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All win by sharing knowledge

Higher Education Minister Morten Østergaard's speech at the opening of ICRI 2012, International Conference on Research Infrastructures, in Copenhagen 21 March.

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Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. It is a great honour to welcome you to ICRI 2012. And it is a pleasure to see so many participants at this important conference.

"If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas."

These plain but wise words came from the Irish Nobel prize winner George Bernard Shaw. And I am not just quoting him because Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn is Irish.

This quote holds the essence of research infrastructure. We do not lose out by sharing research infrastructures. Quite the opposite. All parties are winners. And cooperation on infrastructure today is more relevant than ever before.

Grand challenges

Climate change, lack of clean water, energy crises, health problems and explosive population growth. The global challenges are lining up. And they call for global solutions.

At this 7th major Conference on Research Infrastructure we will debate international issues for the first time. So the focus is not only European but global.

It is an important shift. Because there is an urgent need to discuss and find ways to act globally to respond to the Grand Challenges. And because there are also new and powerful players on the field. A new global agenda has been created. Countries such as Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa are all significant research nations.

Even though healthy competition is only natural, global cooperation in certain areas is inevitable. This conference is an important contributor to cooperation.

Minister Morten Østergaard at ICRI 2012
Higher Education Minister Morten Østergaard at the opening of the International Conference on Research Infrastructures, ICRI 2012, in Copenhagen. Photo: Tariq Mikkel Khan.

Research infrastructures

The greatest challenges present the greatest opportunities for outstanding discoveries.

There is no doubt that research is a vital part of the answer to the great challenges. And excellence in research requires excellent tools. A quality research infrastructure is just as important to research as an engine is to a car.

Research infrastructure is utilised within all scientific fields today. And encompasses a broad range of advanced tools and facilities, which are essential for carrying out research.

Large research infrastructure has often in the past been aimed at experimental natural science fields. But in recent years, there has been greater need for and opportunities within social science and humanities.

E-science for example, has been a cross-disciplinary tool that binds many scientific fields together in new ways.

Technological development in recent decades has had significant impact on the development of research infrastructures and constantly broadens the limits of what is scientifically possible.

Allow me to give an example. In the coming years, one of the world's largest and most advanced research facilities will be built in the Øresund region – the European Spallation Source – as a truly European project.

The ESS is a partnership of 17 European Nations committed to collectively building and operating the world's leading facility for research using neutrons.

Simple speaking, the ESS is a giant and very advanced microscope that can be used for example to study new materials for superconductors, windmills, fuel cells and how medicine works. The ESS can be used for classic basic research and application-oriented research.

Denmark and Sweden have entered into an agreement to jointly host the ESS. The agreement involves the ESS facility being established in the outskirts of Lund, just on the other side of the Øresund. And the ESS Data and Software Center will be located on the Danish side of the Øresund – on the North Campus of the University of Copenhagen.

The construction of the ESS will start next year and become operational in 2019.

The centre of the knowledge triangle

Research infrastructure not only has crucial significance for the quality of research being carried out.

In the wake of the establishment of larger research infrastructures, a favourable business climate is often created, that has broad and direct social significance in the form of spin-off companies and development of new innovative products and services.

Access to modern and advanced research infrastructures produces ground-breaking research results, while also helping to educate, attract and retain the best students and greatest research talents.

Research infrastructures are at the centre of the knowledge triangle of research, education and innovation by:

  • producing knowledge through research,
  • diffusing it through education,
  • and applying it through innovation.

Research infrastructure locally, regionally and globally

Establishing and developing research infrastructures is an important element in the efforts to future-proof general development and growth locally, regionally and globally.

It is necessary to prioritise between research infrastructures as they are often very specialised, comprehensive and expensive.

The Danish roadmap for research infrastructure 2011 presented a collective and prioritised catalogue of the national needs for research infrastructure in the short-term and provided a strategic focus for the long-term national effort in the area.

On a European level, the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures mapped out 44 concrete projects, all of which require international cooperation to some extent.

A similar exercise on a global level could be the way to secure the necessary infrastructure and not least the associated financing.

Horizon 2020

On a European level, I am privileged that Denmark has the rotating Presidency while negotiations on the world's largest research programme Horizon 2020 are taking place.

As you know, Horizon 2020 will tackle societal challenges by helping to bridge the gap between research and the market.

The programme is challenge-driven and will help address major concerns shared by all Europeans such as climate change, making renewable energy more afford-able, ensuring food safety, or coping with the challenge of an ageing population.

In Horizon 2020 excellence science is a key objective and research infrastructures are an important element of this.

Denmark believes that the EU has a role to play in realizing European and international research infrastructure. Including the realisation of the ESFRI roadmap for research infrastructure.

In this regard, we must see the importance of synergy with the structural funds. The new structural funds proposal paves the way for countries allocating more funding to research, including research infrastructure.

The Danish Presidency will do its utmost to progress the negotiations and has set the ambitious goal to reach a partial general approach on the overall structure of Horizon 2020 at the Competitiveness Council at the end of May.

Sharing tools for science

Research infrastructures play an increasingly important role in the advancement of knowledge and technology. They are a key instrument in bringing together a wide diversity of stakeholders to look for solutions to many of the challenges the world is facing today.

We need tools for science. And we need cooperation; locally, regionally and globally. The ICRI 2012 conference is important for this cooperation.

And this brings me back to Shaw. For his observations about apples and ideas can also be applied to the participants in this conference.

The purpose here is to share your thoughts and ideas. That is something we will all benefit from. I wish you all a very productive conference.

Thank you.

last modified Jan 11, 2022