#ENRIITCyourCoffee Season 3: Episode 2 – Up close with the Big Science supplier

This episode of #ENRIITCyourCoffee took us as close to the industry conveyer belt, as our virtual coffee breaks allow. Frida Tibblin-Citron, Business Developer at Big Science Sweden introduced us to Leif Gjerlöv Jensen, Technical Sales Engineer at AB Carlsson & Möller and we were able to pick his brain on what is it like to be a player at the Big Science table.

The session started with a presentation from Frida on Big Science Sweden, which is a Swedish Industrial Liaison Officer organisation. Big Science Sweden is a consortium, consisting of different universities and institutes in Sweden and they also hold a weekly meeting – The Business Corner. The Business Corner is a meeting place and procurement opportunity sharing place for network suppliers. It seems that short weekly get-togethers are the key to success in the ILO-ICO cooperation.

Leif presented AB Carlsson & Möller next. In a nutshell, he characterised the company as follows:

“If you Google something and can’t find it, then we will make it.”

AB Carlsson & Möller was founded in 1948, which Leif refers as “not a very old company but not a new one either”. They focus on engineering plastics and components with the temperature range of + 250 to -180 Celsius; low and high friction; radiation resistant materials, magnetic materials, electric and thermal isolation and conductive materials and various composite plastic with fillers like steel, ceramic, boron, bronze and many more. Check out AB Carlsson & Möller website here and get in contact with Leif via lg@c-m.se.

Leif emphasised how important it is to keep up with the Big Science scene. Carlsson & Möller’s jump to Big Science started in 2017 at the IPAC exhibition in Copenhagen where they made connections all over the world. Carlsson & Möller decided to focus on Europe, while there was interest from all corners of the world. “We’re a small company of 75 people, and we are production company – we’re not buying from other countries, we produce all our products ourselves.” Although, cooperation and being international is still ingrained in Carlsson & Möller activities. Their Swedish customers also have partners in various countries, so Carlsson & Möller helps facilitate those relationships as well.

Leif believes in added value for the customer and production innovation.

“Sometimes the price for the delivery, measurement report and documentation is higher than the product’s because it is so important that the size is correct and the surfaces are correct.”

Although, it’s not easy to be a supplier for Big Science facilities such as one of their regular customers the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). A supplier must have a stable yet flexible production. A supplier must understand and deliver what the customer needs.

After Leif’s presentation, Frida was eager to ask her questions on what makes Carlsson & Möller the success story of small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) for Big Science. Here Leif could not stress enough: being visible and showing ones capabilities. He urges to be open minded towards innovation and overall towards international relationships: “You must be innovative because business is not coming to you while you’re sitting back in the office. You have to do something special. Part of the success is to show you want to do this.” This sentiment also echoed in the reply to the next question from Claudia Alen Amaro (Senior Project Manager at Instruct-ERIC). Claudia asked how they reach such Research Infrastructures (RIs) that are not as centralised as CERN, but rather like her home institution Instruct-ERIC, which is spread out across Europe. Leif assured us that being visible is the key.

Jorge Lopez from CDTI in Spain dove right in the core of the work process with such big facilities like CERN: does the customer tell you exactly the size/shape/material their bit needs be or does the customer tell you how they want to use the bit and does Carlsson & Möller then figure out the exact details? Leif lifted the veil of the complex work they do and confirmed that they get the broad wish from the customer and then do the calculations and measurements themselves. This is partly why they need such large engineering power.

As usual for our coffee discussions, the topic reverted to the hard questions: costs. Alan Silverman, United Kingdom ILO representative at CERN asked how to deal with the overhead costs. Leif’s answer to this and other questions about 3D printing, reverse engineering can be viewed from the video below.

Frida and Leif’s presentation can be viewed here.

We welcome you back next week and until then stay safe and innovate!

ENRIITC your Industry Outreach

It’s time to…. ENRIITC YOUR INDUSTRY OUTREACH!

The European Union is supporting the development of a pan-European network of Industrial Liaison and Contact Officers (ILOs/ICOs) across research infrastructures (RIs) via the ENRIITC project and, this call, will support pilot events for research infrastructures to engage with industry and using the ENRIITC training programme for such events as a basis.

If you meet all the criteria , just click here to download the application form and don’t hesitate to send us your event proposal!

 

Proact IT Sweden to provide IT Infrastructure Services to Research Facilities

Danny Duggal, Vice President, Commercial and Communications at Proact IT Group AB. Image owned by BSS

 

Proact IT Sweden, beside being member company of Big Science Sweden , is Europe’s leading independent data centre and cloud service provider. The company has now entered into a comprehensive framework agreement with OCRE (Open Clouds for Research Environments).

Proact will now be able to help the European research community accelerate cloud adoption. Within the agreement, customers may make use of Proact’s infrastructure services and related professional services, such as consultancy, implementation and optimisation.

Members of SUNET, e.g. ESS, MAX IV and EISCAT, are some of the organisations that will be able to buy IT cloud services from a Swedish partner, making it easier to comply with Swedish legislation.

“We are, of course, delighted to be selected as a potential cloud partner at a time when the research and education sectors are looking to accelerate cloud adoption, but still need to adhere to local regulations relating to data location and data sovereignty,” says Danny Duggal, Vice President, Commercial and Communications at Proact IT Group AB.

The First Image of Magnetic Fields at the Edge of a Black Hole

Image owned by Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare.

The scientific collaboration EHT Event Horizon Telescope, which published the first image of a black hole in 2019, has now managed to produce a new representation of the huge astrophysical object at the centre of galaxy M87: this is the image of the black hole in polarized light.

This is the first measurement of the polarization of light – a phenomenon that indicates the presence of magnetic fields – in a region that lies practically on the “edge” of a black hole, on the so-called event horizon. The result makes a fundamental contribution to explaining how the M87 galaxy emits energetic jets of particles from its core.

The study provides valuable information that will help us understand the behavior of the magnetic fields around black holes and the processes that, in these very dense regions of space, are able to produce jets so powerful that they extend far beyond the galaxy itself.

Thanks to the new observations, the EHT collaboration has understood that only theoretical models with strongly magnetized gasses can explain what is seen on the black hole’s event horizon. The data indicate that the magnetic fields at the edge of the black hole are strong enough to repel the hot gas and help it resist gravity, leaving only part of the gas to spiral inwards to the event horizon.

To observe the heart of the M87 galaxy, the collaboration linked eight telescopes around the world to create a virtual Earth-sized telescope, the Event Horizon Telescope. The results were published in two separate articles in The Astrophysical Journal Letters by the EHT collaboration.

 

 

#ENRIITCyourCoffee Season 3: Episode 1 on Open Data resources and innovation

Welcome to the recap of the #ENRIITCyourCoffee first episode of the third season with Ilaria Nardello, Research Associate at Stazione Zoologica Napoli (SZN) and Katharina Lauer, Industry officer at ELIXIR. The season three inaugural topic was Open Data Resources.

As a tradition we gathered at 15.00 CET with our coffee mugs and Katharina started off with a short presentation on ELIXIR and its model on Open Data. She posed the central question that is familiar to many research infrastructures (RIs) – where do public infrastructures position themselves in the whole innovation ecosystem? ELIXIR has 23 nodes and they are all coordinated from a hub, which is based in Cambridge, UK. ELIXIR focuses on data topics in the life science sector: databases, software, tools, training, etc. When it comes to industry relationships, ELIXIR aims for the nodes to have good connections with their local innovation, ecosystems with industry that is spaced in their national landscape with a collaborative sense of exchanging knowledge between both parties.

ELIXIR’s vision is that the services and resources that are provided through the nodes (for example a database that contains information about proteins or a supercomputing centre) are utilised by industry and open for innovation with support from the central office.

“We position ourselves as a player in the overall innovation ecosystem in the life sciences.”

Katharina further shares the results of an exploratory study at ELIXIR about the use cases of their open databases, focusing on small to medium sized bioinformatics businesses, who rely more on open data in the first stages of their hypothesis and research than perhaps big conglomerates with more resources. 92% of the respondents stated that a product or service has more features because of access to open registries, open ontologies, etc. 76% of respondents stated that without open repositories, they would not be able to offer their product or service at all. This truly shows how essential open data and open science is for innovation and also creating jobs

With such inspiring statistics we moved on to the discussion where Ilaria jumped right in and asked about the situation around dedicated Industry Contact Officers (ICOs). As with many RIs in our previous coffee meets, ELIXIR also has dedicated ICOs in bigger nodes, but in smaller centres there are people who split the tasks without a dedicated employee.

Next broad topic was the open data concept and commercial enterprise relationship. Can open data be used for profit and how is that regulated for example by the European Commission? What about competitors who also have access to these databases?

In a broad sense Katharina explained, that all the data is open for the public, but certain licenses apply. This might be legally tricky process to initiate for the companies, but those are necessary steps for sharing this data. Regarding facilities like supercomputing centres or cloud services, it is also down to the individual facility and their conditions. At the end of the day, Katharina said that companies are becoming more and more aware of the possibilities of knowledge exchange and not strictly usage of services. Although, when it comes to competition, she remarqued, that if openly available data would make one’s company obsolete, then it’s time for further innovation in that company.

Francisca brought the discussion close to our previous session’s topic: ELIXIR training and if it’s more towards researchers or industry needs. Katharina replied with a great point: the needs are beyond affiliation. “If you want to use a specific technology, it doesn’t matter if you use it in industry or a research facility, they can access the same training. The general training like programming for biologists – doesn’t matter if you’re in industry or in academia, it’s the same.”

Our discussion had many more questions on topics such as difference of an open data user or a member state of ELIXIR, but that available on the video below.

We invite you to ENRIITC your coffee next week with Leif Gjerlöv Jensen, Technical Sales Engineer at AB Carlsson & Möller and Frida Tibblin-Citron, Business Developer at Big Science Sweden. We will meet as usual on Thursday, 15 April 2021 from 15:00 – 15:30 CET. Registration is open here and continue the discussion at our LinkedIn group here.

#ENRIITCyourCoffee Season 2: Episode 9 on Training Challenges and Opportunities for ICO’s

Welcome to the recap of the last #ENRIITCyourCoffee before we break for Easter. The invited speakers were Iulianna van der Lek, Training and Education Officer at Common Language Resources and Technology Infrastructure (CLARIN) and Shridhar Jawak, Remote Sensing Officer at Svalbard Integrated Earth Observing System (SIOS). The discussion was lead by Marco Galeotti, Communication Officer at the European Multidisciplinary Seafloor and water column Observatory (EMSO).

Iulianna started with an introduction of CLARIN and its distributed connected data centres all over Europe. Since CLARIN has adopted the Open Science politics policy of the European Comission all integrated data sets are available in open access, not only for researchers but also for the citizens. She mentions that this aspect might make industry collaboration more difficult. Iulianna emphasises how CLARIN closely cooperates with innovation projects and in the cultural sector:

“We collaborate with galleries, libraries, archives and museums. And we need to ICOs to support us enhance the collaboration with the industry or non-academic partners.”

While CLARIN does not have a full-time ICO in the central office, but other staff members cover these tasks such as Technology Transfer Officer and collaboration of course is still ongoing. Most often these are one off projects or ongoing depends from case to case. Iulianna pointed out how there are many valuable skills for ICOs, but most important core skill is the ability to translate the value of the research infrastructure (RI) to the industry, and help develop a strategic knowledge and technology transfer plan. Of course, it’s also very important to know the data industry and have the ability to identify the gaps, that we could fill in.

“I think for a distributed RI, it’s very important that we come up with a developed and effective model for collaboration between the ICO and different nodes. This is one of the most important aspects or training topics, and we hope that ENRIITC and also other European partners, would help provide this type of training.”

After Iulianna’s great presentation, Shridhar Jawak from SIOS took us to the as north as #ENRIITCyourCoffe has possibly reached – Svalbard. SIOS focuses on the processes and interactions between the different spheres in and around Svalbard. The main activity is systematic observation, which is stable over time yet dynamic as new questions from the society arise. SIOS consists of 3 main sections:

  1. Observing System, which is based on the scientific observations on site and the remotely sensed.
  2. Consortium, which consists of 24 institutions from nine countries who have active RI in and around Svalbard.
  3. Knowledge Center, which consists of five people who coordinate, develop and optimise the distributed RIs.

SIOS has different services like data management, logistics access program and the remote sensing resources. Shridhar takes care of the remote sensing services. He draws a comparison with CLARIN as they also don’t have a full-time ICO, but they distribute the tasks.

Shridhar mentions that Svalbard is a great place for research because it is High Artic with large temperature gradients and also influenced by water and air currents, in addition to a unique geographical position to use satellite data. SIOS also plays an active role in the European landscape of environmental RI.

Additionally, SIOS tries to engage industry with conferences, workshops, trainings with experts and other events to bring researchers, policymakers and industry together. A big driver for innovation in SIOS’ perspective is the changing climate and the global need to adapt to it in the future. This is especially sharply felt in Svalbard.

In the challenges section, Shridhar emphasised the difference of funding in RIs and industry. He felt like connecting these two models would lead to the most success in facilitating dialogue between the parties. Shridhar shared their experience, that firstly, workshops and conferences are very effective platforms to bring industry and researchers together. The key there being a well-crafted topic of interest. Secondly, access to research is important to drive the collaboration. Lastly, SIOS is going to launch the Science Innovation award, which will be open for both industry and research community and will provide new opportunities for industries to prove their technologies in Arctic scenarios and vice versa.

As soon as Shridhar’s presentation was over, a question arose as an extension about his last point: the Science Innovation Award – who, how and what? This was posed by our speaker in a previous #ENRIITCyourCoffee session Ilaria Nardello. Shridhar replied, that while the team in SIOS is still developing the concept, the basic idea is to also fund the proof of concept of technology, that can be implemented in the Arctic. But he teased that more will be clear in the coming months.

Next up was a question for Iulianna, which seems to be a part of every topic at every coffee session: who owns the intellectual property? In this case more between the CLARIN central management and the nodes. Iulianna answered that each node has the freedom to set up their own projects with industry. “We can exchange experiences and best practices, but we don’t really interfere in their projects. Of course, we will take the responsibility to coordinate this as much as possible and work in a united manner.” Additionally, she expressed excitement to be a part of ENRIITC since collaboration will help them develop their ICO profile and strategy. Regarding the next follow-up on ILOs, Iulianna specified that CLARIN has only ICOs because the industry is one of the users for their services, language technologies and resources.

Jorge Lopez addressed the next question to Iulianna about the effective model of collaboration that was mentioned in her slides. Iulianna elaborated that the model is under development and they are currently at a survey phase to pinpoint the industry collaboration activities in the nodes. She emphasised that they are still working on it since only four of the 23 members have information on ICOs present on their website. Further on, Jorge followed up with a question on the importance of technological knowledge on ICOs, which is also a returning topic at our coffees. Iulianna referred to the survey, which identified that there is little training happening on the topics of language data standards and repositories. She pointed out that this is essential for industry since mostly academia develops such repositories and a good basis for collaboration.

This was followed by a question on gendered language and if there are current collaborations on that. Iulianna’s colleague Elisa added, that there is indeed a project detecting gender biased language in parliamentary speeches and she expressed that this knowledge can easily be applied in a different field.

Next the topic shifted to IPR rules for publicly funded research work results, driven by a question from Ed Mitchell. This developed to a nice exchange of ideas and questions from several institutions, who all aimed to work on bettering this area and building on each other’s knowledge. You have the chance to listen the entire topic from 30:49 in the recording below.

We will retire our coffee briefly for Easter, but you are welcome to join the conversation on our LinkedIn group here. See you on Thursday, 8 April 2021 from 15:00 – 15:30 CET where the discussion on Open Data Resources will be led by Ilaria Nardello, Research Associate at SZN with Katharina Lauer the Industry officer at ELIXIR. Registration is open here.

ENRIITC Focus Group #1 – “How can ILOs and ICOs interact, learn from each other and collaborate?”

Today we had the second meeting of the Focus Group #1 “How can ILOs and ICOs interact, learn from each other and collaborate?”

In our first meeting, we covered what ILOs & ICOs can learn from each other and how to improve the interaction with industry. During today session, we managed to discuss the following topics:

  • Training Programmes for ILOs and ICOs;
  • Future organisations of ILOs and ICOs such as PERIIA, ENRIITC or other;
  • Proposals of common projects, actions;
  • Others: Barriers for the collaboration among ILOs & ICOs, KPIs to measure ILOs/ICOs performances.

Today’s discussion was very lively and fruitful and both, ICOs and ILOs, have shared their experiences as well as their training needs. In addition to this, different organisational models were put on the table and everyone agreed and recognised the importance of ENRIITC activities  for boosting this collaboration.

A third meeting is meant to be organised in late May, to discuss and properly conclude the Forum Group #1.   During that last meeting, the FG#1 will also give feedback about the outcome on ENRIITC strategy.

In the meantime, the FG#1 will also produce a written report on the “Practical step-by-step guide”, that will be delivered at the end of April.

We hope that this exchange of ideas will help us to propose a package of solutions, not only to better address the training needs of ILOS & ICOs, but also to empower the collaboration between them through different organisational models.

A huge thanks to those ones who have been with us today!

 

#ENRIITCyourCoffee episode on ILO training and skills

The eighth instalment of #ENRIITCyourCoffee Season 2 was brought to us by Sylwia Wójtowicz, ILO for the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) and Fusion for Energy (F4E) and we had a great opportunity to ask directly from Cristina Lara Arnaud, Deputy Head of the Procurement Service at CERN, about their ILO training.

Cristina started off with the shortest presentation in #ENRIITCyourCoffee history. In summary, CERN has a new ILO training every year, which starts with an introduction of available tools such as e-procurement web page and an a tour of resources in the facility regarding available statistics and technical support to name a few. Next covered topics are CERN procurement rules, procedures and legal vocabulary and framework, which is essential knowledge for a an ILO. The current setup at CERN is that the training is held via Zoom and the latest one was in March and open to everyone who showed interest in CERN. Training covers ‘ILO info’, which entails current and past tendering processes and an overview of the annual procurement report and its resources. Cristina also mentioned that they used the training to also give an introduction to the documents for the quarterly Finance Committee meeting, that will be coming up shortly.

“We can say who we are and that we are here to help you. If you understand what we do and how we do our job, it’s going to be much easier. If we speak the same language then we can communicate better.”

Anne-Charlotte Joubert from ESS kicked off the discussion with excellent question regarding materials between the training. Cristina was happy to share that the CERN web page is multifaceted with sections for ILOs, external companies and CERN personnel overall.

Sylwia continued with a question on the training setup outside of the pandemic: “The last training was delivered online because of the situation, but usually there are trainings on site. What do you think is the more effective way of training?” Cristina expressed the need to come onsite to CERN to experience the scale of the facilities and also to meet not only the procurement officers, but also the technical officers.

The discussion moved more on the topic of ILO skills and most important competencies. For example if there was a difference in the training needs of ILOs with a scientific vs business background, but Cristina pointed out how the job of an ILO is not too dependent on the person’s background while retaining that diversity itself is always good.

Belén from CDTI took the floor next to share her experience in the institution that hosts all Spanish ILOs. At CDTI, they benefit from using common tools such as companies’ databases and Spanish industry capacities catalogues. Belén emphasised that besides the training provided by the facility, national and international network of ILOs and colleagues experiences are an important part of knowledge and establishing good practices.

The next audience member drew attention to other skills that are not only CERN-specific such as soft skills, competencies, best practices, which are acquired by working together and sharing. The question for Cristina was, what are the most important skills for an ILO in her opinion. Cristina replied with the core being communication. More specifically being a good middle between the ILO’s home organisation and understanding the company’s needs. Further on Cristina believes that a good ILO adds their own value, meaning that an ILO for example identifies an interesting company to work with CERN but the company is missing a requirement. The ILO should be able to help to fill this requirement and thus help this great business opportunity come to life.

“[ILOs] can certainly give advice and see why some companies have not provided a good service in some organisation while they have provided an excellent service in another organisation. Why some of them work, why some of them do not work?”

Sylwia asked about on-site ILOs and if that is of importance. Cristina was happy to reply in the example of Spain where they have a dedicated ILO and there is a significant positive difference in Spain in comparison to perhaps other ILOs that are dedicated to more than one organisation and, thus have to navigate between many sets of rules and regulations.

The topic reverted back to skills and Jorge Lopez asked if and ILO should have more technical skills in the case of CERN as it is more co-development with industry. In that way an ILO needs more to identify when and how CERN needs to be involved. Cristina pointed out that while technical officers would feel more comfortable talking to other technical officers, it comes down to communication and networking skills since the technologies vary a lot and no one person can be an expert on all.

When asked what training a newly appointed ILO would need Cristina answered in short: “ILOs need continuous training. I’ve been in CERN for 26 years and I learn something new every day.”

Moving from ILO training to ILO impact measuring, Alan Silverman asked how would Cristina do that since measuring the sales would not be a good way to assess ILOs since the companies often dictate that. Cristina approached ILO impact from an angle of overall companies they provide for procurement. “Not how much how many contracts you get, but at least how many offers you get.” She followed up with the importance of ILOs not per se to secure a contract, but also that ILOs bring in companies to get to know CERN. It’s important since there could be future collaboration and overall better knowledge on CERN and a better relationship between CERN, industry and a country.

Anna Hall ended with a truly ENRIITCing thought: Why not have a ILO training together with different facilities, so that the differences in procurement can be compared and understood better. Paolo Acunzo followed Anna up with the Big Science Business Forum and its dedicated plenary session on procurement.

Thank you for joining us on another ENRIITCing Thursday coffee and we are looking forward to seeing you on 25 March discussion from ICO side. The invited speakers are Iulianna Van der Lek, Training and Education Officer at CLARIN, who will talk about the challenges for an SSH RI to build a strong relationship with industry and the skills that an ICOs should develop, and Shridhar Jawak, Remote Sensing Officer at SIOS, who will talk about how SIOS is taking steps to involve collaboration with industries and ways to involve industries in SIOS activities.

The discussion will be led by Marco Galeotti, Communication Officer at EMSO. It will take place on Thursday, 25 March 2021 from 15:00 – 15:30 CET. Registration is open here.

Please do not hesitate to contact us at enriitc@ess.eu if you have any questions or if you wish to host a session yourself.

#ENRIITCyourCoffee session on Research Infrastructures’ Impact and Assessment

#ENRIITCyourCoffee Season 2 has been a staple of our Thursdays and this session was especially impactful, like the title already suggested. We had the pleasure of having a virtual coffee with Elina Griniece from the European Future Innovation System Centre. 

After our traditional coffee mug group photo, the session opened with a presentation by Elina on performance of research infrastructures (RIs) and their socioeconomic impact measuring, in the example of the Research Infrastructure imPact Assessment paTHwayS (RI PATHS) project“I think everybody involved in this topic acknowledges it’s quite complex because socioeconomic impact is essentially about understanding and tracing interactions,” says Elina. 

In short, the aim of RI PATHS was to develop a comprehensive framework to understand and scope socioeconomic impact of all types of RIs. The mission of the project was to give policymakers, funders and RI managers tangible tools to assess impact on the economy and contribution to society. 

One of the key terms is impact pathway, which is the understanding of causal chainshow resources invested and activities carried out in RIs led to direct results or output. The challenge of impact pathways is that when those longterm outcomes diffuse in society, through all the activities and interactions, it is already out of the control and influence of RI management. 

Impact pathways are not linear but rather intertwined networks of causes and effects. Elina described the pathways as a tree, where resources and activities are the rootsThe trunk is output that directly stems from the resources i.e. rootsThen it branches out to various longer term outcomes and impact is comparable to leaves and blossoms. 

All in all, the key contribution from the RI PATHS project was that, through nine interactive workshops with a wide range of RIs, a total of 13 generic impact pathways (or logical chains) were identified and gathered in an online toolkit. “There’s still a long way to go in order to better understand details of impact. And while that aim was achieved, the toolbox is more of a guide into the topic,” Elina says.  

Next Elina wanted to ignite the impact assessment process in the audience by outlining the first three steps as an exercise: 

  1. Prerequisite: Internal understanding and management support for impact assessment activities. Ithis analysis is successful, it can also be a great communication tool because the value of RI can be phrasebetter, even beyond science.  
  2. Each RI needs to develop an impact assessment framework tailored to their uniqueness. What are the exact impact pathways in a specific RIElina adds that this knowledge comes through cooperation within an RI. 
  3. Setting up appropriate monitoring and data collections systems. Elina added that many RIs are already in the phase, where they know what their main socioeconomic impacts are, and actually know a lot about their impact pathways. Next step from there is setting up appropriate monitoring and data collection systems to gather data that’s relevant for this exercise. 

The discussion was promptly initiated by Allen Weeks with a great addition to the presentation: While he noticed that over the last 2 years there has been a great leap on the topic of impact pathways, the main question remains – how do we continue with this? Allen believes it is not a one-off enterprise, but is evolving into a discipline. In his mind it would be a regular part of a discussion in meeting rooms, it doesn’t matter if it is CERN or any other RI. 

The next addition was added by one of our regular coffee ENRIITCers, Michele Baron, who indicated that at the core of possibly every RI is Return Of Investment (or ROI). He then asked, what is the difference between impact and cost-benefit assessment? Elina responded with understanding the need to quantify, but cost-benefit is only one side of it and understanding the broader impact is also a way of quantifying.  

Michele swiftly pointed out that a common definition of impacts is certainly needed and Elina added that this is an ongoing discussion, to which the RI PATHS project was a battleground of sorts. It was noted that the average politician pays more attention to the costbenefits thaon the impact in society. Elina admits that this has always been the case, but during the project they noticed there is a need and a start in the shift in the discourse. It’s not always the quantification that’s necessary. You also need the quantification on meaning attached to it. 

Sophie Pireaux took the discussion further and shared links to the brochure on the matters of socioeconomic impact with the group. She agreed with Elina that impact is broader than cost benefits but both are useful. Sophie also noted that as a council representative, the questions have moved further from just numbers to a broader impact, which is a positive shift. 

Corinne Martin from ELIXIR worked with Elina on the RI PATHS project and admitted that while she initially had grand ideas, she soon had to scale back to issues closer to home such as research efficiency, making things faster, easier for the users of our services. 

It was about relationship capital because we are an RI of people beyond data. It was about human capital, European people, their skills, providing training and so on. And of course this can lead to socioeconomic impact if you follow very long pathway of impact.

Corinne also expressed that as a scientist, she was worried about data, but impact can also be quantified by measuring perceptions, which are equally important.  

Allen Weeks ended with a truly insightful thought: the discussion should move beyond from a cost-benefit idea since from an economic perspective it’s not always easy make a strong argument for an RI like it is for a company because RIs don’t operate in the same sphere as a company. 

“Like the tree: you can measure and count the number of leaves on the tree, but maybe the impact is if the acorns fall and did other trees grow? Is there a shaded area under the tree where other plants could grow? 

While our session was also visited by a passing troll, it might just show that our virtual coffees are starting to have a bigger impact.  

#ENRIITCyourCoffee will return with Episode 8 “Training Opportunities for ILOs” on 18 March at 15:00 CET. That session will be led by Sylwia Wójtowicz, ILO for CERN and F4E. Registration is open here, and you can check out our LinkedIn group here. 

Important input from SMEs on how to grow Big Science business

Leading the ENRIITC Focus Group 5, Big Science Sweden recently hosted a successful discussion group on topics relevant for suppliers to Big Science facilities. The discussion also included how the ILOs can work optimally as a bridging point between research facilities and companies.  

Two interesting topics concerned how to bring down entry barriers for SMEs, and how to stimulate pan-European partnerships between companies on the Big Science market.

Suggestions that came up included exploring SME tools to find collaboration partners and how to use EU funds for partnering. Another interesting suggestion was to learn from a case study in the nuclear industry in the UK.

Around twenty ILOs and representatives from the research facilities and SMEs contributed to a fruitful workshop. The next step is to compile the results and prioritise which actions to move forward with.