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Bringing together a neutron ecosystem for sustainable science with ESS (BrightnESS-2)

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - BrightnESS-2 (Bringing together a neutron ecosystem for sustainable science with ESS (BrightnESS-2))

Reporting period: 2019-01-01 to 2020-06-30

The European neutron science landscape is undergoing significant evolutionary change. The 2016 European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) report, Neutron scattering facilities in Europe: Present status and future perspectives, emphasised the urgent need for a coherent organisation of neutron facilities to address the anticipated neutron gap with a “strategy-led approach”. This action was prescribed to coordinate long-term technical and scientific strategies across facilities, but also to pool the community’s collective authority and expertise in order to guide European decision makers toward the funding and policy actions that will best support neutron scientists and the socially significant science and innovation results they produce. At stake, is the world-leading neutron science ecosystem that Europe has developed over five decades.
The long-term sustainability of ESS needs to be secured, of equal importance is the necessity to coordinate on the long-term sustainability of the entire ecosystem of neutron science in Europe. ESS will be Europe’s next flagship facility, but if it is not able to hold the centre of the broader neutron science landscape, this centre could shift outside of Europe, leaving the future of ESS and European science and innovation compromised.

The neutron is a unique probe with characteristics that cannot be supplanted by other methods. Neutrons allow scientists to understand the world at the atomic and molecular level in a non-destructive manner. This makes neutron science one of the most useful analytical techniques deployed across numerous science and technology disciplines, and an essential complement to completing characterisations created by other methods. Neutrons are an essential tool used in support of the science addressing the EU’s Grand Challenges and have a half-century legacy of significant socio-economic impact in Europe. Neutrons can record,for e.g.the interior dynamics of lithium-ion batteries, reveal obscured minutiae from ancient artefacts or clarify the mechanisms of antibiotic resistance in bacteria. Cancerous tumours are treated with radiopharmaceuticals produced with neutrons. Neutrons are critical for industrial and engineering researchers developing more efficient fuel cells for electric vehicles or testing stress and strain during the manufacturing of carbon-free steel. They will contribute to more cost-effective health care devices, advances in quantum computing and artificial intelligence, alternative energy technologies, hydrogen storage, food production and fundamental advances in structural biology.
The objective of BrightnESS² is to ensure long-term sustainability of ESS and the neutron scattering community in Europe.
During the first 18 months of the BrightnESS² project implementation, strategic activities have been carried out to achieve that:
• Neutron facilities in Europe provide access and services in a strategic and coordinated manner to user communities from Europe and beyond: Apart from the critical assistance given to the development of the League of advanced European Neutron Sources(LENS) in its first year, the BrightnESS² project has seen the common roadmap for future neutron capability achieve critical mass. The initiatives have secured community buy-in and a high level of active participation by facility decision-makers that will provide the momentum needed to complete the work.
• In-kind contributions to ESS are managed as part of the R&D collaborative work: The contribution of BrightnESS² is a major asset in maximising effective management of In-Kind Contributions to ESS and establishing appropriate communication channels with In-Kind Partners. The network of Field Coordinators has played an important role in this respect. To support the relevant processes and appropriate procedures, ways-of-working and guidelines are being developed, and will form a body of knowledge for the appropriate management of future In-Kind Contributions.
• ESS boosts the innovation potential of the facility and fosters strategic partnerships with industry: The activities of BrightnESS² support the positioning of the innovation function within the ESS organisation.The Industry Liaison Officers Network of ESS has been essential as the innovation activities become more prominent and an Industry Advisory Board established.
• ESS reinforces its position as a truly global research infrastructure: BrightnESS² has helped to raise awareness about ESS, LENS and the neutron facilities in Europe among key stakeholders and policy makers. It supported ESS in establishing and strengthening contacts with various stakeholder groups, from research communities to academia, decision makers, young scientists, and other research facilities from eight different countries.
• ESS delivers positive socio-economic impact: The ESS socio-economic framework developed under BrightnESS has been updated with the support of top management and several departments across the ESS Organisation, along with kind cooperation with many ESS industrial suppliers and In-Kind Partners. The original metrics suggested by the BrightnESS project were mostly kept in the updated framework, adapted into clear indicators and measures. However, some changes were made to regroup or rephrase the items to better align with the new EU initiatives and programmes mentioned above. A strong focus on the socio-economic impact of ESS during the Construction Phase, while the Organisation is still relatively young, has a positive impact on the long-term sustainability of the facility. This provides ESS with a unique opportunity to monitor developments and societal impact throughout the entire lifecycle of the facility
The very early results of ENSA’s NLP data-mining and deep learning project presented to the LENS General Assembly in October 2019 wowed the neutron community with its novel approach and powerful visualisations, generating a great deal of enthusiasm and curiosity around the project. It established proof-of-concept for the use of the NLP algorithm and the enlightening results it would produce. The announcement in June 2020 that the metadata of more than half a million publications had been processed, enhancing the AI algorithm as expected, gives assurance that the project will produce the needed input for the neutron user community survey. The survey promises an unprecedented number of data points on the current use of neutrons.
Thanks to BrightnESS, ESS had the opportunity to start tracking and communicating its socio-economic impact already during the construction phase. This is unique as many research infrastructures start this activity only later in their lifecycle. BrightnESS² plays a critical role in supporting ESS in this work setting an international standard.
BrightnESS² defines a new partnership between the users of neutron facilities in Europe and stakeholders operating and managing these infrastructures. This innovative and collaborative approach to defining a long-term strategy has not been attempted before within the neutron user community.
Lastly, the project plays an important role in facilitating international collaboration by inviting current partners of ESS to share knowledge in delivering state-of-the-art elements for the facility through In-Kind Contributions.