A necessary consequence of the development of science is that the implementation costs of large research infrastructure reach levels that make international cooperation inevitable for raising the required funds. With this realization, the competent agencies of the European Union have set up the European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC), an entity designed to provide a legal and administrative framework for the operation of the given large infrastructure in an international setting. For this reason, it is an important milestone for the ELI project too that on behalf of the founding members (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy and Lithuania) the Czech experts, appointed to act as coordinators, have today submitted the application for the establishment of ELI-ERIC in Brussels.
“After a decade spent on planning and construction works, this application represents a very important milestone,” Allen Weeks, Director General of the ELI Delivery Consortium, said in Prague, commenting the event. “Finally, ERIC will be able to coordinate joint user programmes and technical operation.”
ELI is “the first” ins several aspects. Not only is it unique in terms of equipment, but it is also the first large research infrastructure set up in the new EU member states, and is the first so-called distributed infrastructure to be built as facilities of equal importance in several geographic locations, in several countries. This latter feature especially highlights the importance of the establishment of ERIC, since despite operating in different locations, ELI must present itself as a single entity towards the user community.
According to many people, it conveys a special message that the application for the establishment of ELI-ERIC has been formalized exactly on the 60th anniversary of the laser: the main goal of the ELI project proposed by leading European laser scientists – including Gérard Mourou, winner of the 2018 Nobel Prize in physics for discoveries indispensable for the operation of ELI – is to substantially define the development of laser science in the decades to come.