DESY announces new innovation platform in health, materials and energy

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Radiation therapy, manufacturing radiopharmaceuticals, developing and certifying drugs and designing energy-efficient semiconductors and new high-performance materials – these are just some of the different areas that are of great economic relevance. They are also areas in which accelerator-based technologies offer enormous advantages to research and development, in manufacturing and for quality control. However, at present the potential of such technologies is not being fully tapped outside the field of science. The Helmholtz Innovation Platform is stepping up to change this.

HI-ACTS will be jointly operated by DESY, as project coordinator, Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR), Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB)GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research and Helmholtz-Zentrum Hereon. Accelerator technologies operated by the Helmholtz Association will be made available to industrial users in the form of a cost-effective full-service infrastructure. This means that existing research infrastructures, such as DESY's synchrotron radiation source PETRA III and its successor PETRA IV, will be easier to use when studying industrial questions. “Accelerators are versatile and powerful instruments in all their facets; in particular, they are indispensable for deep-tech innovations. HI-ACTS will give us the means to leverage this potential and shape the transformation processes that are currently needed. We can have a positive impact on challenges in the health or energy sectors and thus strengthen Germany as a business location,” says Arik Willner, Chief Technology Officer at DESY.

In addition to making better use of the existing accelerators in the research centres themselves, HI-ACTS aims to establish the technology of compact accelerators so that these devices can easily be used on site, for example when developing drugs, or as powerful instruments for cancer therapy.
Even today, well-known industrial companies are involved in shaping HI-ACTS. Max Kahmann, head of advanced development at TRUMPF Laser- und Systemtechnik, explains that “the industrialisation of advanced accelerator technologies, including laser plasma-induced secondary radiation, is extremely complex. One company alone cannot implement this. A continuous exchange with other industrial companies is just as crucial to implementation as maintaining close connections with science: an innovation ecosystem, so to speak. We view HI-ACTS as such. It's an investment for the future that will pay off in the long term.”

The platform will set up Technology Labs, specifically drawing on the competencies of the scientific partners for relevant technological developments, such as compact accelerators or cyclotron solutions for radionuclide production. From the very beginning, HI-ACTS will be designed in collaboration with industrial companies, ensuring that the needs of companies working in fields such as medical technology, high-performance semiconductors, (radio-)pharmaceuticals and radiotheranostic materials can be specifically addressed.

Björn Wolf, Chief Innovation and Transfer Officer at HZDR, adds that “the new platform will allow Helmholtz to operate more closely with industry in one of its main fields of research. We will expand the use of the infrastructure and the services for industry, and introduce practical applications for accelerator technologies more broadly and more quickly through collaborations and new spin-offs.”

HI-ACTS is one of two projects that are currently receiving funding within the framework of the Helmholtz Association’s “Innovation Platforms” funding scheme. The common factor between all the applications is that they specifically address challenges for which the research centres within the Helmholtz Association can develop sustainable solutions relevant to society at large.
Implementation of the platform will start in xx Month 2023 and will run for a period of three years, with a total volume of just under 13 million euros. Current plans envisage HI-ACTS operating beyond this period in the long term.

This article was first published on 19 March by DESY.

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