Cross-border databank on population ageing becomes the first European Research Infrastructure Consortium

The European Commission has decided to set up a major multi-national research databank on population ageing, which will be the first ever research infrastructure project to enjoy the new legal status as a European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC). This legal status will make such projects easier to set up and simpler to run. Commission's Decision setting up SHARE-ERIC Consortium has been published in the Official Journal of the EU on 18 March.

The Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) will become the first European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC). This will give it many of the administrative advantages and tax exemptions enjoyed by major international organisations, with much simpler procedures. SHARE-ERIC will be hosted by Tilburg University in the Netherlands, and provide open and free of charge access to data, aiming to help researchers understand the impact of population ageing on European societies and thus to help policy makers make decisions on health, social and economic policy.

Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany and the Netherlands, with Switzerland as an observer, are the founding members of the new European Research Infrastructure Consortium SHARE-ERIC. Denmark, Spain, France, Italy, Portugal, Greece, Sweden, Poland, Ireland, Estonia, Luxembourg, Hungary and Slovenia are the other EU countries (along with Israel) which have so far taken part in the SHARE project and may sign up later to the new legal status.

The decision to give SHARE the new legal status as a European Research Infrastructure Consortium, or "ERIC" for short, will help to ensure the long-term sustainability of SHARE, since "ERICs" benefit from a tailor-made legal and governance structure, allowing them to be set up quickly and to operate efficiently. The new status gives such infrastructures the flexibility to adapt their statutes to their needs. The Commission's Decision to set up the SHARE-ERIC published in the OJEU on 18 March, provides for a General Assembly, a Management Board and a Scientific Advisory Board.

Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE)

SHARE was already designated in 2006 by the European Strategy Forum for Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) as a priority research infrastructure for social sciences. The "ESFRI Roadmap", currently includes 44 priority infrastructures. SHARE was set up in 2004 and is building a multidisciplinary and cross-national data set on the health, socio-economic status, and social and family networks of more than 45,000 individuals aged 50 and over. SHARE is expected to become an important asset to other initiatives on population ageing such as the pilot European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing, currently being launched.

Since 2004, The European Commission has contributed 30 million euro to SHARE covering almost 80% of total costs. About 5 million euro in funding has been provided by the US National Institute on Ageing and from other national grants. European Research Infrastructure Consortia can also benefit from VAT and excise duty exemptions similar to those of international organisations. In the case of SHARE-ERIC, for example, VAT exemption could reduce the cost of sub-contracting data collection services.