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CERN’s ATTRACT project, co-led by ESADE, will commit €17 million to funding 170 innovative ideas

The aim of ATTRACT is to create products, services, companies and jobs based on new detection and imaging technologies

The ATTRACT initiative, spearheaded by the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) with the participation of ESADE, will couple world-class research laboratories with business-management experts to create an innovation ecosystem that will accelerate the development of disruptive technologies in Europe. As a part of this pioneering initiative, CERN has launched a €17 million fund to finance 170 innovative detection and imaging ideas with market potential. The main objective of the project is to create products, services, companies and jobs based on these technologies.

“The process by which new science is converted into technologies that generate innovative advances is often driven by chance. ATTRACT aspires to create and develop mechanisms and a permanent channel to achieve this transformation systematically,” commented ESADE Professor Henry Chesbrough, who serves as a special adviser to the project. Prof. Chesbrough, who coined the term “open innovation”, added: ”Unlike incremental innovation, which leads to reactive or adaptive responses to a problem, disruptive innovation arises from a desire to anticipate emerging or future needs".

The call for applications for ATTRACT funding is open to researchers and entrepreneurs from organisations all over Europe. Proposals for innovative ideas will be accepted until 31st October. A high-level, independent Research, Development and Innovation Committee will evaluate the proposals and select those to be funded based on a combination of their scientific merit, innovation-readiness and societal impact. The selected proposals will be announced in early 2019.

The 170 innovative projects funded by ATTRACT will have one year to develop their ideas. During this phase, business and innovation experts from Aalto University, EIRMA and ESADE Business School will help the participating teams explore how their disruptive technology can be transformed into revolutionary innovations with strong market potential. The project will apply methodologies such as challenge-based innovation – a subject already taught at ESADE.

Creating life-changing technologies

Most scientific advances, technical applications, commercially viable products and businesses targeting emerging societal challenges rely on detection and imaging technologies in some way. Disruptive innovations generated by the ATTRACT project will trigger transformations that will have a real impact on people’s lives. Examples of future applications for society could include portable scanners for outpatient treatment, sensors to help the visually impaired navigate the world more easily, networks of sensors to make agriculture more productive and less energy-intensive, smarter use of monitoring and big-data analysis to make factories work more efficiently, better forms of online learning, and new ways to accurately monitor climate change.

John Wood, Chair of the ATTRACT Project Advisory Committee, former Chief Executive of the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and Principal of Engineering at Imperial College London, commented: “ATTRACT will help the public sector become more effective, reducing the risks inherent in the development of new technologies to the point that the private sector is willing to invest in them, as has happened in the United States with the creation of Silicon Valley.”

ATTRACT is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and forms part of a long-standing strategic alliance between CERN and ESADE. The project also includes the participation of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), the European Southern Observatory (ESO), the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), the European X-Ray Free-Electron Laser Facility (European XFEL), the Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL), Aalto University and the European Industrial Research Management Association (EIRMA).