Large research infrastructures of the Czech Republic

Involving high levels of knowledge and technological expertise, large research infrastructures are unique facilities that are operated based on an open access policy for all of their potential users coming from both research organisations and industrial enterprises. Large research infrastructures enable their user communities to achieve ground-breaking results in basic and applied research and to develop state-of-the-art technologies with strong potential for application in innovative products and services.

Societal and economic benefits and impacts

Besides fulfilling their primary scientific goals, large research infrastructures represent an environment in which all elements of the knowledge triangle interact intensely, implying their essential importance also for the education and industrial sectors. In this regard, large research infrastructures are places where the frontiers of human knowledge are being pushed beyond previously unknown horizons and where newly acquired knowledge is disseminated to the academic sphere, particularly to institutions of higher education. At the same time, large research infrastructures also interact with economically active stakeholders.

From the point of view of industrial firms, large research infrastructures offer unique opportunities at several levels. Procurements for the production and supply of experimental equipment stimulate companies to produce the most advanced technologies, while newly learned production methods can also be applied in other areas of their production. In addition, companies use large research infrastructures directly as commercially as their primary users; more frequent, however, is the use of advanced know-how arising from research carried out in large research infrastructures in the subsequent stages of the innovation cycle, when businesses, in cooperation with users of large research infrastructures in the public research sector, enter as partners in collaborative research and development projects.

Knowledge generated in large research infrastructures is applied in follow-up research, technological development and innovation projects, which take place outside the research infrastructure platforms, but feed directly off of the research infrastructures’ expertise. Such projects make it possible to address major societal and economic challenges through science-based solutions. In addition, large research infrastructures are a catalyst for macro-regional development in terms of offering qualified scientific, technical, managerial and administrative jobs, creation of science and technology parks, development of the transport, technical and other civil infrastructure, etc. Large research infrastructures have direct and secondary impacts on regional development, including impacts on regional strategies and economies.

Policymaking

The Czech Republic has responded to the growing importance of research infrastructures through a number of policymaking measures aimed at providing research infrastructures with a legal framework and a stable, reliable and predictable financial environment for their operations and investments. In 2009, an amendment to Act No. 130/2002 Coll on the Support of Research, Experimental Development and Innovations from Public Funds, introduced a specific funding instrument to finance large research infrastructures and entitled the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports to become the Czech national policymaking body and public funding provider in the respective field. The first edition of the Roadmap of Large Research Infrastructures of the Czech Republic was released in 2010 and updated in 2011, 2015 and 2019. The Czech road-mapping procedures have been brought into alignment with the pan-European approach coordinated through the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI). International peer-review assessment and monitoring are carried out on a regular basis (2014, 2017 and 2021) to deliver independent expert inputs for the purpose of adopting informed and evidence-based political decisions by the Government of the Czech Republic on the public funding of research infrastructure projects.

Public funding

The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports has developed a multi-source model of the public funding of Czech research infrastructures by combining state budget expenditures with EU cohesion policy funds in a close synergy and complementary way. While the operating costs of the facilities are financed by the national public budget, their investment costs are funded using the EU cohesion policy instruments. These investments have enabled major upgrades of experimental equipment of research infrastructures that are already in operation. In addition to that, brand-new facilities of national, macro-regional and global importance and impact have been constructed, e.g. the Extreme Light Infrastructure pillar ELI Beamlines, and RECETOX RI, the Czech national node of the EIRENE research infrastructure. Besides the instruments for financing research infrastructures located in the Czech Republic, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports has introduced tools to enable participation of Czech research infrastructures in European and other international research infrastructures, including in-kind deliveries of experimental and other technical devices to facilities, such as the Jules Horowitz Reactor and the European Spallation Source.

Research infrastructure landscape

The Czech Republic’s research community brings together a broad portfolio of knowledge and expertise, which have enabled the construction and operation of numerous research infrastructures. The fields are as follows:

physical sciences and engineerings

energy
environmental sciences
biological and medical sciences
social sciences and humanities
e-infrastructure

The e-infrastructure supports th research community of Czechia through providing both research infrastructures are operated in accordance with good practice examples of user access policies. They are open to scientists, as well as innovators from Czech, foreign and international research institutes and business establishments, and offer attractive job opportunities for top-class managers, excellent scientists, skilled technicians and qualified administrators in high-tech fields and international environments.

International cooperation

Member State of 8 international R&D:

CERN

EMBC
EMBL
ESA
ESO
JINR
ITER
VKIFD

Member State of 16 European Research Infrastructure Consortia:

AnaEE Eric

ELI ERIC

BBMRI ERIC ESS ERIC
CERIC ERIC Euro-BioImaging ERIC
CESSDA ERIC European Spallation Source ERIC
CLARIN ERIC EU-OPENSCREEN ERIC
DARIAH ERIC ICOS ERIC
EATRIS ERIC Instruct ERIC
ECRIN ERIC
SHARE ERIC

The Czech Republic also participates in a number of other international single-sited, distributed and virtual research infrastructures established under the national legal frameworks of their host countries in Europe, e.g. FAIR, JHR and LSM, and the Americas, e.g. BNL, Fermilab and Pierre Auger Observatory.

ESFRI partnerships 

From the perspective of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI), the Czech Republic has been involved in a total of 32 European research infrastructures included in the 2021 update to the ESFRI Roadmap, 25 of which are ESFRI Landmarks and seven ESFRI Projects. When it comes to coordination of European research infrastructures, the Czech Republic has become a member and the host country of the statutory seat of ELI ERIC, operator of the Extreme Light Infrastructure, while the Czech national node of RECETOX RI coordinates the EIRENE research infrastructure.

Web portal

The latest news on achievements and development of the research infrastructures agenda in Czechia is available at https://research-infrastructures.cz/en.

Extreme Light Infrastructure – the “CERN of Lasers”

The Extreme Light Infrastructure (ELI) is the world’s leading laser-based research infrastructure, which serves for cutting-edge basic and applied research in physical, chemical, material and medical sciences, as well as breakthrough industrial innovations. Implementation of ELI facilities, including ELI Beamlines in Dolní Břežany, Czech Republic, has been completed with commissioning well under way and initial operations with early users. The European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ELI ERIC) was established by the European Commission in May 2021 to manage ELI operations for the benefit of international academic and industrial users. The establishment of ELI ERIC with its statutory seat located in the Czech Republic brings together the countries of the major ELI user communities and enables them to access the world’s most intense and shortest-pulsed lasers for research and innovation. ELI ERIC will ensure long-term sustainable operations and further technological development of ELI as an international flagship research infrastructure initiative. ELI ERIC will provide environments for the collaboration of thousands of leading scientists from all around the world and enable high-tech industries and innovators to be involved in the development of state-of-the-art technologies. From the macro-economic point of view, the ELI facilities situated in Central and Eastern Europe increase cohesion within the European Research Area by bridging the research and innovation divide in the EU.

Radka Wildová
Deputy Minister for Higher Education, Science and Research
Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports