LaunchPad: winning projects, selection process & what’s next?

Why is LaunchPad important to achieve the objectives of the project?

The LaunchPad helps to practically test an approach, which aims to facilitate and support collaboration between the researchers, business sector and research facilities that can be used for scientific experiments and measurements. The wider context for testing the approach is the field of Photon and Neutron Science and the Baltic Sea Region. The knowledge about whether the selected approach will work and how could it be perfected will therefore help the ministries and funding agencies to design and implement programmes and funding schemes for the future. It is necessary to work on the different approaches to support collaboration as collaboration between different parties will in turn increase the quality of research and innovation in the region, which the society and economy will greatly benefit from.

What are the main cornerstones of LaunchPad?

The main cornerstone of LaunchPad lies in the approach of three steps. First, the researchers, research facilities and business sector in the Photon and Neutron Science will come together, discuss their ideas and challenges in the field and work on potential collaboration projects. We had an international online Symposium “Photon and Neutron Science in the Baltic Sea Region” in October 2020, consisting of conference for sharing information and experiences followed by hackathon for working on the project ideas. Drafted ideas for collaboration projects were prepared and submitted as a result. Secondly, the drafted project ideas are evaluated by the experts in the field and receive feedback. Project drafts with a greater potential are selected by the experts for further support in order to transform the drafted concept into a concrete proposal for gaining access to research facility or funding. There are funds available to support the selected project teams in team-building, strengthening partnership, consultations, study visits, training and in other activities that could support the further development of the project draft and continuing the collaboration. This is the final, third step of the approach called Coaching.

We have taken one major step forward with the LaunchPad approach – the Expert Panel has made its decisions about which projects will be awarded funds for further developing the project.

The Expert Panel consisted of 10 international experts who represented different perspectives: scientific (6 experts from different fields of research), research facilities’ (2 experts), industry’s (1 expert) and ministerial perspective (1 expert). Experts from different Baltic Sea region countries as well as male and female, young and experienced researchers with the different background and connections to photon and neutron methods were represented in the Expert Panel.

Full list of experts

  • Martin Meedom Nielsen, the Chairman of the Expert Panel, Professor, Technical University of Denmark
  • Andris Anspoks, Deputy Director for Innovation of University of Latvia, Adviser to the Prime Minister of Republic of Latvia for Science and Innovation (Latvia)
  • Jackob Becker-Christensen, Chief Executive Officer, LINX (Denmark)
  • Christian Bressler, Professor of Physics, Leading Scientist, European XFEL (Germany)
  • Giovanna Fragneto, Professor, INSTITUT LAUE-LANGEVIN (France)
  • Tom Schumacher, Project Manager of Baltic Science Network from the Ministry of Science, Research and Equalities of Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg (Germany)
  • Inari Kursula, Professor, University of Bergen (Norway)
  • Rasmus Palm, Research Fellow of Physical Chemistry, University of Tartu (Estonia)
  • Jörg Pieper, Professor in Biophysics, University of Tartu (Estonia)
  • Vladimir Venediktov, Professor, St. Petersburg Electrotechnical University “LETI” (Russia)

The Expert Panel used different formats for working. First, the experts carried out individual evaluation of the draft proposals. Scientific excellence, collaboration aspects, wider impact and a potential for developing the project draft was taken into consideration. After that, meeting with the project teams in private sessions took place and finally, the Expert Panel had joint discussions to establish a consensus about the detailed feedback to every draft proposal and make the final decisions about awarding funds for Coaching activities.  

Four projects out of five were selected for Coaching and awarded funds for further developing the project idea, team-building, involving additional partners and expertise, organizing project events and travel to research facilities, and other kinds of capacity building activities that would help the projects to take the necessary next steps towards taking the projects to higher level and ensuring better chances of getting access to research facilities or funding at the national or international level. 25 000 euros in total was awarded for this kind of activities.

List of selected projects

  1. Structural behavior of high entropy alloys and bimodal harmonic structure materials under neutron irradiation (René Bes and his team, University of Helsinki, ILL, University of Lund and KTH involved)
  2. Undulator Effect by Wakefield in a Periodically Bent Waveguide with Dielectric Filling (Iliya L. Sheinman and his team, Saint-Petersburg Electrotechnical University “LETI” and European XFEL involved)
  3. Towards a Virtual Human Body built on a broad network of Life Science Expertise and Advanced Research Infrastructure Tools in the Baltic Sea Region (Kajsa M. Paulsson and her team, Lund University, MAX IV, European XFEL, Digital Health Cluster Latvia, Southern Federal University of Rostov and its Spin-off Company UniVirLab Ltd involved)
  4. Fractal organization of chromatin in the nucleus of a biological cell (Sergey Grigoriev and Jörg Pieper, University of Tartu and NRC “Kurchatov institute” – Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute involved)

We have therefore entered the final, third phase of LaunchPad – Coaching. The next step would now be to negotiate the project teams regarding the action plan for Coaching activities and after that we can wish luck to them in realizing those plans!

Selected projects with the Expert Panel’s decision

  1. René Bes & Co – Structural behavior of high entropy alloys and bimodal harmonic structure materials under neutron irradiation

Decision: The project is of high scientific excellence and relevance and would have a great impact on society and industry, therefore the Expert Panel has decided to award 9000 EUR for Coaching activities to further develop the project. The funds of LaunchPad Coaching could be used for activities that will enable expanding the case beyond nuclear technologies, elaboration of the connection between what is being measured and how will the new materials be designed, and involving additional partners, especially from the side of the industry as well as partners from the Baltic Sea Region EU13 countries (including consultations, meetings, etc).

  • Iliya L. Sheinman & Co – Undulator Effect by Wakefield in a Periodically Bent Waveguide with Dielectric Filling

Decision: The project is of high scientific and engineering relevance. It is a scientifically very intriguing project idea, which would benefit larger community if successfully carried out, therefore the Expert Panel has decided to award 9000 EUR for Coaching activities to further develop the project. The funds of LaunchPad Coaching could be used for activities that will enable moving towards benchmarking and proof of concept (including involving additional partners, consultations, meetings, etc).

  • Kajsa M. Paulsson & Co – Towards a Virtual Human Body built on a broad network of Life Science Expertise and Advanced Research Infrastructure Tools in the Baltic Sea Region

Decision: The project has a great potential for networking, education, connecting different research infrastructures and reaching out to the wider community, therefore the Expert Panel has decided to award 4000 EUR for Coaching activities to further develop the project. The funds of LaunchPad Coaching could primarily be used for activities that will enable moving towards developing virtual beamline and support project management and execution in this regard (including consultations, involving additional partners, meetings, etc).

  • Sergey Grigoriev and Jörg Pieper – Fractal organization of chromatin in the nucleus of a biological cell

Decision: The project is of high scientific excellence and relevance, therefore the Expert Panel has decided to award 3000 EUR for Coaching activities to further develop the project. The funds of LaunchPad Coaching could be used for activities that will enable building the community and involving additional partners, including carrying out the proposed activities concerning the project workshop and travelling to research facility.