Research and innovation are unevenly distributed between the western and eastern parts of the Baltic Sea Region. Industrial innovation is also much lower than might be expected given the world-class research infrastructures located in this important region. Better information on the services and opportunities available was badly needed. “Fundamental new products are only obtained with research”, says Uwe Sassenberg, the coordinator of the Science Link Network, “Science Link as a project has brought us many insights and practical steps to closer collaboration between research infrastructures and industry.” The EU-funded Science Link network developed ‘smart cooperation’ structures and tools to provide sustainable on-site support and advice for businesses, especially SMEs, searching for the closest and best neutron and photon facility in their field.
Top-class synchrotron facilities like Maxlab in Sweden or DESY in Germany, which carry out advanced photon and neutron measurements, can help European companies develop new and better products faster, boosting their innovation performance in fields such as the environment and energy, agriculture and food, life sciences, biotechnology and chemicals. But businesses, especially small ones with no dedicated R&D teams, struggle to find a facility matching their exact needs.
Science Link’s attention to providing hands-on service through its ‘consultation points’ is a key factor in its success. Having industry liaison officers on-site at the research infrastructures and universities means companies get information about opportunities and capacity as and when they need it.
The project employs modern organisational approaches and tools to achieve its goals and help its community of users. Products and innovations already boosted thanks to Science Link’s efforts include better life vests, more efficient power electronics/devices, and skincare products without allergens.
Baltic Sea flagship
The Science Link project was a flagship of the ‘Baltic Science Link’ EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea region, under its ‘Innovation’ policy area aimed at promoting global competitiveness and growth through support for entrepreneurship, business development, science and increased innovation capacity.
The project team’s practical approach and proactive liaison officers have connected scores of entrepreneurs with scientific and industrial partners, which had tangible results by accelerating the speed of product innovation in the Baltic Sea Region.
Building on its success, a follow-up Interreg project called Baltic TRAM has been set up with additional partners and research capacity coming from new members in Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. They are all operating under the Science Link Network banner, covering a wider range of activities and value-added services related to research infrastructures, including marketing and knowledge exchange.
Total investment for the project “Science Link” is EUR 3 618 930, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 2 789 950 through the Baltic Sea Region Operational Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period.