Skip to main content
European Commission logo print header

optimization of Particle Accelerators: A Marie Curie Initial Training Network

Final Report Summary - OPAC (optimization of Particle Accelerators:A Marie Curie Initial Training Network)

The optimization of the performance of any particle accelerator (oPAC) was the goal of this Marie Curie Initial Training Network (ITN). There are more than thirty thousand particle accelerators in the world, ranging from the linear accelerators used for cancer therapy in modern hospitals to the giant ‘atom-smashers’ at international particle physics laboratories. The development and optimization of accelerators requires the collaboration of engineers and scientists from a broad range of disciplines from theoretical physics and mathematical modelling through to material science and mechanical engineering.

The oPAC consortium has successfully trained 23 early stage researcher fellows within a multidisciplinary network of top academic and research-focused industrial organizations across Europe. Based around specific research projects involving optimization of particle accelerators, the fellows have developed expert knowledge in a number of different fields, such as engineering, physics, electronics, IT, material sciences and even medical applications. Together with training through network-wide events and relevant secondments for specific skill-building this has given the fellows a broad set of skills that has provided them an excellent basis for their future careers, be that in academia or the industry sector.

The oPAC project has brought together leading research centres, universities, and industry partners, through the network events and collaborative research. New links and collaborations have been established, particularly between the Industry and Academia, ensuring the application of the knowledge generated. Connections to accelerator scientists outside the network were enabled through adjunct partnership to oPAC in addition to providing scholarships for external participants wishing to contribute to our events.

The progress demonstrated at the mid-term review was judged positively by the EC reviewers, describing the project as an excellent ITN with exceptionally successful communication, dissemination, and coordination. The reviewers commented as well on the high number of R&D results, the real industry involvement and the remarkable cohort of Early Stage Researchers. Prof. Carsten Welsch was subsequently asked to speak at the EC Coordinators meeting in Brussels for newly funded ITNs as a model coordinator.

The results from the fellows’ research projects have already made an impact to the accelerator community with more than 100 contributions to international conferences and workshops in addition to widespread dissemination at more regional events and meetings. 27 papers have been published by the fellows in prestigious peer-review journals, and several more are in preparation as results from their projects are still being analysed and the fellows are finalizing their doctoral theses. Through reports, presentations and articles, essentially all of the technical milestones and deliverables were achieved.

In addition to project-based training, the network enabled numerous secondments and a variety of field work experiences. Thus, the fellows had the chance of working at other organizations to build specific expertise or gather further results towards the completion of their core projects.
As an introduction to the field of accelerator science, all recruited oPAC fellows took part in either the CERN Accelerator School in autumn 2012 or the Joint Universities Accelerator School (JUAS) in 2013 and 2014.

Several oPAC Schools have been held throughout the four years of the project to provide focused trainings at important steps of the overall training program. A complementary skills school was successfully delivered in Liverpool in June 2013 training the fellows in presentation skills, scientific writing, entrepreneurship and intellectual properties, and applying these skills in team-based exercises. Positive feedback showed the targeted approach developed was well received by the fellows. This innovative approach to complementary skills training was identified by the European Commission as ‘best practice’ for providing future generations of scientists and engineers with the skills to produce world-class research. This workshop was also described in an article published in Liverpool University’s Learning & Teaching newsletter as well as in talks made and paper published as part of the Higher Education Academy STEM conference held in Birmingham (UK), and it has subsequently been adopted by the University of Liverpool for post-graduate researchers.

An Advanced School on Accelerator Optimization was delivered at Royal Holloway University of London in July 2014. It covered beam physics, instrumentation R&D and charged particle beam simulations at an advanced level and it was targeted to PhD students, postdocs, and experienced researchers from inside and outside the network. All lectures from this school were made available online and are expected to serve as a knowledge library for many years. The network-wide training was completed by an Advanced Researchers Skills School that was held at the University of Liverpool in June 2015 to complement the initial Skills training from 2013. It covered CV writing, interview skills, scientific communication and advanced project management and was meant to prepare the fellows for the transition to their next jobs.
Two hands-on Training Days for all fellows on ‘Simulation Tools’ and ‘Beam Instrumentation’ were hosted by industry partners CST AG and Bergoz respectively. The project’s first Topical Workshop on the ‘Grand Challenges in Accelerator Optimization’ attracted more than 120 researchers from all over the world and was considered a great start into an event series that was run throughout the project and that has benefited a very wide and interdisciplinary community. The 2nd oPAC Topical Workshop, on Libera Technology, was hosted by Instrumentation Technologies in Solkan (Slovenia). The 3rd oPAC Topical Workshop took place at CIVIDEC Vienna (Austria) and was devoted to Beam Diagnostics. In March 2015, a 4th Topical Workshop on Computer-Aided Optimization of Accelerators was organized by the fellows of the network, providing them with the opportunity to take charge of a whole event from scratch. The workshop took place at the Institute for Heavy Ion Research – GSI in Darmstadt (Germany). Finally, the University of Liverpool hosted the 5th oPAC Topical Workshop on Technology Transfer in June 2015. Participation to these workshops was open to scientists external to the network.

The project has been given a high profile through numerous publications and conference presentations. Research results from the project were disseminated via our events and international peer reviewed journals and can be accessed through our web site. The oPAC network was represented, among others, every year at the International Particle Accelerator Conference (IPAC) between 2012-2015, and the International Beam Instrumentation Conference (IBIC) in 2013-2015. Exhibitor stands at relevant international conferences also helped to raise the profile of oPAC and further promote the work of the fellows.

An International Conference on Accelerator Optimization was held in October 2015 at Centro Nacional de Aceleradores (CNA) in Seville (Spain). All the researchers from the network had the opportunity to present the outcomes of their research in form of invited talks. This gave them maximum exposure and allowed them to build up contacts with potential future employers. The event also helped to promote the scientific results and techniques developed during the project, and enabled the fellows to engage with other university groups and private companies. The conference also paved the way for follow-up activities between the oPAC partners and participating scientists from outside the network.

The project was disseminated externally via a dedicated website page ( The site contains details of all research projects undertaken by the fellows, and it continues being updated with outcomes of their research, and news from the consortium partners. The oPAC Facebook page ( is also updated regularly with relevant news. A quarterly newsletter keeps interested parties updated on the outcomes of the project, and advertises forthcoming events and future opportunities. In the second reporting period six additional newsletters have been issued and distributed to almost 1,000 researchers each time. In the final year Twitter was also adopted for disseminating news.

A project leaflet has been produced and two glossy A4 brochures have been published showcasing the fellows, their research projects and the partners involved in the network – the second edition brochure included research results as well and acted as an application dossier for the Fellows.

Articles have been published throughout the general press from local news reports covering events in newspapers such as the Liverpool Echo and more specialist magazines such as the CERN Courier, Pan European Networks, Physics World, Accelerating News and the New Statesman.

The EU Project TEAM from the Cockcroft Institute has also promoted the project through events such as Physics Innovate linking to business. The TEAM also organized and delivered an Administrators’ Training Day in Liverpool aimed at the administrators from across the network to strengthen links and ensure that the reporting process ran smoothly. A LinkedIn group was created from this to share best practice. The innovative approach to complementary skills training developed during oPAC by the team at Liverpool was described in an article published in the Liverpool University's Learning & Teaching newsletter, at conferences in 2013, 2014 and 2015, and in talks and papers published at the Higher Education Authority (HEA) STEM conference held at the University of Birmingham (UK) in 2013. This has generated further interest in the approach and the project and the TEAM delivered a workshop on this for the HEA in February 2014 to share best practice.

The project has also had substantial outreach impact with all fellows making individual contributions. In particular, most of the fellows have completed visits to local or home-country schools to generate interest in science. Webcasts have also been produced by the fellows to publicize their specific projects via the web, e.g. YouTube. The project was well represented at the EuroScience Open Forum with three presentations at ESOF 2014 enabled by the coordinator and involving fellows, management staff and scientists. Other events and assistance with local open days have been carried out by the fellows bringing the science to the general public.

The main outreach event of oPAC took place on 26 June 2015 in Liverpool. The Symposium on Lasers and Accelerators for Science & Society gathered around 250 participants. World-renowned scientists presented highlights in accelerators and laser research and the enormous impact these tools have on science and society. They were joined by the fellows who presented the results of their research findings in an accessible way for the general public, emphasizing the possible applications of the technologies concerned, and shared their fascination for science. The event attracted considerable attention from the media, reaching out to several millions through online and print media, and the talks were made available online at:

The academic and industrial accelerator communities both benefited from the potential to recruit highly trained researches from the project with broad experience and the complementary skills required to take best advantage of the technical skills acquired. Two fellows have already taken up positions in industry and most other fellows are continuing their research. One PhD has already been successfully completed, several others have been submitted and expecting defence soon. Clearly, the career prospects of the fellows have been greatly improved through both formal and informal training as well as networking. The supportive community spirit of the network and in particular between the fellows helped this to be achieved with maximum effect.

The Steering Committee in its last meeting decided to continue supporting the oPAC fellows in their development and communicating their research results internationally, thus also raising awareness of the need for further national and international training programs in accelerator R&D, as well as organizing further events across the project’s scientific work packages.

The oPAC training program has proven to be very efficient and is being praised by the accelerator community for its results and the manifold benefits to research. However, the network also clearly showed that more similar training initiatives, in particular in the area of novel accelerators, are urgently required in order to meet the European and international demand in highly trained experts.

The network has contributed to the European Research Area (ERA) by the establishment of a growing consortium of complementary partners to work together in the optimization of particle accelerators. The required scientific and technological advances are being realized in a joint effort between research centres, universities and industry partners building on core European expertise and know-how in the optimization of accelerators.