The European Light Sources for Industrial Innovation (ELSII) Networking Activity was put in place to catalyse and enhance the industrial use of and interaction with European light source research infrastructures. ELSII aimed therefore to improve the mutual confidence and, importantly, the awareness between these facilities, largely devoted to pure academic research, and industry. As identified by ERIDWatch, strong constraints to increased industrial interaction with third-generation light sources exist in a “culture-clash” between the academic ivory tower nature of light sources and commerce driven by market forces. This creates real and perceived bottlenecks for industrial access with the result that industry largely, and regretfully, under-exploits these facilities for its R&I needs; in both direct access and in partnership with synchrotron facilities for both research and synchrotron instrumentation development programmes.
Currently, European companies are very often not or poorly aware of the potential for industrial research at modern third-generation light sources. One exception is the pharmaceutical industry which uses synchrotron protein crystallography as a day-to-day tool, but most industrial sectors are underdeveloped with regards to the application of synchrotron X-ray techniques for industrial R&D, and development of instrumentation for the growing European and worldwide synchrotron market. Three task areas were deployed to address the barriers between the business and synchrotron worlds
- ADVICE: harvesting advice from industry
- AWARENESS: raising awareness of light source sciences and techniques to industry
- NETWORK: sharing experience and challenges of working with and for industry.
The future ambition of the ELSII participants is to continue – all participants in the IAB and from the facilities strongly desire to continue meeting, exchanging and growing the network (for example to user-based research infrastructures beyond light, neutrons and muons). The X-ray and neutron industry liaison network will be funded using institutional support initially.
These central facilities can permit industry to perform truly unique materials characterisation using the special properties of light sources in terms of throughput, spatial resolution, following dynamic processes/in operando, element sensitivity and in-bulk microscopy. New facilities, upgraded facilities and new techniques allow unparalleled advanced in materials characterisation, and communication to and delivering photons for industry requires a constant effort to allow actual and potential clients and partners to keep abreast of the latest developments. Working together is one way to help make and cross the bridge to our European industrial colleagues.