Research infrastructures benefit society at large
Access to research infrastructures is often a prerequisite for conducting top-quality innovative research. Typically, a research infrastructure also becomes a venue for creativity, which helps researchers develop their expertise.
Research that is conducted at research faculties such as the MAX IV laboratory and ESS in Lund provide innovations and solutions to various types of challenges facing society. By collaborating with researchers, industry and society can also derive benefits from such research facilities. Furthermore, construction of these facilities usually constitutes large-scale, advanced projects that themselves build up leading expertise in development and design, for example. Such expertise benefits other parts of society as well.
A need for such things as transportation, housing and services also arises around the facilities themselves, which in turn has a positive impact on societal development.
The Swedish Research Council assesses the need for new research infrastructures
Every two years, the Swedish Research Council carries out a needs inventory to assess what needs exist with regard to research infrastructures in Sweden. The purpose of this inventory is to capture proposals for new national needs for research infrastructures. Based on this inventory, we create a long-term plan for meeting the needs of research. The Council for Research Infrastructures (RFI) at the Swedish Research Council is responsible for planning, prioritising and financing research infrastructures.
Our requirements for national and international research infrastructures
We finance research infrastructures of broad national interest that provide the prerequisites for world-leading research. In order to receive a grant, both national and international research infrastructures must meet our requirements. The research infrastructure must
- be sufficiently comprehensive that individual researcher teams cannot operate it by themselves
- be able to be used by many researchers who conduct high-quality research
- have an established long-term plan for scientific goals, financing and use
- where relevant, introduce new cutting-edge technology
- have a plan for accessibility. It must be easy for researchers at higher education institutions (HEIs), companies and other organisations to conduct research there and partake of data and results.
Different research infrastructures require different management
We give grants to research infrastructures via our calls, amounting to as much as 50 per cent of the total budget. Large research infrastructures, such as SNIC and MAX IV, may require a greater collaboration effort on funding. Additional partners are then involved.
Sometimes we identify an international research infrastructure that we would like to enable researchers at Swedish HEIs to use. In such cases, we (or the Government) must first negotiate so that we can obtain a Swedish membership. After that, we fund the membership.
For some international research infrastructures, the Government decides to apply for Swedish membership based on a recommendation from us. Afterwards, we serve as the funding body for the membership, using either earmarked funds for the specific research infrastructure or from our own budget for research infrastructures.
We operate our own research infrastructure
We also operate our own national research infrastructure:
- Sunet is a research infrastructure that operates, maintains and develops the Swedish university data network. Sunet also offers a variety of web services for research IT and education. Read more about sunet.se.
- Research infrastructures for register-based research: Registerforskning.se and Register Utiliser Tool, RUT, facilitate the use of register data in research. The metadata tool, RUT, is currently under development. Read more about registerforskning.se.
- Clinical Studies Sweden is a national collaboration where each of Sweden’s six healthcare regions have appointed a regional node to represent it. The aim is to support and develop the prerequisites for carrying out high-quality clinical studies in Sweden. Read more at kliniskastudier.se.
Collaboration within research infrastructure
The Swedish Research Council is a member of a number of international research infrastructures (Cern, EMBL, ESRF and others), which thereby become accessible to researchers in Sweden.
We are also a member of international organisations and networks that coordinate research connected to research infrastructures. Our membership fees to international organisations contribute to the operation and construction of the infrastructure.
We also provide grants in-kind. This means that Swedish higher education institutions and other research institutions develop and supply instruments or equipment to the research infrastructure. To certain international research infrastructures, we contribute a Swedish node.
We are responsible for some major research collaborations where Swedish researchers can participate through joint calls with other countries.