European Research Infrastructure for Heritage Science

The Discovery Programme was a partner in the European Research infrastructure for Heritage Science (E-RIHS) project from 2017 – 2020.

The European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) identified heritage science as one of the key areas in which Europe must provide support to scientists and cultural heritage experts to ensure critical competitiveness and to tackle societal challenges. The European Research Infrastructure for Heritage Science (E-RIHS) will play a leading role in the global community of Heritage Science, creating a support infrastructure for the preservation, interpretation, documentation and management of cultural and natural heritage throughout Europe, working towards a Global Research Infrastructure. E-RIHS builds on, and facilitates access for researchers to, existing mobile and fixed scientific facilities and expertise, archives of scientific and heritage collections, and digital resource development across the EU.

The initial 3 year preparatory phase culminated at the end of 2020. The Discovery Programme, as Ireland’s representative body, was active in the E-RIHS preparatory phase. Key outcomes were:

  • a comprehensive business plan with a minimum of three confirmed member countries to achieve full legal designation as an European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC)
  • to develop a national research node
Heritage Science Equipment
An example of the heritage science equipment to which E-RIHS aims to provide greater access.

Ireland currently has seven universities with many internal research facilities, 32 research centres and 6 research institutes. All have equipment, services, processes and data that hold potential to expand investigations by cultural heritage relevant disciplines. Access to these, and other facilities, is currently inhibited. National cultural institutions and research organisations do not have the capacity to purchase and support such equipment and expertise. Therefore, the potential of cultural heritage relevant research in Ireland is not realised. By Ireland becoming a ‘member’ state of E-RIHS, solutions to many of these challenges and contributions to global societal challenges can materialise.

The potential impacts of E-RIHS include 

  • Support the understanding, conservation and protection of Ireland’s tangible cultural heritage using cutting edge scientific analysis and methods
  • Enable access for Ireland’s cultural institutions and research bodies to a high quality cultural heritage research and a supporting research infrastructure
  • Ensure our next generation of Irish researchers using state-of-the-art methodologies and facilities
  • Enrich our research identity as a global innovation leader in both sciences and cultural heritage
  • Supports the development of digital infrastructure which ensures our cultural heritage data is safe and can be used by future generations
  • Establish a ‘co-creation eco-system’ for which enables Irish cultural heritage experts and scientists to cooperate and carry out joint research
  • Ensure Ireland’s leading role in cultural heritage as a skills developer and mobiliser
  • Support the development of new and improved products, services and processes across sectors
  • Resolve shared resourcing issues, with the need for cultural heritage research in a low-cost, high value Research Infrastructure
  • Supports the implementation of key government policies such as Creative Ireland, Innovation 2020 and the National Research Roadmap