The 2016 highlight contributions provide a representative slice through the diverse R&D activities, and testify to the balance between accelerator and experimental station based developments. The articles on the longitudinal gradient dipole magnets and the RF fingers are only two out of many examples where novel designs and cutting-edge engineering were applied to meet the stringent requirements of the new EBS machine. The third contribution underlines the importance of starting software-related activities as early as possible to ensure that the EBS storage ring can be reliably controlled and tuned from day one of operation. The fourth article is dedicated to a new facility, the Crystal Analyser Laboratory, which has been operational for more than a year, and has produced so far about 200 crystal analysers for experimental stations at the ESRF and other research centres. The cryogenically-cooled Laue-Laue monochromator, installed on ID15 and ID31, has been selected as an example of state-of-the-art beamline instrumentation. Serial crystallography, initially developed at free-electron laser facilities, has found its place now as well at storage-ring based X-ray sources, and the article by U. Zander et al. presents a genetic algorithm to analyse serial crystallographic data. The last two contributions relate to ancillary characterisation tools and advanced sample environments. The study on direct atomic force microscopy imaging of liquid interfaces opens a new way to investigate liquid-liquid interfaces which can be applied to any kind of molecule or object capable of assembling at liquid interfaces with high coverage once the system is at equilibrium. The new compact and versatile ESRF helium flow cryostat offers efficient cooling down to 3 Kelvin, operation in any orientation, and a quick sample change.

In addition to the results presented in the Highlights articles, 2016 has witnessed many other important accomplishments and activities in various technological areas:

The development of silx (, the ScIentific Library for eXperimentalists, is in full swing, and version 0.3.0 has been released. The project provides a collection of Python packages to support the development of data assessment, reduction and analysis applications at synchrotron radiation facilities.

The systematic recording of metadata is under test at ID01, ID11, ID31, and the MX beamlines. The implementation of archiving metadata and raw data is progressing at a rate of about ten beamlines per year, as part of the plans to have the ESRF data policy fully operational by 2020.

Within the detector development programme, first strategic collaborations have been established with the Paul Scherrer Institute and Tomsk State University. Other joint R&D activities such as the development of ultra-fast data acquisition schemes and X-ray wavefront characterisation via X-ray speckle tracking (H2020 project EUCALL) and characterisation of diamond single crystals (H2020 project Green Diamond) are other important elements of our R&D programme.

The ESRF continues to federate and coordinate joint developments with other research facilities such as the IcePAP, TANGO, LImA, ISPyB, mxCuBE and PaNDaaS collaborations. The TANGO collaboration has welcomed four new members in the last few months and will have a total of twelve partners in 2017, thus providing sufficient critical mass to initiate software developments of common interest to all partners.

Significant progress has been made in testing cloud software for in-house and external IT provisioning. The acquired know-how will help in possible scenarios to outsource peak processing demands which cannot be covered by on-site investments. Developments will continue within the CERN led H2020 HNSciCloud project, a Pre-Commercial-Procurement (PCP) initiative engaging IT industry and major European Research Infrastructures.

The instrumentation beamline, BM05, continued to be a strategic tool for instrumentation development such as the characterisation of detectors, scintillators, and X-ray optical components. The diffractometer for the new IRT NanoElec station for X-ray diffraction, reflectivity, and topography, is now fully commissioned, and its operation started in spring 2016. This station opens up new and very promising perspectives that aim to provide new services for proprietary research, especially for customers from the semiconductor industry.

The past twelve months have allowed tremendous progress to be made in the design and procurement of the EBS storage ring components. The EBS project will remain the main focus of the technical staff in the year to come to ensure that all contracts progress according to schedule, that the remaining contracts are placed in a timely manner and all preparatory on site work is executed on time, within budget and fit for purpose, such that the 18-month construction shutdown can start as planned at the end of 2018. An important milestone for this will be the availability of the ESRF01 and ESRF02 buildings, in October and June 2017 respectively, to allow the assembly process for the 128 girders to be started.

M. Krisch and R. Dimper