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ATTRACT initiative to fund detection and imaging innovation


A pioneering initiative to couple world-class research laboratories and business-management experts aims to create a European innovation ecosystem that will accelerate the development of disruptive technologies and their progress to market. ATTRACT, as the initiative is known, will commit €17 million to funding 170 breakthrough detection and imaging ideas with market potential to help enable the creation of products, services, companies and jobs based on these technologies.

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"Europe is at the forefront in science, and international research infrastructures play a pivotal role to enable excellence in science by providing services and by developing new technology. The sustainability of fundamental research, and its ability to contribute to the great societal challenges of our times, requires more than ever an ecosystem bringing together the worlds of basic science, innovative technology and industry in a collaborative and open framework. This will enable breakthrough research. But most importantly, it will allow to transfer new technology into new products and architectures for the development of our society, and to create new jobs for the upcoming generations of European citizens. ATTRACT aims to contribute to reach this ambitious objective" says Francesco Sette, director general of the ESRF.

The ATTRACT seed fund is open to researchers and entrepreneurs from organisations all over Europe. The call for proposals is already open and will collect breakthrough ideas until the 31st of October 2018. A high-level, independent Research, Development and Innovation Committee will evaluate proposals and select those to be funded based on a combination of their scientific merit, innovation readiness and potential societal impact. The successful proposals will be announced in early 2019.

The 170 breakthrough projects funded by ATTRACT will have one year to develop their ideas. During this phase, business and innovation experts from the ATTRACT Project Consortium’s Aalto University, EIRMA and ESADE Business School will help project teams explore how their disruptive technology can be transformed into breakthrough innovations with strong market potential.

Creating life-changing technologies for society

Most scientific advances, technical applications, commercially worthwhile products and businesses targeting emerging societal challenges rely on detection and imaging technologies in some way. Disruptive innovations emerging from ATTRACT will trigger transformations that will have real impact on people’s lives.

Examples of future applications for society could include: portable scanners for out-patient treatment; sensors to help the visually impaired navigate the world more easily; networks of sensors to make agriculture more productive and less energy-intensive; smarter use of monitoring and big data analysis to make factories work more efficiently; better forms of online learning; and new ways to accurately monitor climate change.

Led by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the ATTRACT initiative involves the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), the European Southern Observatory (ESO), the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), the European XFEL, Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL), Aalto University, the European Industrial Research Management Association (EIRMA) and ESADE. The initiative is funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.



Driving the economy and jobs

State-of-the-art detection and imaging technologies form the cornerstone for several industrial sectors, including ICT, energy, process industries, manufacturing, aeronautics, medicine, robotics, space and transport. These technologies drive a direct annual market of over €100 billion[i] (Frost & Sullivan Report, “Top Technologies in Sensors & Control”).

  • The market for medical imaging and radiation detectors is worth €21 billion a year.
  • Satellite imaging is a €2 billion market, and is expected to experience a compound annual growth rate of 14.2% from 2018 to 2023.
  • Open data can unlock over €2.7 trillion in value.
  • The ICT sector represents 4% of the EU’s GDP, and includes technologies such as advanced manufacturing, robotic arms, remote sensors, and opto-mechanical assemblies.

European research already excels in these areas. The availability of ATTRACT funding will accelerate the development of breakthrough solutions, as well as improving Europe’s return on its scientific investment by capturing the interest of private investors – business angels, venture capital firms and corporate investors. ATTRACT will also create multiple ways in which private investment can get involved in supporting the resultant businesses, thus creating economic growth for years to come.

Michael Krisch, head of the Instrumentation Services and Development at the ESRF and chair of ATTRACT Project Consortium Board says: "I am particularly honored to chair the Project Consortium Board, which is the ultimate decision-making body of the ATTRACT Phase-I Project Consortium. As the major European X-ray facility, ESRF was furthermore charged to lead work package 3: ‘Liaison with European and national Research Infrastructures, Academia, and Research & Technology Organisations’, where we aim to make sure that the Open Call reaches all the relevant institutions who could potentially benefit from ATTRACT. I profoundly believe that ATTRACT will be a real game-changer in the way European Research Infrastructures will contribute to strengthen European Industry."

ABOUT ATTRACT: ATTRACT is a pioneering initiative bringing together Europe’s fundamental research and industrial communities to lead the next generation of detection and imaging technologies. Funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme, the project aims to help revamp Europe’s economy and improve people’s lives by creating products, services, companies and jobs. More info at


Top image: Beamline ID24. Credits: Steph Candé.