It was obvious at the outset that 2008 would be a decisive year for the ESRF, with a major impact on the future. In retrospect, the outcome has been positive in all aspects, blending continued scientific success with the beginning of a successful transition towards a bright future. The scientific highlights on the following pages testify to the breadth and quality of the scientific programme at the ESRF. Each result would merit a mention in this introduction; we trust that every reader will find an example of outstanding research in a field that he or she is familiar with.

The numbers of proposals, experimental sessions, user visits and publications in peer-reviewed journals have hit new record highs. The figure of 2000 proposals was exceeded for the first time and the oversubscription on some beamlines emphasises the need to continue with the efforts to maintain and extend rapid throughput and efficient operation. Further details on user operations are included in the chapter on Facts and Figures. The beamlines for macromolecular crystallography continued to show the way, introducing remote access in 2008, unique in Europe; this earned the Bessy Innovation Award for the team who developed the necessary software. The ESRF’s leadership in the field of beamline automation is a result of good cooperation, notably with the EMBL.

The world-class stability and reliability of the accelerators and X-ray source at the ESRF are an important factor for our capability to increase the scientific output year by year. In 2008, the 7/8 + 1 beam filling mode has become the new standard mode, meeting simultaneously the needs of two very different user communities. However, sixteen years after the first beams circulated in the storage ring, care has to be taken that old and/or obsolete technologies are replaced in due time. Even “simple” components can cause continued concern as their ageing leads to unpredictable phenomena or suppliers discontinue the delivery of spares. A major step forward in the process of continued replacement was the commissioning of the HQPS-2 in 2008, a next-generation system to ensure delivery of electric power even in the presence of spikes on the public power grid. HQPS-2 was gradually put into operation and its qualities have contributed to the result that statistically, 2008 has been the best year on record at the ESRF in terms of beam availability, mean time between failures, and the average duration of a failure.

The ESRF family has grown in 2008, with Slovakia being welcomed as the 19th member, establishing the Centralsync consortium with the Czech Republic and Hungary, thereby adding 1.05% of the Members’ contributions to the ESRF budget. Earlier in the year, the Kurchatov Institute in Russia and the ESRF signed a Memorandum of Understanding to promote different areas of scientific collaboration.

In the area of office automation, the year 2008 was characterised by the transition to Windows Vista which required much preparation to ensure seamless integration with the various management information systems and, equally importantly, with scientific computing. Document archiving and data curation is also high on the agenda in scientific computing as data rates and data volumes continue to be the fastest-growing figures at the ESRF.

However, 2008 will truly be remembered as the year of the ESRF Upgrade Programme. The approval in principle, at the June meeting of the Council, and that of the budget for the first year of the Upgrade, at the November meeting, ensure the transition towards a bright future covering at least a decade. Much work was necessary to detail and hone the ESRF’s proposals before an endorsement could be given by the Council. The work on the Upgrade Programme is documented in a separate section immediately following this introduction. Here, we would like to highlight the progress made with the definition of the building extensions, helped by a grant from the European Commission, within the Framework 7 Programme. This work has removed many uncertainties – both technical and financial – that would have impeded rapid progress with development of the first eight Upgrade beamlines.

More good news was the grant of 15 million Euros by French national and regional authorities (Contrat de Projet Etat-Région) to improve the infrastructure of the joint ILL/ESRF site over the next three years; this award will allow the construction of a new relocated site entrance, a visitor centre, and will make possible buildings for new partnerships with the ILL and other leading institutes. In addition, the ESRF will benefit from the ambitious plans for the surrounding area, since Grenoble has been selected to host a project within France’s national Campus plan to aggressively modernise university infrastructure and governance.

The management of the ESRF has seen two new faces arriving in 2008, with Angelika E. Röhr taking over from Helmut Krech as Director of Administration, and Harald Reichert as one of two Directors of Research. Pascal Elleaume was confirmed for another term as Director of the Accelerator and Source Division. To deal with the many new challenges of the Upgrade Programme, the Instrumentation Services and Development Division was created, regrouping activities formerly located in three other divisions. Together with the introduction of an ESRF-wide project management mechanism, this reorganisation shall ensure that the technical, financial and managerial challenges ahead are addressed in an adequate manner whilst at the same time continuing to deliver world-class science. Finally, the end of the year 2008 marked the end of Bill Stirling’s eight-year term as ESRF Director General, and the handing over of the baton to Francesco Sette, who had been a Director of Research at the ESRF for the past seven years.

Incoming and outgoing Directorate of the ESRF meeting at the eve of 2009. From left to right: Bill Stirling, Francesco Sette, Harald Reichert, Angelika Röhr, Pascal Elleaume, Serge Perez, who will take over from Sine Larsen as Director of Research in June 2009, Robert Feidenhans'l, Chairman of the ESRF Council, and Sine Larsen. Not included in the photo is Helmut Krech, Director of Administration until October (Credit: C. Argoud).

The ESRF is a highly visible European success story. Thirty publications per year in Nature and Science for both 2006 and 2007 do not remain unnoticed, nor do numerous invited talks at prestigious meetings like the 2008 IUCr Congress in Osaka (Japan). The celebration, on 26 November 2008, of the 20th anniversary of the signature of the intergovernmental convention establishing the ESRF was a good opportunity to gather the ESRF family from all over Europe and around the world to celebrate what has been achieved as a result of two decades of hard work.

We would like to use this opportunity to extend special thanks to our Member and Associate countries which, despite a difficult funding context, have given the green light for the Upgrade Programme. All of the colleagues whose support was so important for the acceptation of the Upgrade Programme, notably the members of the governing bodies of the ESRF - the Council, the AFC and the SAC - also deserve our thanks. We are also grateful to the thousands of users from the scientific fields covered by the 11 review committees, for their continued support and interest, and to the European Commission for the ESRFUP grant that funded part of the preparatory phase of the Upgrade Programme. Last but certainly not least, we wish to thank the staff of the ESRF who from behind the scenes make possible the remarkable scientific investigations carried out at the ESRF which the reader will discover on the following pages.


P. Elleaume, R. Dimper, C. Habfast, H. Krech, S. Larsen, H. Reichert, M. Rodriguez Castellano, A.E. Röhr, F. Sette, P. Thiry and W.G. Stirling