On 31 May 2022, the Cherenkov Telescope Array Observatory’s (CTAO’s) Board of Governmental Representatives (BGR) submitted the formal request to the European Commission to establish the CTAO ERIC or European Research Infrastructure Consortium. The CTAO ERIC will be the final legal entity of the CTAO that will oversee the construction and operation of the Observatory. This request, known as the “Step 2” application, includes the final version of all the required documentation with the approval of the future CTAO ERIC member countries, as their formal commitment to build and support the Observatory throughout its lifetime. The BGR, comprised of representatives of the future ERIC member countries, is the key committee created to prepare and evaluate documentation for the evolution of CTAO’s legal status from the current gGmbH (under German law) to an ERIC (under European law).
“With this submission, the preparatory phase to create the CTAO ERIC has concluded. It is now in the hands of the European Commission to ratify the creation of the new legal entity,” explains Prof. Federico Ferrini, Managing Director of the CTAO gGmbH. “The CTAO gGmbH was charged with two main objectives: preparing for construction and achieving the formation of the ERIC. This will be the final, conclusive milestone and, soon, we may declare our tasks achieved, creating the fundaments for the realization of the CTA project!”
As the final step towards the establishment of the ERIC, the Step 2 application’s Statutes describe the provisions governing the ERIC, the rights and obligations of the members, their contribution, tasks and activities, as well as the principles covering the different policies. The application includes the Cost Book and the Scientific & Technical Description of the CTAO, which present the expected construction costs of the Observatory and the construction project’s development and lifecycle, respectively. The submission of the Step 2 application also reinforces the financial and in-kind contribution commitment of the member countries that will form the CTAO ERIC.
“Thanks to the commitment of all countries supporting the construction of the Observatory and the active collaboration of all members of the BGR, as well as the collaboration of the CTAO gGmbH, a long and complex process has been completed successfully on May 31,” says Prof. Aldo Covello, Chair of the BGR. ”We are now ready to start the construction of this important research infrastructure, as soon as the European Commission approves it.”
In the next few months, the European Commission will revise the formal request and prepare its final decision. In this delivery period, the Commission can request additional information. The establishment of the CTAO ERIC is expected to take place in the first half of 2023, which will mark the official start of the Construction and Operation Phase of the CTAO, the first ground-based gamma-ray observatory.