20 March 2017

Universities want to help companies benefit from materials research of the future

Good advice

How might Danish firms large and small make use of the world’s most powerful neutron and X-ray microscopes for product development? Researchers at the University of Copenhagen, Aarhus University and the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) want to help them find out – for free.

Over the next six years, a triad of major international research facilities – MAX IV and ESS in Lund, Sweden and XFEL in Hamburg, Germany – will be online and ready to attain high new standards in materials research.

Accordingly, Danish companies will get the chance to raise their innovation and competitive standards to new highs in an wide range of industries including: electronics, medicine, chemistry, energy, nanotechnology, building materials, machines, packaging and foodstuffs.

Free offer for companies

Companies must be ready for the opportunity. Therefore, a number of researchers at Aarhus University, the University of Copenhagen and DTU are now reaching out to a host of Danish companies that might be able to make use of the upcoming facilities with a free evaluation of, about and how doing so may benefit them.

The offer is mainly targeted towards small and medium-sized enterprises, and is specifically concerned with getting company representatives to come in and discuss how a given problem might be analysed using the umbrella of technologies available at the MAX IV, ESS and XFEL facilities. (see fact box)

Companies can have small material samples tested

As part of their enquiry, companies will be able to have small samples of materials tested in facilities currently used by university researchers for their own experiments and analyses. While smaller in scale and less powerful, these facilities are generally based on the same technologies of the exponentially larger facilities to come.

To optimize work, the three universities have divided tasks among themselves. The University of Copenhagen will primarily work with small-angle scattering, Aarhus University with crystallography, and DTU with imaging.

Matching companies with relevant research groups

Individual companies need not worry about finding the right researchers or the right technologies. The three universities work together through a collaborative partnership called LINX (Linking Industry to Neutrons and X-rays), whose secretariat can survey an individual company’s challenge and match the firm with a relevant research group.

Furthermore, researchers will refer companies to other universities if they find out that the challenge is best tackled elsewhere. This is a departure from universities seeing themselves as competitors with regards to private sector collaboration – and regardless of the fact that Aarhus University and DTU are collaborating to design, build and operate a 100 million kroner instrument at MAX IV, DanMAX, a cornerstone of the future research set to serve Danish companies.

A fulfilled company enquiry will result in the delivery of a preliminary report that the company can use to determine if it wishes to carry on with a shared project, along with one or more of the other LINX companies (and share results), or if it would like to pay for commissioned research itself. 12 companies have already engaged with LINX, with funding and labour. Other partners include the Central Denmark Region, Capital Region and Innovation Fund Denmark.