ATTRACT, a pioneering initiative bringing together Europe’s fundamental research and industrial communities to lead the next generation of detection and imaging technologies, aims to develop a funding model to help diminish the time needed and increase the chances of great ideas leaving labs, hitting the market, and directly benefiting society. One of these great ideas is Cern’s AHEAD project.
In its first phase, which focused on turning ideas into functional prototypes, ATTRACT supported 170 breakthrough ideas with €100,000 each in seed funding to create a proof-of-concept pool of ideas in detection and imaging. The pool includes drones capable of detecting pollution in the air, and AR/VR aid for surgeons, through to new cryptographic methods.
During a kick-off meeting on 31 May 2022, ATTRACT presented the 18 R&D&I projects that it had selected from the 68 proposals in the proof-of-concept pool. The 18 projects have received between €500,000 and €2,000,000 each, depending on their start-end technology readiness level (TRL), to help them to move from a prototype to a pre-market product (risk mitigation phase).
One of the R&D&I projects selected for the second phase of ATTRACT is AHEAD, a project by CERN and five other partners, which proposes to develop a new way to manufacture components for the next generation of cooling systems. By combining 3D printing technologies, AHEAD aims to produce cooling systems with a reduced number of components that are lighter, smaller, and therefore able to be placed closer to areas that need to be cooled. Better performance for the complex cooling systems at CERN is an evident potential benefit. Furthermore, such technologies could also reduce fuel consumption in the aerospace industry. CERN will also study the extension of the potential application of the product to the market of natural refrigeration plants.
In addition to 18 R&D&I projects, a further 18 Academy projects and socioeconomic studies will also benefit from €28 million in EU funding.
“Incremental innovation will not be sufficient for addressing the upcoming societal challenges in the next decades. The ATTRACT project and methodology aim to accelerate the market uptake of breakthrough innovation”, said Pablo Garcia Tello, ATTRACT project coordinator and leader of the Development of EU Projects and Initiatives section at CERN.
The Academy call will run programs for university students to generate ideas for social innovation inspired by the technologies developed within the R&D&I projects. Each student program has received between €80,000 and €240,000.
Under the Socioeconomic Studies call, eight projects have received funding of €125,000 to conduct novel studies designed to gain new perspectives and enrich traditional impact metrics in order to evaluate the current working methods of ATTRACT and other European research infrastructures and innovation ecosystems and assess their impact on society.