EU funds four research infrastructure projects with strong GSI/FAIR participation


Several GSI/FAIR research areas receive EU funding in the millions. Four planned infrastructure projects in the fields of tumor therapy with heavy ions, innovative methods for industrial radiation testing and new technology developments for accelerator facilities were successful in current EU tenders and have received funding commitments. FAIR and GSI play a decisive role in each of these projects, which are carried out in international collaborations.

The Scientific Managing Director of GSI and FAIR, Professor Paolo Giubellino, was enthusiastic about these successes: "Once again, the excellence of GSI and FAIR is underlined by the success in these calls. I am delighted about this funding, which the EU has made available to support extremely promising thematic areas. With their expertise, our researchers are among the key players in the fields now being funded. The integration of GSI and FAIR in the projects confirms the attractivity of our research infrastructures for the international community".

HITRIplus (Heavy Ion Therapy Research Integration plus) will receive the highest amount of funding, i.e. 680,000 euros. The project will be realized in the Research Department Biophysics under the leadership of Professor Marco Durante and coordinated by the National Center for Oncological Hadron Therapy CNAO in Pavia, Italy, as consortium leader. The aim of HITRIplus is to integrate pre-clinical and clinical research in cancer treatment with heavy ion beams while jointly developing its high technology.

Heavy ion beams are an extremely promising treatment method because they are more effective than any other treatment for radioresistant tumors. The ion beam focuses on the malignant tissue while sparing the healthy organs. The goal of HITRIplus is to improve heavy  ion therapy as a cutting-edge tool to treat those tumors that are not curable with X-rays or protons, and that have better survival rates, lower recurrence or milder toxicity with ions.

The HITRIplus consortium brings together for the first time all major European heavy ion therapy centers with leading European industries, academia and research laboratories. The aim is to jointly build a strong pan-European Heavy Ion Therapy Research Community. The resulting networks will structure and foster the research in heavy ion therapy, including clinical and pre-clinical research, and also develop new accelerator and beam delivery technologies. Lower costs and dimensions of new facilities should help to make cancer ion therapy more accessible to even more patients and at the same time open up new markets for European industry.

The project RADNEXT (RADiation facility Network for the EXploration of effects for indusTry and research), which is funded with 342,000 euros in the GSI/FAIR part, deals with innovative radiation testing methodologies. The project at GSI/FAIR is conducted by the research departments Biophysics and Materials Research and with its leaders Professors Marco Durante and Christina Trautmann. RADNEXT is coordinated by CERN. The project focuses on irradiation at accelerators of electronic devices for the industrial sectors of space, automotive, communication technologies, medical and accelerators, among others, which require coordinated and streamlined testing.

At present, the European economy does not yet have a coordinated network of testing facilities for these purposes. For example, such a network could provide crucial support to small and medium-sized enterprises, which in many cases have difficulty in gaining access to the required facilities. Novel testing methodologies can also pave the way for generating new radiation standards, since the existing ones are mainly restricted to classical space applications and radiation-hardened components.

Research infrastructures can play a key role in the field of radiation testing by taking the first steps towards the creation of a sustainable, coordinated irradiation testing facilities network. Finally, it will also respond to the need of establishing a radiation hardness evaluation based on risk assessment and mitigation rather than on complete risk avoidance.

353,000 Euro will be made available to GSI/FAIR with the project I.FAST (Innovation Promotion in Accelerator Science and Technology). The EU tender focuses on the particle accelerators themselves. Their use spans from the large installations devoted to fundamental science, to a wealth of facilities providing X-ray or neutron beams to a wide range of scientific disciplines.

Almost 50 institutions are involved in the successor project to the ARIES program coordinated at CERN, in which GSI is also involved. CERN is also coordinating I.FAST. GSI/FAIR is again part of the consortium with a broad-based team of researchers from different areas, which underlines the varied expertise on-site. The project is advanced by numerous accelerator groups and research departments. It aims to advance new developments in the field of accelerator-based research infrastructures and to promote innovative technologies.

In scientific laboratories, but also in medicine and industry the use of accelerators is rapidly growing. Particle accelerators are now facing critical challenges, for example with regard to the size and performance of the planned facilities and the increasing demands to accelerators for applied science. The project aims to help developing more performant and affordable technologies, and reducing power consumption. This could pave the way to a sustainable next generation of accelerators.

By involving industry via the 17 industrial companies in the consortium, I.FAST aims to generate innovation and thus support the long-term evolution of accelerator technologies in Europe. Alternative accelerator concepts will be explored and the prototyping of key technologies will be promoted. These include techniques for increasing brightness and reducing dimensions of synchrotron light sources, advanced superconducting technologies to produce higher fields with lower consumption, and strategies and technical solutions for improving energy efficiency.

Finally, the Biophysics Department under the leadership of Professor Marco Durante has a small participation in the European medical isotope programme PRISMAP (PRoduction of high purity Isotopes by mass Separation for Medical Application), coordinated by CERN. In this context, 17,000 euros go to GSI and FAIR. PRISMAP will bring together key European intense neutron sources, isotope mass separation facilities, and high-power accelerators and cyclotrons with leading biomedical research institutes and hospitals. Together they will create a sustainable source of high purity new radionuclides to advance early-phase research into radiopharmaceuticals, targeted drugs for cancer, theranostics, and personalized medicine in Europe.

Referring to the fact that all of these projects are realized in international consortia, Scientific Managing Director Paolo Giubellino remarks: "Science is a World enterprise, in which progress in frontier initiatives can only be successful if carried out at the international level. For GSI/FAIR this is a vital, strategic way of operating, and we will be able to contribute actively with our specific competence and experience in these programs which will shape future research“. (BP)