Background and context of the project

The new EU 2020 strategy adopted in Spring 2010 names knowledge and innovation as parts of the first of three overall goals, the smart growth. This goal takes into account that in a globalised world economy one key success factor for Europe is the shift to knowledge and research intensive products and services. To achieve this the EU 2020 strategy clearly states that this requires to improve “the quality of our education, strengthening our research performance, promoting innovation and knowledge transfer throughout the Union, making full use of information and communication technologies and ensuring that innovative ideas can be turned into new products and services that create growth, quality jobs and help address European and global societal challenges.” 

This importance of knowledge and innovation is also underlined by the fact that the Innovation Union is one of the seven Flagship Initiatives within the 2020 strategy. It stress the importance of world class research infrastructure. Moreover they are seen as key for the European Research Area (ERA) . Both statements go along with a list of earlier published studies  that refer to the importance of two developments. 

The first one is a shift of paradigm within sciences and scientific research itself. Like in other economic areas, where the diffusion of ICT changed the way of value creation, ICT also change the way of knowledge creation within knowledge intensive services, which includes Research and Sciences. This development is essential because advanced ICT systems are entering all phases of the research process. This new ways of working within scientific research also lead to new forms of collaboration across disciplines and national borders in form of virtual research communities, gathering different actors like researchers, scholars, educators, students from academia as well as public and private research organisations and innovating firms.
This shift towards e-Sciences leads directly to the next challenge: the growing importance of infrastructures for e-Sciences: e-Infrastructures. These are defined as networked tools, data and resources that support virtual and heterogeneous communities of researchers and their co-operation partners, covering the whole R&D value chain. 

New e-Infrastructures are the core of the development towards e-Sciences. Infrastructures such as the supply of backbone connectivity, single- or multi-purpose grids, supercomputer infrastructure, data grids and repositories, tools for visu-alization, simulation, data management, storage, analysis and collection as well as remote access to research instruments and very large research facilities are pivotal part of advanced ICT systems for e-Sciences. Moreover these infrastructures are fundamental to enable the virtual research communities and the efficient use of the growing amount of scientific data knowledge required for e-Sciences.

Scientific knowledge and resulting innovations are essential for Europe’s competitiveness in a globalised knowledge economy and key for achieving the goals of the EU 2020 strategy. E-Infrastructures are drivers for the progress in science and research, the creation of virtual research communities and the roles European researchers could play in global research ac-tivities. First empirical results show that e-Infrastructures’ impact on research is mostly positive, strengthening the European research practice and output.

As stated by the Evaluation Report on 6th FP Europe achieved already a leading position in some areas of e-Infrastructures like high-speed connection and backbone access or grid technology, which enabled Europe to take a leading position in areas like quantum computing or complex systems simulation. Moreover it also enabled the creation of new markets and businesses (Aho et al. 2008). This makes e-Infrastructures to a main pillar for the European Research Area, directly contributing to objectives such as sharing knowledge, opening ERA to the world, international cooperation in science and technology or a single market for researchers. This line of success was taken up in the 7th FP programme enlargement. It also goes along with a growing commercial interest in e-Infrastructure solutions by software and internet companies like Microsoft or Google.