Fragmentation, duplication of efforts, isolation of small research groups put at risk the competitive advantage of European heritage science research, spearheaded so well in the past by its unique cultural heritage. The long‐term tradition of this field of research, the ability to combine science with innovation, and the support provided by EU‐funded projects and integrating activities such as EU‐ARTECH, CHARISMA and IPERION CH in conservation science, and ARIADNE in archaeology, represent the background of E-RIHS. E-RIHS exploits the synergy of the cooperation among the academy, research centres, museums and cultural institutions. Both the scientific and the socio‐economic importance connected with heritage science are nowadays evident. The research community has achieved the maturity necessary to make the leap towards a permanent European research infrastructure that will impact broadly on society and economy.