the Commission awarded the preparatory phase (PP) from the FP7 project Extreme Light Infrastructure – PP (ELI-PP);
The ELI – PP project coordinator was Gérard Mourou, the spiritual father of ELI. Prof. Mourou was later awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics 2018 along with Donna Strickland for their method of generating high-intensity, ultra-short optical pulses (the Chirped Pulse Amplification, CPA).
Gérard Mourou, 2018 Nobel Laureate in Physics, walks up to receive his Nobel medal at the Prize Ceremony in Stockholm. © Nobel Media. Photo: Alexander Mahmoud
Other projects funded from framework programmes supported the implementation of ELI in an indirect way. First of all, the initiative LASERLAB – EUROPE has to be mentioned as from this community the critical mass of both knowledge, and scientists sprouted out to prepare and construct ELI. The European laser community integrating activities began in FP5 where a collaboration network LASERNET (2001-2004) was set up, followed by project Laserlab-Europe (2004-2008) under FP6, Laserlab-Europe continuation (2008-2009) Laserlab-Europe II (2009-2012) form FP7 and Laserlab-Europe III (2012-2015) from FP Horizon 2020. The Czech participant of all these activities and projects being the CAS joint laboratory - Institute of Physics and Institute of Plasma Physics - PALS (Prague Asterix Laser System), later joined by the IoP laser center Hilase. LASERNET and Laserlab-Europe were initiated and lead by Prof. Wolfgang Sandner who supported the expansion of laser research throughout Europe and the building of advanced research infrastructures even in new Member States. After leaving leadership of Laserlab Europe in 2012 he was Director General of the ELI Delivery Consortium AISBL (2013-2015) an organisation set up for managing the establishment of the ELI ERIC until his unexpected passing away in 2015. AS DG, Prof. Sandner was followed by Prof. Carlo Rizzuto and last, but not least, Allen Weeks under whose leadership the ERIC was finally established.
Prof. Wolfgang Sandner. © of ELI DC AISBL.
Construction and setting up of new research infrastructures required additional skills to be learned. Therefore, the Commission included in the Work programmes of FP 7 topics related to management skills and HR development in research infrastructures, e.g. the RAMIRI project.
The transformation from cohesion funds supported projects towards an ERIC was funded under the project ELITRANS.
Still under H2020 ELI DC is partner in running projects supporting sound management of RIs and ERICs in particular. First, the ACCELERATing Europe's Leading Research Infrastructures (ACCELERATE) project, ID: 731112, under which deliverables on user access, publication policies, technology transfer, and impact assessment for ERICs were produced. Also, the ERIC Forum Implementation project (ERIC Forum), ID: 823798, has to be mentioned, which has as objective to reinforce coordination and networking, sharing of best practices among ERICs and support the ERICs to be.
Data management and data policy were becoming and are now one of the leading themes of the European research and development. This topic was tackled by the EU also by providing support to projects coordinating the data needs and specific approaches within geographical research communities or within scientifically compatible communities. ELI DC AISBL, as representative of the future ELI ERIC is the participant in the PaNOSC project.
So, we have the ELI ERIC established. Is this the happy end of the story of interaction between ELI and the FPs?
By far not. The Commission awarded to ELI DC AISBL, and this one, as well as PaNOSC to be transferred to ELI ERIC, another project for the initial operations phase, the IMPULSE lead by Allen Weeks.
Allen Weeks. © of ELI DC AISBL.
ELI ERIC having the seat on Czech territory, this is to be accounted as Czech FP participation.
The role of FPs in setting up and initial operations of ELI ERIC is irreplaceable. At this ELI ERIC milestone time of life let us wish the new organisation success and support of the European community at all levels.