ESRF science looks ahead and new solutions temporarily help funding difficulties of certain member states


The ESRF has today the most successful and productive scientific programme in Europe and, indeed, worldwide, with one scientific paper in Nature or in Science every second week, on average. Nevertheless, the status of the European economy requires a revision of the ESRF’s programmes.

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“Every international research organization must take account of the economic conditions of its member countries.  Today, a temporary scheme has been put into place to alleviate the exceptional funding problems of some of them.  I am pleased that all 19 member and associate countries remain firmly committed to maintain, in a sustainable way, the current world leadership of the facility.  Their support fuels the transformation of today’s difficulties into the opportunities of tomorrow”, said Francesco Sette, ESRF Director General.

A pro-active effort of the ESRF Management and Council has identified a temporary scheme to alleviate the present financial difficulties of Italy and United Kingdom in funding science programmes. At its meeting on 29-30 November, the ESRF Council unanimously adopted a three-year resolution which allows these two member countries to reduce their financial contribution and, most importantly, preserves the quality of the ESRF’s scientific programme.  All 12 member countries and seven scientific associates have renewed their long-term commitment to the ESRF, and especially to the continuation of its inter-governmental convention.

The approval of the resolution determines a 6% reduction in expenditure capacity over the 2011-2013 period, which will be absorbed with no compromise on the quality of service to the 5000 scientists who use the ESRF.  The expenditure shortfall will be dealt with by reducing the number of beamlines and/or operation time of the accelerator complex, along with a revision of the deliverables of the Upgrade Programme.  The implementation schemes of these saving scenarios will be prepared for decision at the spring 2011 meeting of the ESRF Council.

“This strategy will maintain the ESRF’s world leadership in synchrotron science, and will create new opportunities for more unique beamlines on newly available insertion device straight sections on the ESRF storage ring.  Our new world record in vertical emittance allows us today to deliver the brightest high-energy X-ray beam worldwide (2x1021 photons/s/mm2/mr2/0.1bw at ~40 keV), and we expect that many new partners will be interested in exploiting these new unique possibilities.” said Francesco Sette.

Over the next three years, the ESRF will make efforts to attract new members, scientific associates and other possible ways of collaboration with third parties interested in injecting new resources in the ESRF.  In parallel, the ESRF Council and Management will work to develop new schemes to finance the ESRF’s needs, which will take into account also the scientific use by a member country in determining its financial contribution.

The new times are a welcomed challenge for synchrotron science in general. The spectacular results that Europe, in particular, has achieved in the last ten years, with the construction of new excellent national synchrotron sources, highlights European leadership in this field. Today new important investments are foreseen in the US and in Japan, but most importantly a strong programme is being developed also in Russia – with its long tradition in synchrotron science – and in emerging economies such as Brazil, China and India.

The ESRF Director General also added that “A careful coordination is needed to emphasize the complementary aspects of the ESRF with the other European sources. In order to maintain Europe’s leadership, and to open our institutes to innovation, industry and new communities, we must coordinate and collaborate immediately on issues such as cost containment, efficiency, excellence in user service, technical developments and governance. This is the only way, in my opinion, to insure optimal scientific competition, throughput and opportunities for the most vigorous, numerous, growing, diversified and productive scientific community that modern times has ever seen”.


Note to Editors:

The ESRF is a Société Civile (private company) under French law with Contracting Parties from its member countries as shareholders. Under the resolution voted by the ESRF Council, all Parties retain their contractual shares and voting rights. However, instead of contributing 15% to the approved ESRF budget, Italy will contribute 13% for up to three years. Likewise, the UK contribution is reduced from 14% to 10%. The other Parties, along with the seven Scientific Associates, will maintain their contribution levels as planned.

The use of the ESRF by scientists from a given country is linked to the shares held by that country with, however, considerable flexibility aiming at excellence of the scientific programme. For Italy and the UK, scientific use will, from 1 March 2011 to 28 February 2014, be limited to average values of 13.41% and 10.32% of beamtime, respectively.

For further info on ESRF shareholders and governance, see