Industrial use of photon & neutron techniques: an opportunity for new businesses?
The first common Neutron and X-ray Industry Advisory Board meeting
Eleven Industry Advisory Board (IAB) members met about thirty industry liaison officers and related scientists from the major European neutron and synchrotron large scale research infrastructures. The meeting was held on December 3rd and 4th, 2013 in Frankfurt, Germany, through a common initiative of the two respective Clusters: NMI3 (Neutron scattering and Muon spectroscopy Integrating Infrastructure Initiative) and CALIPSO (Synchrotron Initiative).
Even though industry is interested in all methods that can help improve materials and processes, they have little knowledge on both photons and neutrons (and not to forget muons) techniques. The selected IAB members were carefully selected with regards to their experience with one or both of the techniques. They were invited to give the facilities feedback on the bottlenecks when using neutron, muon and X-ray probes. Industry liaison officers also gave brief insights into their services and explained eventual limitations in their activities.
This meeting of ‘minds and methods’ was highly appreciated and the organisers were urged to organize a follow-up meeting in order to maintain momentum and define a list of actions to enhance services at the research facilities and thereby collaboration with industry.
One major issue identified was the different way in thinking of industry and facility research staff. Industry needs rapid access to beamtime and efficient generation of scientific results, whereas facility staff tends to be motivated by scientific questions of a more academic, less time-bound nature. Facility staff therefore needs to be rewarded appropriately, and motivated, to respond to industry demands which, for example, may not lead to publications. Dedicated staff and an efficient user-interface (e.g. sample environment and software for instrument control and data treatment) are the basis for attracting commercial users. In this context, several facilitator companies were invited. These small businesses know both aspects very well, as they work with industry and are familiar with facility-based experimental techniques. They provide the service needed by the commercial user and they offer the expertise of the research facility researcher. Despite the European scope of research facilities, fostered by European funded projects, these emerging companies illustrate the regional economic impact of large scale infrastructures, geographic proximity facilitating effective interaction with industry.
An action plan for industry-facility interaction is currently under consideration in the context of the next European framework programme Horizon 2020. Are you interested in knowing more about it or getting involved in future industry events? Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
For a more complete review of our industry events, please have a look at the next issue of Notiziario – Neutroni e Luce di Sincrotrone: Enhancing interaction between industry and large-scale research facilities: NMI3 industry events.