What has the ATTRACT seed funding enabled you to do so far?
The ATTRACT funding has allowed us to start a very fruitful new collaboration between partners from industry and academia to explore superconducting nanowire chips as particle detectors. ATTRACT enabled the industrial partner Single Quantum to expand their R&D activities and explore a new high-risk/high-gain field of applications around single molecule detection and analysis, where their technology is expected to have a substantial impact. At the same time, it enabled the academic partner at the University of Vienna to acquire a selection of top-rate sensors and first-hand know-how on superconducting nanowire detectors which are expected to become important as scientific tools.Together, we have designed and built detector chips and cryogenic equipment to explore new applications of superconducting detectors in particle detection and mass spectrometry. ATTRACT was key in starting the collaboration, including exchange of material and personnel.
What challenges have you faced so far?
In the real-world, experiments show surprises, or parts may require repair. This happened to the cryogenic cooler and the bonding process. In the first case, this could be mitigated by local resources that ATTRACT funds would not have covered. In the second case, the bonding was new because of the tightly packed 8-pixel design. It is now under control but generated some delays. Some items in a new test machine had exceptionally long lead times, which could not be influenced by us. The two partners, having worked in the different worlds of academia and industry approach and external partners had to find common norms and processes. The level of specification is typically much higher in industry than in a university lab.
Where does your ATTRACT journey go from here?
The knowledge gained within SUMO will directly flow into a new follow-up project within the EU Horizon 2020 FET Open Programme. This project, called SuperMaMa, started in January 2020 and it aims at developing a 128-pixel camera for protein detection, new methods to create neutral biomolecular beams as well as to combine both for molecular analysis. It is the continuation of SUMO that ATTRACT was aiming for from the beginning. In that sense, SUMO has already fulfilled a key promise of ATTRACT, as it will generate a lasting (guaranteed for three more years at least) and well-funded follow up project, including even additional partners from industry and academia to broaden the scope and range of applications.
Sum up in two sentences the advantages of the ATTRACT Programme over other research funding schemes.
ATTRACT is the future of seed funding schemes: it is efficient, quick in the selection, provides freedom in cost categories through lump sums, requires little reporting, little overhead and therefore stimulates new and risky collaborations.