E-Infrastructure refers to ICT infrastructures for research and innovation covering networks, data centres, computing, e-government services and the broader public sector. It has strong spill-over effects for the overall economy as it is both a stand-alone sector and an enabling infrastructure for other sectors. Investments in e-Infrastructures support growth within and through the ICT sector, and create possibilities for fostering innovation in other sectors. ICT tools and infrastructures ("e-Infrastructures") have transformed research, development and innovation (RDI):
- Research increasingly takes place through collaboration in large research teams that span several organisations and countries. This means that researchers need high speed telecom connections to collaborate online.
- RDI relies on computers and software for modelling, simulation and analysis. Almost no RDI is possible today – from the design of a car part to the prediction of weather – without access to proper computing resources.
- "Big data" is the new fuel of research and innovation. This means that data must be preserved and made discoverable, accessible and re-usable. This requires deploying a data infrastructure within organisations as well as at national or regional level.
- ICT expertise is in short supply but is necessary to support the above three requirements. Supplying the appropriate skills is an integral part of the e-Infrastructure.
Access to state-of-the-art e-Infrastructure is necessary for all players of the RDI ecosystem: Universities, research centres and laboratories where academic researchers work; companies designing products and services; national or regional computing and data centres and research libraries supplying services to researchers and innovators; and public authorities and research agencies that need to monitor RDI investments.
Today no country or region can be competitive in RDI without an advanced e-Infrastructure: high-capacity and high-performance communication networks, computing services, scientific application software, data repositories, computational expertise and a system that encourages collaboration and sharing of information. E-Infrastructures are also often used beyond research, for example in education or public services, e.g. to provide hospitals and public libraries with ICT tools and high-speed connections.
Therefore, regions wishing to invest in RDI should consider the strategic role e-Infrastructures play for advancing towards the EU 2020 objectives of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. By investing in e-Infrastructures, regions empower their researchers and innovators to remain or become important RDI players. Where in the past motorways were a crucial infrastructural requisite for a region to become competitive, the deployment of e-Infrastructures today connects a region to the European and global "knowledge highways", enabling scientific excellence and innovation for its scientists, engineers and companies. In this context, the EU's Structural and Investment Funds should not only be used to set-up new infrastructures, but also to upgrade and maintain existing ones.
The blueprint for cloud-based services and world-class data infrastructure to ensure science, business and public services reap benefits of big data revolution
New Technopolis study for the for the European Parliament's Science and Technology Options Assessment Office (Measuring Scientific Performance for Improved Policy Making) analyses the benefits of a pan-European research information infrastructure
The Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, Council, European Economic and Social Committee and Committee of the Regions - A Reinforced European Research Area partnership