17 May 2018
ELI ERIC - Moving Ahead
While the implementation of the ELI projects is nearing completion in the three host countries, simultaneously much effort is put into creating the necessary conditions for the future operation as a single, multi-site international laser user facility of European and global dimension. Carlo Rizzuto, Director General ELI-DC, gives an update on the current state of affairs.
Why does ELI want to become an ERIC in the first place?
‘Because being an ERIC has several advantages. If we are integrated, we can achieve greater results with given resources than as three separate entities. We can work together on developing new experiments, share resources, be more relevant at international level et cetera. On a scientific level, we can achieve much more by coordinating and integrating our programs and results. Finally, as a whole, we are more attractive for other countries to join in as member states, leading to our facilities operating independent of national policies and governments.’
What are the main challenges to overcome?
‘They are mostly on the human front. Three teams have been competing against the odds in building complex facilities in a fairly empty environment. All teams are of course very proud of their achievements and feel that they can be self-sufficient. But now it is time to bring them together, and to devise one coordinated way of working, which takes into account their individual experience and expertise.’
What can we expect in the near future?
‘The last 1,5 years we have been encouraging the local coordinators or heads of services to work together to solve common problems. If we take, for example, procurement, together they can negotiate lower prices, make a joint call to attract offers, share tricks and better ways to share the administrative activities, et cetera. The idea is that this way of working, if accepted at higher level, will percolate down to the people working in the pillars. One problem here is that every group is very busy concluding the construction phase, and everyone is overwhelmed by things to do.’
What will make it easier to cooperate?
‘If funding comes through the ERIC: it is always easier to cooperate when you are working with the same budget. ELI is the odd man out: we are the first facility where 100 percent of the construction is financed by money from the ESIF (European Structural and Investment Funds), and only the cost of operation should be shared by individual European countries. Other facilities, like CERN or ESA, were built from scratch with contributions initially from at least five different countries. These countries then had committed from the beginning of construction to contributing to the operations as well. We are now in the process of reminding individual governments and communities of the promises they made at the start of this endeavor to contribute to the operational costs.’
Which milestones have been achieved recently?
‘Last December the three Host Countries formally agreed to set up the ERIC, and we presented ELI at the European ministers of research. Now we are discussing the details of the implementation, in terms of legal and financial issues, such as insurances, contracts and licenses. Hopefully by the end of May, we will have worked this out. We would like to apply for an ERIC before the end of June, and establish one legal entity by the end of this year. Then we are going to combine staff, administration and so on in a more gradual way. Most of the personnel is already now hired by the pillars, but top level personnel should be hired by the ERIC, if the contributions to it will allow. Also a limited amount of personnel needs some work to be defined. We will have to align different national employer contracts for the personnel to allow it to be mobile amongst the three pillars. If we plan to hire 10 to 20 percent of these people in the first two years of operation, we will need to work hard to achieve this.’
Read more about what an ERIC is and does at: