Frequently Asked Questions

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Six of Europe’s leading scientific laboratories – CERN, the European Southern Observatory (ESO), the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), European X-Ray Free-Electron Laser (European XFEL) and Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL) – are joining forces with experts in Business Education and Management to develop next-generation scientific tools and co-create new products, companies and jobs. The other partners are: Aalto University, European Industrial Research Management Association (EIRMA) and ESADE Business and Law Schools.

For the first time, with this consortium of big research Infrastructure projects — telescopes, particle accelerators and other capital intensive scientific instruments — will be explicitly used to capture value and create jobs and growth.

ATTRACT will build on technologies invented and developed at Europe’s research institutes. Its rationale is to use the breakthrough technology needed for fundamental research to create societal impact. In doing so, it will further strengthen Europe’s return on its investment in research.

ATTRACT also aims to draw in other forms of funding to sustain its excellence in research. Many project results in ATTRACT will also find immediate applicability in participating laboratories.

One of the ideas behind ATTRACT is the theory of 1,000 flowers. One seeds 1,000 promising ideas in fertile ground. The end result is a meadow carpeted with blossoms. ‘Mighty oaks from little acorns grow’, as the saying goes and ATTRACT’s aim is to maximise the number of ‘acorn’ companies that thrive and grow to maturity. As things stand now, too many brilliant projects fail to make it to market. We want to be sure that someone who has the next ‘Google’ in mind is given every chance of succeeding.

The ATTRACT Project will begin a cycle that will reduce the time it takes to create and develop a new technology compared to traditional technology development approaches. In other words, ATTRACT will absorb initial industrial investment risk to take new paths that may lead to the next big innovation.

The ATTRACT Programme will create a sustainable innovation ecosystem by envisioning repeated seed-scale innovation funding cycles and blending public and private funding. This H2020 project represents the first phase of that cycle.

Some of the greatest benefits from Big Science stem from Human Resources. Bright people, gathered together, can work wonders. This includes training other gifted individuals who then go on to revolutionise industry, finance, services and policy. ATTRACT aims to widen the horizons for participating scientists, by forging links between research infrastructures, industry, academia and society.

ATTRACT is designed to foster the development of breakthrough technologies and to thoroughly exploit those that come up to expectations. It does so through its links with industry and training in Design Thinking and Entrepreneurship.

The European Medical Technology industry, one of the fields ATTRACT aims to boost, employs over 575,000 people and has a market value of roughly €100 billion. The European Medical Technology market is estimated to make up around 30% of the world market.

Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) make up almost 95% of the Medical Technology industry. Most of them employ fewer than 50 people (small and micro-sized companies). SMEs have the speed and agility to bring ideas to market quickly, and will this be among ATTRACT’s chief beneficiaries.

The ATTRACT Programme is tailored to use public funding for absorbing the initial risk radical technologies entail for private investors because technology ideas are identified by a top-level group of experts in the Independent R&D Committee and then tried out quickly.

The ATTRACT Programme may therefore provide a source of innovative projects that can be further financed by other mechanisms from the European Investment Bank (EIB) or the European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI) in a synergetic pathway.

ATTRACT seeks to boost the public’s return on its investment by both developing the breakthrough technology needed to conduct fundamental research and helping apply the resulting technology to tomorrow’s industrial products.

ATTRACT will ensure that Europe gets the best return on its investment in science by using an independent team of scientists, industrialists and entrepreneurs to choose those ideas that are most likely to succeed. Thus ATTRACT will help the public sector be more effective in its traditional role of reducing the risk of developing new technology to the point at which the private sector is willing to invest in it – just as the US did at the birth of Silicon Valley.

The ATTRACT Project will strengthen existing European education programmes such as Erasmus+ by inviting Erasmus+ students to participate in the ‘Innovator & Entrepreneurs’ Pilot’.

The ATTRACT Project will tackle the full innovation cycle by also mentoring and coaching young entrepreneurs. Mentors/coaches will ensure their charges thoroughly master the design-thinking methodologies to turn out user-centric product prototypes.

A pilot effort, IdeaSquare, is already underway at CERN’s Geneva campus, with the aid of leading European universities with world-class reputations for Design Innovation and Management – Aalto University in Finland being one of them. It regularly brings scores of Engineering, Business and other students together from across Europe to brainstorm new ideas in Robotics, Programming, Imaging and other fields at which ATTRACT partner labs are expert – to help breed a new generation of researcher-entrepreneurs for Europe’s future.

The community of innovators — the ideas people for ATTRACT — has been formed. In two conferences, one in Barcelona and the other in Strasbourg in 2016, over 200 academic and industrial researchers and engineers gathered to show their ideas for future products and services. Their ideas are the seeds from which ATTRACT can grow companies.

A network of corporate and investment partners is already operating. It started with the creation in 2015 of an Advisory Board of business leaders – now including current and former executives of Philips, Xerox, GE, Rolls-Royce, the European Business Angels Network and other organisations expert in technology development and commercialisation. At the same time, a group of venture capital and angel investors has been meeting with ATTRACT founders to discuss future investment models.

Open Innovation —opening ideas to many collaborators, rather than locking them inside one lab or company — is the core notion behind ATTRACT. The methods ATTRACT will use have been developed and tested by the most famous expert in Open Innovation, Prof. Henry Chesbrough of the University of California-Berkeley and ESADE Business School in Barcelona. He is also a member of the ATTRACT Advisory Board.

The European Commission aims to boost European innovation, competitiveness and sustainability. ATTRACT fits these goals. It is driven by the research communities in Europe, being facilitated by national and pan-European Research Infrastructures (ERIs) and engaging industry as co-innovators. It pays special attention to SMEs. ATTRACT will strongly contribute to build a European Research Area in which researchers, scientific knowledge and technology circulate freely. It will contribute as well towards achieving the Innovation Union. This will increase Europe’s capacity to generate, absorb and use new technology. It will enhance the future innovation capacity of ERIs. ATTRACT also wishes to align with the spirit of the new European Commission in its endeavour to build a Europe delivering jobs and growth for its citizens.