Research Infrastructures and Facilities Across Europe for a Scientist to Know
Have you ever wondered if it was possible to borrow equipment from a nearby laboratory for your research? Well, it would be easy and would not involve any investment on your part… In fact, it is possible. And it is possible on a global scale. This is the objective of research infrastructures and technological platforms.
Research Infrastructures or RIs, are structures that comprise resources and services to be used for scientific research by either research projects or the larger scientific ecosystem. They cover a wide range of research fields and help scientists conduct research. As Kathy Skopelitou from EU-OPENSCREEN says, “Research Infrastructures are not created as an end in themselves. They are a powerful tool to remove science barriers”.
These national infrastructures can be grouped at a European level by coordinating structures, like for example the European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC). ERIC regroups twenty infrastructures throughout Europe, among them EU-OPENSCREEN for example.
Why are research infrastructures important to scientists?
RIs have their importance for scientists and research projects, by for example connecting with industrials. For Christophe Bourdin, researcher at Aix-Marseille University (AMU), those kinds of projects have benefits for everyone, “for academics, it is a way to enhance their skills and tools, and for socio-economic actors, it provides access to extremely advanced tools and associated scientific skills that can only be found in research laboratories.”
RIs aim to help scientists with the resources they wouldn’t be able to have otherwise, like laboratory equipment, guidance, or other scientific specialties. It allows, for example, research projects to bypass investments to buy a specific piece of equipment. In France, the Institut Pasteur has acquired last year a cryogenic electron microscope, one of the most powerful in the world.
How do research infrastructures work?
Since RIs can be either national or European and can even be a mix of European and national platforms, they do not have to obey a fixed set of rules and can be highly different from one another. Those differences stem mainly from the way they are financed. Some, like the members of ERIC, receive both European and national funding while others like AMU receive national, regional and private funding.
The financing of research infrastructures can come from many places depending on a few different reasons: whether they are at the national or European level, if they depend on a university or not, or which country they are based in. In Europe, the funding is split between European and national sources. For some, the European funds come out of the H2020 budget and many hope that with the new framework program, funding to RIs will get an increase.
This means that from RI to RI, the equipment or the staff differ and that no two RI looks like each other. Mostly, they do not have a fixed financial number to achieve, since they are not businesses but mainly nonprofit entities. Some, like AMU, set their own goals and objectives to invest in new machines for in-house scientists in a sustainable way.
List of research infrastructures by field of expertise in the EU
We have compiled a list of examples of RIs inside of the EU. The RIs are ranked by alphabetical order with Scientist’ member on top. We have compiled a list using examples in different countries in the following categories:
- Biobank, biological resources, culture and breeding platforms
- Cellular and molecular analysis platforms
- Computing resources
- Imaging facilities
- Physico-chemical characterization platforms
- Prototyping and production facilities
- Real-scale test facilities and study environments
- Screening platforms
If you want to know more about your country’s RI we have put links at the end of the article.
Biobank, biological resources, culture and breeding platforms
BBMRI-ERIC establishes, operates and develops a pan-European distributed research infrastructure of biobanks and biomolecular resources. In order to facilitate the access to resources as well as facilities and to support high quality biomolecular and medical research. BBMRI-ERIC operates on a non-economic basis.
ECIMAT has the necessary infrastructure and specialized technical staff to supply natural and cultivated organisms, water and culture media for research.
EMMA provides more than 6800 mutant mouse lines with specific, transgenic, endonucleic, induced and other mutations. Several strains have been given to EMMA by individual researchers. Moreover, EMMA has developed an important collection from large-scale projects and gives access to useful research tools.
GIAculture develops for companies and research groups protocols and their implementation on fish farming trials. The department conducts evaluations of cultivation methodologies, ingredients, food additives, genetic lines, and more. The platform works with highly qualified technical staff and specialized aquaculture technicians.
iPS platform’s area of expertise is the design of new cellular models for research on rare diseases. The platform provides generation & maintenance of iPS cells. But also the characterization of iPS cell lines and user training.
The ISBE is a unique entry point for pan-European activities and has easily accessible installations in systems biology for European scientists. It also encourages contacts with non-European consortia from academia, industry, and regulatory bodies around the world.
Cellular and molecular analysis platforms
The Department of Molecular Investigation performs both fundamental and applicative research in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. The Department of Molecular Investigation provides access to advanced genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, nanotoxicology, biochemistry, and pathology-related studies.
CYBIO is specialized in flow cytometry and cellular immunology. This platform provides equipment and also develops, optimizes, and proposes various tests for cellular analysis, in particular, those dedicated to the monitoring of cellular immune response.
iGenSeq provides tools and services for genome analysis to academics or industrials. More specifically, services include high-throughput sequencing, real-time PCR, and animals genotyping, as well as purification and the analysis of nucleic acids.
The Oxford Mass Spectrometry Centre has a range of equipment available for Instruct’s use, including ToF, Q-ToF, Ion-Mobility Q-ToF, all of which have been customized for the study of protein assemblies.
PREMICE is a regional structure of equipment and resources designed to provide the public research community and companies in New Aquitaine with high-performance technological resources in the field of Environmental Microbiology.
The platform BiRD has expertise in large-scale data analysis and has developed dedicated bioinformatics analysis pipelines to standardize analysis from raw data to biological interpretation. They provide high-performance infrastructures and bioinformatics resources to the scientific community.
The UL HPC platform is physically divided into two geographical sites, located on the Kirchberg Campus of the University of Luxembourg and on the Belval site located in Esch-sur-Alzette. It has a computing capacity of more than 1200 TFlops from 690 computing nodes. In order to facilitate the configuration of the server, UL HPC has its Puppet infrastructure, an open source configuration management tool for Unix-like and Microsoft Windows systems. It is also possible to create a new virtual machine on their virtualization infrastructure. Users are encouraged to benefit from the framework offered by the IT service of the University of Luxembourg.
CERIC-ERIC is a unique integrated multidisciplinary and multi-technique European Research Infrastructure Consortium, operating mainly in Central Europe. It provides analytical and modification techniques based on synchrotron light and other microscopic probes for nano-level Science and Technology
MATRIX is an analysis platform unifying several X-rays-using techniques. These techniques are based on diffraction, X-ray fluorescence, and X-ray transmission measurements for mineralogical, chemical, and internal structure analysis.
The MicroCTvlab is a service that was created in order to present and disseminate micro-CT (micro-computed tomography) datasets. This service offers virtual galleries and online tools for the 3D manipulation of micro-CT datasets. The creation and dissemination of these “cyber-specimens” aim to contribute to the massive digitalization of biological collections.
The Bulgarian Center for Advanced Microscopy at IMB-BAS provides open access to a range of state-of-the-art technologies in biological and biomedical imaging for life scientists.
Physico-chemical characterization platforms
The Battery Test Laboratory at the Austrian Institute of Technology is specialized in both performance validation and safety testing. A range of tests is carried out going from electrical tests, calendar, and cycle aging (from cells to system) to safety and customized tests.
CHEMOSENS is situated at the crossroads between physico-chemistry, sensory analysis, and biology. The platform has exceptional human and technical resources in research on taste, sensoriality, and food preferences.
The Non-destructive Testing platform provides control and monitoring methods adapted to metallic, composite, or ceramic materials, and the follow up of installations in service and the monitoring of their aging.
Cosmetomics has a set of skills and state-of-the-art equipment throughout various universities and private laboratories. These actors are united as a center dedicated to the measurement of both the safety and the innocuousness of cosmetic products. The platform is situated at the crossroads between the realization of experimental systems, the transfer, and the dissemination of knowledge.
DIFFUSIVE is an optical instrumentation platform dedicated to metrology by and for diffuse light. Today equipped with 10 diffusometers, the platform meets local, national, and international needs. The platform is known for its performance in terms of extreme metrology of advanced optical components (space, defense, optical thin films, etc.)
Prototyping and production facilities
NANBIOSIS comprises 27 units, which are distributed in 14 institutions through Spain and regroups 5 platforms. Together these units provide a complete service that includes the design and production of biomaterials, nanomaterials, and their nanoconjugates. They characterize these bio-/nanomaterials, tissues and medicals devices from a physic-chemical, functional, toxicological and biological (including preclinical validation) point of view.
BIO-RESSOURCES platform converts bio-resources into energy and valuable products. They provide processing equipment ranging from grinding to roasting, pyrolysis, hydrothermal liquefaction, and gasification to preparing industrial processes.
IPGG’s technological platform is a set of rooms with a surface area of 550m2 that offers all the technologies required for the production of microfluidic devices, their characterization, and their testing.
The SPATIAL platform is specialized in the assembly, integration, and testing of optomechanical instruments and systems, for thermal vacuum and cryogenic qualification, vibration qualification, and precision mechanical metrology.
Real-scale test facilities and study environment
OSU-R comprises 4 geophysical stations: the Maïdo observatory for atmospheric observations; the marine station for observations of the reef zone, the coastline, and coastal aquifers; the forest station for forest ecological observations; and the hydrological station in a drainage basin. The stations are managed by research laboratories that are federated in OSU-R for their management, for delivering quality long-term services, and for promoting trans-disciplinary research.
🇮🇹 Outdoor Manoeuvring Basin
The CNR-INSEAN outdoor manoeuvring basin is a volcanic freshwater lake. The volcanic topology, the well-protected water surface, and the usual environmental conditions allow real standing water conditions to be experienced for a long time.
The Living Lab cLLAPS’ objective is to imagine and propose innovations (technologies, products, services) to meet the concrete goals of the neurological and psychiatric care chain.
This platform’s field of expertise is dedicated to the study of human behavior in immersive situations. CRVM helps with the development of projects, provision of equipment, human expertise, and advice in the field of Virtual Reality to research organizations and industry.
EATRIS aims to reduce risk and increases the success rate of the translation of basic discovery to the clinical development phase. The infrastructure provides access to cutting-edge technological pipelines for drug and diagnostics development, including regulatory, ethical, and market expertise, from 80 member institutions across Europe.
The platform PReSTI is focused on innovation in irrigation equipment and techniques. PReSTI combines laboratory approach (controlled conditions) with in-situ experiments (real conditions).
The high-throughput facility ROBOTEIN at CIP and SBBC offers automated screening for cloning, expression, purification and biophysical characterization on either a collaborative or service basis.
CIBIO facilitates the creation of screening programs and provides an interactive and open environment for researchers interested in chemical and functional biology, or imaging cytometry. We also provide other tools to validate the results of high throughput technologies, such as DNA/RNA analysis.
EU-OPENSCREEN integrates many high-capacity screening platforms throughout Europe, which use a rationally selected compound collection, comprising up to 140,000 commercial and proprietary compounds collected from European chemists. EU-OPENSCREEN offers to researchers from academic institutions, SMEs, and industrial organizations open access to its shared resources.
EU-OPENSCREEN collaboratively develops novel molecular tool compounds with external users from various disciplines of life sciences.
ACCESS allows the scientific community to move from complex phenotypic tests to more traditional in vitro screening tests based on biochemical targets. ACCESS also provides a large and diversified collection of chemical compounds. In addition, the platform has computer chemo skills to analyze the results and help expand the hits.
Research Infrastructures directory
To discover even more options, we have a few links that will help you find research infrastructures:
- List of RIs in Austria
- List of RIs in France
- List of RIs in Romania
- List of RIs in the United Kingdom
- The Mapping of the European Research Infrastructure Landscape (MERIL) portal is a database of openly accessible RIs in Europe.
- The Research Infrastructure landscapeis a full list (including those not offering free access) of Horizon 2020 Research Infrastructures in Europe arranged by theme. It is regularly updated.
We hope that this list will help you decide which research infrastructures you could use for your research. Do not hesitate to suggest other RIs to populate this list.