Strong cooperation in the scientific area is needed in the Baltic Sea region in order to ensure the competitiveness of the region. There is a new cluster of large-scale research infrastructure (Lund, Hamburg, Berlin and Geesthacht as EU countries and Gachina in Russia) and some more are planned or already under construction (the European XFEL in Hamburg, ESS and Max IV in Lund, Solaris in Krakow). In the Science Link project, structures for cooperation were established in order to allow companies from all Baltic Sea States access to the research infrastructures. As well supporting structures had to be built up as SME do not have their own research departments or measurement experts. Almost no sufficient and tailored information existed about possibilities available at the RIs and how they could be used by commercial users. Therefore, Science Link published case studies from the measurements carried out by the participating companies during the project.
Partners in the Science Link project were the 4 already existing large-scale infrastructures in the EU states in the BS region, scientific partners and regional development agencies. This partner constellation was necessary for the success of the project; the regional development agencies advertised the project and contacted the companies.The universities consulted, accompanied and supported the companies before, during and after the measurements. For this reason Industrial Liason Officers were employed at the RIs (who know best the offer of the different RIs and supported and assisted the companies) and at the other scientific partner institutions in order to help and inform companies in their national languages. The RI in Russia were an associated partner as well as the future RIs XFEL, ESS and Solaris. In order to develop a structure for this kind of cooperation, the regional development agencies established contact points for informing companies but also for analysing regional needs for cooperation between companies, mainly SMEs, and RIs. Additionally there was a political goal to establish structures for this kind of cooperation and also to establish funding structures. Good examples about how structural funds can be used for scientific transnational cooperation exist e.g. from Estonia. In two studies, carried out within the project, the results and recommendations confirmed the experience in the project: SMEs should be supported, in this kind of cooperation, e.g. by the regions, as it brings direct benefit (better products, better competitiveness) to the regions. To ensure that the cooperation continues after the project and that also the political goals are further followed, 14 partners out of 17 signed a letter of intent and a permanent Science Link network was established. The partners also formulated recommendations regarding the continuation of the SL offer. Additionally four institutions have already applied for membership in the network.
After Science Link was established a first call for companies was published. The companies were offered free measurement time in the large-scale research infrastructures. Even if the planning was very fast and real information campaigns could not be carried out, there were 9 applications by companies of which 7 were approved. That was a good beginning and the ILOs (industrial liason officers) at the RI and also the other partner countries started their work immediately in supporting the companies and starting with preparations for the measurements. The ILOs were employed at an early stage and trained in all participating RIs in order to be able to support the companies and to act between the companies and the measurement experts at the RIs.
In the frame of the 2nd call, published in the autumn 2012, already 21 companies applied for beamtime and 18 applications were accepted. In the 3rd and last call published in spring 2013, 36 applications were received.
24 companies were already accepted and 8 are having consultation. In total 49 companies were accepted for measurements, 9 are in consultation and 8 were rejected. 30 companies have carried out their measurements in one of the participating RIs. The applications came from a broad variety of branches and 70% of the companies are SMEs.
The project team has succesfully presented and promoted the project at different conferences and fairs nationally and internationally as well as in individual consultations with stakeholders.
The High Level Group had its 2nd meeting in October 2013 and talked mainly about the continuation of the Science Link services after March 2014.
The regional advisory groups were established and meetings took place in 2013.
Preparations for the final conference, to be held on 27 February in Hamburg, Germany, were started. A concept was prepared and first speakers were contacted. The discussions on a letter of intent for the future of SL were started and first drafts were produced.
Through Science Link, there is much more visibility about the RIs offers in an understandable way for the companies in the diffrerent BS countries. The carrying out of the measurements in the frame of the calls is a benefit as well for the companies as for the regions but also for the RIs. There are in general very little commercial users. Commercial users are needed in addition to scientific users as the operation costs of the RIs are very high. Today all of them are operated in transnational cooperation and commercial users from all BS states should have access. In the end of the project structures for this should be established.