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The European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC)

Updated: Sep 15, 2023

The European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC) is a legal framework introduced by Council Regulation (EC) No. 723/2009 (the “ERIC Regulation”) in response to the search of a suitable legal framework for research infrastructures that involve more than one European country or that have their operations distributed over several countries. The ERIC Regulation solves a significant challenge previously faced by European Research Infrastructures: the absence of a unified legal structure recognized by all Member States for creating collaborations across different countries. This regulation streamlines the process of founding an international legal entity focused on research infrastructure by reducing the need for lengthy inter-governmental negotiations. It also offers a flexible governance structure, allowing members to outline their rights, obligations, internal bodies, and other specific arrangements in the statutes to suit the unique needs of each research infrastructure.

The ERIC is often looked at as a potential legal framework for the implementation and operation phases by early-stage pan-European research infrastructures.

As of April 2023, since the adoption of the ERIC Regulation in 2009, 26 ERICs have been formed. Every EU Member State is a member of at least one ERIC, with 10 of them hosting an ERIC's statutory seat. 9 associated countries are ERIC members, with Norway and the UK also housing an ERIC's statutory seat. Two intergovernmental organizations are part of an ERIC. In total, the combined membership (including observers) across all ERICs is 357, of which 232 are founding members.

Membership in an ERIC is reserved to Member States, associated countries, third countries (other than associated countries) and intergovernmental organisations. The basic governance structure of the ERIC is composed of the Assembly of Members and a Director or a Board of Directors. the Assembly of Members is the body with full decision-making powers and it adopts in particular the annual budget, the annual work plan and the implementing rules which complement the statutes. The Director or Board of Directors is the legal representative of the ERIC.

The European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC) is a legal entity for European research infrastructures
European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC)

Besides the Assembly of Members and a Director (or Board of Directors), the ERIC may include various advisory committees, such as a scientific advisory committee, a finance committee, or an ethics committee, to support and advise the Assembly of Members. During the lifetime of an ERIC, the Assembly of Members may also create additional advisory bodies as it deems appropriate. For distributed ERICs it is common that the Director (or the Board of Directors) is supported by a heads of nodes committee (or similar name) consisting of representatives of the distributed components of the ERIC.

The main advantages of an ERIC may be summarised as follows:

- High political acceptance and visibility reflecting a true spirit of a European venture.

- Security of national funding commitments planned over a longer period of time.

- A relatively flexible legal and governance structure tailored to the needs of pan-European (in particular distributed) research infrastructures.

- Exemption from the EU Public Procurement Directives, VAT and excise duties (in the sense of Articles 143(1)(g) and 151(1)(b) of the VAT Directive and Article 12(1)(b) of Directive 2008/118/EC).

- A legal personality recognised in all EU Member States.

- A lighter incorporation process compared to an international organisation.

- A flexible internal structure which is not subject to national law.

The assessment whether an ERIC is the most suitable legal entity for a research infrastructure needs to be done on a case-by-case basis, taking into account considerations such as the nature and characteristics of the research infrastructure, its structure (centralized or distributed), its composition and potential members, the services offered, the size and possible economic activities, commitment from participating entities/countries, funding schemes, links with industry and liability issues, to name but a few. Also, the fact that the Court of Justice of the European Union will have jurisdiction over litigation among the members in relation to the ERIC, between the members and the ERIC and over any litigation to which the Union is a party, should be taken into account. See in this regard our post on the Participation of non-EU Countries in an ERIC: Challenges and Opportunities.

X-officio has a vast amount of experience and know-how in carrying out studies on the most suitable legal entity for research infrastructures, including the suitability of the ERIC legal entity. Our team at X-officio would be happy to assist in tailoring the right solution for a research infrastructure needs and provide the required evidence to make the decision as to whether the ERIC is the most appropriate legal entity.

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