The RIFI project on “Research Infrastructures: Foresight and Impact” sought to advance impact studies by developing a comprehensive methodological framework for assessing socio-economic impacts of future RI projects on hosting regions and communities.
The Project Consortium was made up of 13 partners from 4 countries and the emphasis on Romanian and Bulgarian participation reflected the interest of the EC to build impact assessment capacity in countries that can benefit from the use of Regional Development funds to create Research Infrastructures (RIs). An External Advisory Board (EAB) has supported the consortium, on request, in regard to specific questions or topics related to the EAB members’ expertise.
The project has had a runtime of 27 months, starting with March 2009 and was financed by the 7th Framework Programme under the specific Capacity Programme through the Research Infrastructures specific area.
The final product of the project is the FenRIAM (Foresight enriched RI Impact Assessment Methodology) framework. It integrates and closely analyses the feedback from a practical application of the preliminary version, leading to the final version of the document, which was presented at the RIFI project concluding conference in Bucharest (30-31 May 2011). In FenRIAM the foresight and impact assessment modules are interwoven through an “input-outcome” interface. Success and baseline scenarios feed the Impact Assessment Module for eliciting socio-economic impacts in four domains: science & technology, ecological environment, jobs (work & population) and quality of life. Assessment of the associated risks is also structured in a module. The outcomes of the impact and risk assessments are used as inputs for developing alternative scenario hypotheses in the second foresight module.
Currently, FenRIAM is made available to stakeholders and interested parties through three complementary products: (1) an extensive leaflet, containing detailed information of FenRIAM, its background and its main functions, (2) an interactive website (www.fenriam.eu), which offers access to several case studies on which FenRIAM is based, and (3) an detailed online document which combines information from the leaflet with extensive review of the case studies.
Starting with a review of existing methods being used for socio-economic impact assessment of RIs, the project consortium developed a preliminary version of a holistic methodology with Foresight elements being intertwined with impact assessment. This version has been tested and validated by six case studies of RI projects of different characteristics and pan-European, regional and national interest:
• Romanian ELI (Extreme Light Infrastructure) – Nuclear Physics (ESFRI project)
• EURO-ARGO (Global Ocean Observing System) (ESFRI project)
• Free Electron Laser FERMI@Elettra (under construction in Trieste, IT)
• Research Pavilion of the Colentina Clinic Hospital of Bucharest (RO national infrastructure)
• Institute of Renewable Energies of the Polytechnic University of Timisoara (RO national infrastructure)
• Molecular Medicine Centre of the Medical University of Sofia (BG national infrastructure).
Beyond the RIFI consortium, the Extreme Light Infrastructure Beamlines (ELI-Beamlines) project in the Czech Republic tested some parts of the draft RIAM version and fed their experiences back for methodological improvement. The observatory at Roque de los Muchachos in La Palma (Canary Islands, Spain) delivered insights into how to assess certain aspects of public opinion about an existing RI.