So far, it looks most like a single large construction site. It is muddy, it is reinforcing iron, it is large concrete blocks, but here are also international delegations in yellow warning clothes walking around and inspecting. For here, on what was previously a field on the outskirts of Lund, ESS, European Spallation Source, is currently building an international research facility based on the world's most powerful neutron source.
- There are already a number of neutron sources in the world today, but ESS will generate up to a hundred times more neutrons, which makes us world-leading, says Marie-Louise Ainalem, ESS contact person for the host countries.
The goal is for the facility to receive 2,000–3,000 researchers per year from academia and industry after it opens in 2023. Although it is several years left for the first part of the plant to even open, the researchers are already in line to get a place at the source.
- Eftersom ESS will be so much more powerful than existing neutron sources, it will provide completely new opportunities for research, says Marie-Louise Ainalem. Measurements will go faster and there will also be opportunities to design the experiments in completely new ways. In addition, new areas that today do not use neutron sources in their research will be able to benefit from ESS.
And in a world where research is becoming increasingly interdisciplinary, where complex issues create an increased need to work across disciplines and between academia and industry, Marie-Louise Ainalem sees that ESS has an important role to play as a hub.
- Basic research will of course be a big part of what happens at ESS, but we also want to be an available tool for industry and for new innovations.
Act as a crucible
To get there, ESS has as objective to reach and inform potential users who traditionally do not work with neutron sources and raise their eyes to what opportunities ESS offers.
- Here you will be able to research everything from medicines to climate-smart everyday products. We really want to be a crucible, a tool where different disciplines meet and work together to meet the global challenges of our time.
That is why Marie-Louise Ainalem hopes that ESS will not only become a place for experiments but also a place for meetings. The same ambition is a stone's throw away, as is the world-unique research facility Max IV, a newly built synchrotron light system in Lund that opened the doors for the first researchers in the summer of 2016.
\"What makes us unique is not only that we offer new, world-leading technology, but also that such a broad spectrum of research will continue,\" says Christoph Quitmann, director of Max IV. We will have researchers doing basic research at the Nobel Prize level, companies that want to develop drugs and historians who want to investigate mummies or old art objects. It will be a very mixed environment.
This diversity means Christoph Quitmann is one of the plant's great strengths because it allows different disciplines to learn from each other and thus take steps forward to new innovations.
- It's something we really want to reinforce. I want us to become a hub where the most interesting people from academia and industry meet to discuss the most exciting issues, and I want it to benefit society in the form of knowledge and innovations.
To create such an environment, Max IV works through both formal and informal channels. Among other things, Christoph Quitman is part of the Government's Cooperation Council, there are ambassadors who visit companies and explain how Max IV can contribute to their activities and they are part of various networks around the world. For example, the facility participates in a project funded by the European Commission that will allow research students from the Nordic countries to do experiments at Max IV.
- When they then come out in business they bring with them the knowledge of what you can use Max IV for. Hopefully this will lead to even more companies opening their eyes to the opportunities that exist here.
But it's not just about attracting researchers and companies to Max IV, it's also about getting them to interact when they are in place so as to create an exchange of ideas on a personal level as well. One example is to allow visiting users to hold seminars on their research field for other users in place.
- And then we have to make sure we have a really good coffee machine, it always creates meetings, says Christoph Quitman and laughs.
So far, Max IV is only in the build-up phase and has access to about a fifth of the capacity that will be available when the plant is fully completed. Although there are already ongoing project that you know will lead to drastic innovations.
- For example, we are already working with the forest and pulp industry today and are preparing to use Max IV to find solutions to the challenges facing the packaging industry. It is a conservative industry that has not used similar facilities before, but they had experts with them who had knowledge of our technology and realized that it could benefit them as well.
One of the companies that are already working with both synchrotron light systems and neutron sources is AstraZeneca.
- Developing a drug is a big puzzle where we use facilities in different places around the world that offer the same technology as ESS and Max IV, says Anna Sandström, science relations director at AstraZeneca and continues:
- That these two plants will now exist in Sweden, where we have one of our three strategic research facilities, is a fantastic opportunity for us. In addition, I believe that it can strengthen the Swedish life science sector at all, as it will strengthen the knowledge and utilization of these technologies in Sweden.
But Anna Sandström is careful to point out that world-leading technology in all glory, ESS and Max IV really need to be able to contribute to innovation in Swedish industry, it is necessary that an environment is built up around those who connect the plants with business and industry.
- There must be an interest in telling the industry what the technology can be used for. Companies must access the facilities in simple and appropriate ways and there must be lubricants to bring together people from companies and academia so that joint research projects can be built. Then the plants can make really great use for Swedish innovation.
To create the creative environment, Lund municipality, Region Skåne and Lund University have formed the joint company Science Village Scandinavia, which owns the land between ESS and Max IV.
\"Simply put, our task is to develop the area both physically and otherwise so that it meets the needs of both the facilities and their visitors,\" says Fredrik Melander, Head of R&D Relations at Science Village Scandinavia.
Eftersom ESS and Max IV are world-leading institutions from a purely technical point of view.
- If we look at existing research facilities internationally, it is very different how much impact they have had on the local community. In Grenoble, for example, there have long been fantastic facilities in the ILL and ESRF, but since they have long functioned as their own small islands without close links to the local universities, they have not had a great impact on their local environment either.
Learn from each other
In order to avoid such isolation and instead create an interaction between community and facilities, Science Village Scandinavia works in three different areas: to develop the infrastructure and properties around the facilities, to build a science center aimed at the public and to work to attract universities, research institutions and industrial users. to make them want to establish themselves in the field.
The latter is the area for which Fredrik Melander is responsible and he believes that it is precisely the integration between the plants and industry and academia that will determine the effect ESS and Max IV will have on Swedish innovation.
- The most important thing we can do there is to be a driving force so that there are discussion areas that make good ideas come up. If there is then a need for specific infrastructure, such as common labs, then we will of course work to find its forms, but most important are the discussions that lead to strategies and visions.
A forum to drive this networking between facilities, industry and academia is the project SWEbeams.
- The idea is to work broadly and gather as many actors as possible that may be of interest to Max IV and ESS, and together create a national agenda for the cluster that is now growing in Lund.
The goal of SWEbeams is to compile different parties' needs and plans for the use of the facilities, but also to elucidate the conditions for different actors to take advantage of the opportunities offered.
- We know that different industries have come a long way when it comes to using what ESS and Max IV offer, and in the discussions within SWEbeams there is the opportunity to learn from each other. We cannot expect that companies that have never worked with these technologies before will begin to do so spontaneously, but we must demonstrate relevant opportunities and collaborative projects.
And for Fredrik Melander, the vision is clear.
- We have ESS and Max IV here, we have strong links to the Danish side and we also get a number of new material research facilities in Hamburg. Used correctly, Northern Europe will be the world's leading area for advanced materials research in the coming decades.
Text: Karin Aase