The Minister of Education, Youth and Sports Robert Plaga, President of the Czech Academy of Sciences Eva Zažímalová, and Director of the Institute of Physics of the Czech Academy of Sciences Michael Prouza signed the memorandum of cooperation on the membership of the Czech Republic in the legal entity of ELI ERIC (Extreme Light Infrastructure – European Research Infrastructure Consortium). The ceremonial act of signature of the memorandum on cooperation took place in the premises of the Czech pillar of the ELI research infrastructure – ELI Beamlines in Dolní Břežany near Prague, which will also host the statutory seat of ELI ERIC. Thus, the Czech Republic will become the host country of the statutory headquarters of an ERIC consortium for the first time. The formal establishment of the ELI ERIC legal entity by the European Commission is expected in February/March 2021.
“With the establishment of the ELI ERIC consortium, the Czech Republic will reach another important milestone in its research infrastructure agenda. Thus far, the Czech Republic has joined 14 European Research Infrastructure Consortia, and participates in 8 international research organisations. Nevertheless, this will be the first time ever that the Czech Republic will host the statutory headquarters of an ERIC consortium. The memorandum, which we signed today with President Eva Zažímalová and Director Michael Prouza, is to confirm continuation of intensive cooperation between our three institutions in the implementation of the ELI project. I highly appreciate the hard work and the enormous efforts of everyone involved. Thanks to you, the ELI ERIC consortium will soon be introduced to the European and global, expert and lay public. With the ERIC’s establishment, the ELI research infrastructure will fulfil one of its key life cycle stages. I believe that we will host some of the world’s top laser experiments in Dolní Břežany near Prague and at Szeged, leading not only to breakthroughs in scientific knowledge, but also to new technologies addressing the grand socio-economic challenges of the 21st century,” said Minister Robert Plaga.
The signature of the memorandum on cooperation confirms the long-term close partnership between the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, the Czech Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Physics of the Czech Academy of Sciences on the implementation of the ELI Beamlines research infrastructure project in the Czech Republic and the establishment of an international legal entity, the ELI ERIC consortium, which will centrally govern not only the Czech pillar of the ELI research infrastructure – i.e. ELI Beamlines, but also the Hungarian ELI Attosecond Light Pulse Source (ELI ALPS).
“The establishment of ELI ERIC is the outcome of ten years efforts not only of our institute to build and put into operation a new type of research infrastructure, which is really unique in its scope and focus not only in the Czech Republic but also throughout Europe, ”said Michael Prouza.
Jointly with the Czech Republic and Hungary, Italy and Lithuania will also become Founding Members of the ELI ERIC consortium. Germany and Bulgaria will join the ELI ERIC consortium with the status of a Founding Observer, with a view to enter as a full Member in the next 3 years. Until then, the gradual enlargement of ELI ERIC is expected, to include other European as well as non-European countries, as the user community of ELI Beamlines and ELI ALPS will be gradually expanded.
The IMPULSE project, amounting to nearly EUR 20 million, implemented by 15 research institutions from 10 European countries and funded by the European Commission from the Horizon 2020 EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, will support the integration of the ELI research infrastructure sites within the ELI ERIC legal entity and help to fulfil these ambitions over the next 4 years. The operational costs of the ELI research infrastructure alone, including the ELI Beamlines and ELI ALPS facilities, will amount to almost EUR 50 million per year over that period.
“The ELI ERIC consortium makes me sure that Czech science can boldly compete and cooperate with the best in the world. This step creates a large infrastructure with cutting-edge technologies of truly international significance. The potential of our top teams and Czech research in general is much greater than we think,” said Eva Zažímalová.
ELI, a project to create the world’s leading laser research infrastructure, will enable researchers to perform cutting-edge experiments in the fields of basic and applied research across a broad range of scientific disciplines, as well as development of state-of-the-art technologies and industrial applications. The construction of the pillars of the ELI research infrastructure will be completed soon, with the ELI experimental stations being put into operation and being made available to users from both the research and innovation communities.
The Czech ELI Beamlines Center offers unique experimental capabilities to the international user community, enabling breakthrough discoveries in biomolecular and materials research, as well as the development of diagnostic methods for medical applications, or astrophysics and plasma physics. These discoveries will be important for the energy sector in relation to carbon-free resources and climate protection and will also represent a great opportunity for Czech industrial partners in the field of photonics.
It is also a great endorsement that the prestigious international journal Physics World recently ranked ELI among the 10 most important research infrastructure projects in the world.
Foundation of the ELI ERIC consortium, thanks to its business model, will ensure long-term sustainable operations, as well as further investments and technology development of the ELI research infrastructure. It will make the experimental equipment of the ELI sites accessible to the user communities all around the world. The implementation of the ELI research infrastructure project in the Czech Republic and Hungary, being the so called “new EU Member States” will also contribute, among other things, to close the research and innovation performance gap in Europe and to strengthen cohesion within the European Research Area and the European Union as a whole.