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The new European Digital Infrastructure Consortia (EDIC): Uniting Europe in the Digital Age

Updated: Mar 26

The European Digital Infrastructure Consortia (EDIC) is a new legal vehicle introduced by Decision (EU) 2022/2481 establishing the Digital Decade Policy Programme 2030 (the 'DDPP Decision'). The EDIC is meant to speed up and simplify the setup and implementation of Multi-Country Projects (MCPs) thus facilitating the achievement of the Digital Decade general objectives and targets.


MCPs are large-scale initiatives which are critical for driving the EU's digital transformation and achieving the ambitious Digital Decade goals. The aim is to pool national and possibly private resources to achieve progress that no Member State could do on its own. MCPs, the execution of which is the primary mission of EDICs, focus on:


  • Enhancing cooperation among the Union and Member States.

  • Boosting the Union’s technological prowess and competitiveness.

  • Addressing digital supply chain vulnerabilities.

  • Promoting the use of secure digital solutions in both public and private sectors.

  • Fostering an inclusive and sustainable digital transformation.

  • Encouraging digital skills through education and lifelong learning.


The EDIC is set to facilitate the achievement of various digital domains, including European common data infrastructure, next-generation processors, 5G corridors, supercomputers and quantum computers, secure communication infrastructures, cybersecurity, and more.


Main Differences Compared to the ERIC


The EDIC's structure is similar to that of the already existing European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC) but with unique features. Below is a summary of some of the main differences:


European Digital Infrastructure Consortia (EDIC)
European Digital Infrastructure Consortia (EDIC)
  • Objective and focus: The EDIC primary objective is implementing an MCP while an ERIC focuses on creating and managing a research infrastructure.

  • Membership: An EDIC requires membership from at least three Member States. For an ERIC, a minimum of one Member State plus two other Member States or associated countries is sufficient. Moreover, membership in an ERIC is open to any country and international organization, while an EDIC is open for membership to third countries/international organizations only if they are associated with a directly managed Union program that supports the digital transformation of the Union. Finally, one of the more significant differences compared to an ERIC is that the EDIC also permits membership for public or private entities, as outlined in its statutes.

  • Economic activities: The EDIC stands out with its ability to engage, without limitation, in both non-economic and economic activities (provided that the economic activities facilitate the implementation of the MCP), however, in such cases, EU State aid rules must be taken into account to prevent cross-subsidisation of the economic activities. An ERIC may engage in limited economic activities, as long as they are closely related to its main task and do not jeopardize its accomplishment.

  • Role of the European Commission: The European Commission assumes a more active role in the formation and management of the EDIC: It is permitted to attend the General Assembly meetings without the right to vote but possesses veto authority concerning General Assembly decisions that involve actions funded by centrally-managed Union programs. It may also offer recommendations on matters covered in the EDIC annual activity report.

  • Governance structure: It is interesting to note that, unlike an ERIC, the DDPP requires a General Assembly and a Director as minimum governing bodies of the EDIC, whereas an ERIC permits a General Assembly and a Director or a Board of Directors. Further, Whereas both the ERIC and EDIC are free to establish their own advisory bodies, the European Commission suggests that the EDIC should adopt a 'Strategic Orientation Committee' and an 'Advisory Board.' In contrast, for the ERIC, practice has shown that the formation of a 'Scientific Advisory Body' and possibly 'National Nodes' or 'Research Infrastructure' Committees are more prevalent. However, in both cases, other or alternative advisory bodies may be established as specified in the relevant statutes.

  • Additional Differences: There are more differences to note, including the potential application of state aid rules, the criteria for exemptions from VAT and excise duties, and EU procurement regulations. The EDIC might also primarily depend on access to centrally managed EU programs for funding, besides contributions from its members. It is noteworthy to mention the difference in language concerning the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice as described in the DDPP and ERIC regulations (Articles 19 and 30, respectively), which raises speculation about whether this signifies a change in strategy, particularly in light of the difficulties some international organisations may encounter when attempting to join an ERIC. Furthermore, the requirement for an 'implementation strategy' in an EDIC, absent in the ERIC framework, along with a different set of "essential elements," marks interesting distinctions.


Overall, the EDIC emerges as a distinctive legal framework for digital infrastructure, signaling a step towards a digitally integrated Europe and holding the potential to significantly impact the digital transformation landscape. While it introduces novel aspects, it still closely mirrors the ERIC model, by now a well-established and recognised legal structure active across many EU Member States.


Establishing an EDIC


To establish an EDIC, Member States must submit a comprehensive application to the European Commission, including the proposed statutes of the EDIC, a technical description of the MCP to be implemented, and a declaration by the host Member State recognizing the EDIC's status. The Commission (DG CNECT), acting as an MCP Accelerator, provides support and guidance, coordinating the applicants throughout the establishment of the EDIC and the implementation of the MCP. The estimated duration for this procedure is around six months, starting from the submission of the formal request, although the preparatory process leading to this submission is likely to be much longer.


How Can X-officio Help?


is recognised as having leading expertise and knowledge for research and digital infrastructure frameworks. We have assisted many ERICs and other forms of research infrastructures to establish themselves, draft their statutes and governing documents, as well as to prepare their application to the EU Commission. A key differentiator for our practice is that our team has been involved hands-on in all stages of establishing and operating research infrastructures, from early design stage to assisting more mature research infrastructures with their governance and legal matters, seeing the statutes being implemented in practice. We work in collaboration with the research infrastructure’s management team, and scientific advisors and if so required, with political stakeholders, funding agencies and ministries, ensuring consensus and buy-in.

 

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