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ELIXIR – European life science infrastructure for biological information

Summary

The goal of ELIXIR is to orchestrate the collection, quality control and archiving of large amounts of biological data produced by life science experiments. Some of these datasets are highly specialised and would previously only have been available to researchers within the country in which they were generated.

Background

In 2006 ESFRI, a body set up by 33 countries at the initiative of the European Council, identified 35 pan-European research infrastructures that are of key importance for the development of science and innovation. The ELIXIR project launched its preparatory phase project in November 2007, funded by the European Commission under the FP7 capacities programme, and included representatives of 32 organisations in 13 countries. On 18 December 2013, ELIXIR entered its permanent phase with five countries and EMBL ratifying the ELIXIR Consortium Agreement. The ECA has now been ratified by ten countries, with the UK, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Israel, Norway, the Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, and EMBL as full members.

Structure

ELIXIR is an inter-governmental organisation, which builds on existing data resources and services within Europe. It follows a hub-and-nodes model, with a single Hub located in a new building alongside EMBL-EBI in Hinxton, Cambridge, UK and a growing number of nodes located at centres of excellence throughout Europe.

Governments and ministries of countries are members of the ELIXIR consortium, and the scientific community in each member country develops their national node.

Copyright: ELIXIR
Diagramatic representation of Elixir's node structure. Copyright: ELIXIR

Participants

The ECA has now been ratified by ten countries, with the UK, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Israel, Norway, the Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, and EMBL as full members. A further 7 countries have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to participate in ELIXIR (Belgium, Finland, France, Greece, Italy, Slovenia and Spain).

UK activities

BBSRC signed the ECA on behalf of the UK, and the UK membership of ELIXIR is paid for by contributions from BBSRC, MRC, NERC.

Dr Alf Game (BBSRC) of the ELIXIR Board is the Chair. UK representation is through Prof Carole Goble (University of Manchester) as Scientific Delegate; with Dr Mark Palmer (MRC) and Dr John Hancock (BBSRC) as Administrative Delegates.

The  ELIXIR-UK node is led by Prof Chris Pointing (Head of Node) at the University of Oxford and Prof. Carole Goble (Deputy Head of Node) at the University of Manchester.

The ELIXIR UK node's focus is training. This will be delivered:

in partnership with other ELIXIR nodes and agencies.

The node is supported through a joint £1.3M award from BBSRC, MRC, and NERC to the University of Oxford, University of Birmingham, University of Manchester, TGAC, and EMBL EBI. The technical coordinators for the ELIXIR-UK node are Mario Caccamo and Manuel Corpas at TGAC.

UK Large Facilities Capital Fund investment for the UK contribution to the ELIXIR Technical Hub project and Data Centre Capacity project at the EBI

The UK Government's formal confirmation of the £75M capital funding commitment from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills' Large Facilities Capital Fund for the UK contribution to the ELIXIR Technical Hub project and Data Centre Capacity project at the EBI on 5 December 2011, as part of the UK Government's new 'Strategy for UK Life Sciences' which was announced in a speech in by the Prime Minister.

The project is also supported by the Medical Research Council, Natural Environment Research Council and The Wellcome Trust. EMBL-EBI will host the future central hub of ELIXIR and BBSRC (see press release in related links) is the leading funding body for its construction.

BBSRC has already funded the ELIXIR programme with a £10M investment to EMBL-EBI, based at Hinxton near Cambridge, to permit a dramatic increase in the Institute's data storage and handling capacity (see second press release in related links).