Developing breakthrough technologies for science and society
What is ATTRACT?
Why is there no European Google or Amazon? Why have some of Europe’s hottest start-ups, such as Sweden’s Spotify, moved to Silicon Valley? It is not for lack of great technology or breakthrough science. It is because the mechanism for scaling up promising ventures to global markets is simply not working.
Many technologies leading to breakthrough innovations with a big impact on people’s lives stem from fundamental research. ATTRACT is a pioneering initiative bringing together Europe’s fundamental research and industrial communities to lead the next generation of detection and imaging technologies.
For the first time, a consortium of big research organisations – that build and operate telescopes, particle accelerators and other capital-intensive scientific instruments – will be explicitly leveraged to capture value and create jobs and growth. For this, ATTRACT will enlist large companies, experienced venture capitalists, and individual investors alike. The aim is to create an entirely new, European model of Open Innovation that can become an engine for jobs and prosperity for all.
Funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme, the project aims to help revamp Europe’s economy and improve people’s lives by creating products, services, companies and jobs.
Create a co-innovation ecosystem between fundamental research and industrial communities to develop breakthrough detection and imaging technologies for scientific and commercial uses.
A bigger return on Europe’s scientific investment that will benefit both the economy and society at large.
ATTRACT explained by the experts
Andrea Cuomo on how ATTRACT will bring technologies into the market.
Francesco Sette on ATTRACT’s scientific innovations for society
Jonathan Wareham on ATTRACT’s potential impact on society
Sergio Bertolucci on how ATTRACT will build bridges between research and industry
John Wood on why ATTRACT is a great opportunity for Europe
ATTRACT will deliver breakthrough technologies for global markets and create an ecosystem for investment, entrepreneurship and innovation.
National and pan-European Research Infrastructures will work together with industry and investors to create a new, economically powerful ecosystem spanning the continent.
ATTRACT will contribute to getting more value from Europe’s science base and high-end labs by multiplying the economic returns.
ATTRACT can engage many more citizens in science and technology – as entrepreneurs, customers, or students, and strengthen Europe’s talent base.
Detection and imaging technologies: key enablers for breakthrough innovation
- Advanced manufacturing
- Medical devices & imaging
- Lifesciences & biotechnology
- Clean & green technology
- Sensors & automation
- Materials & coatings
- Conventional energy
- Information & communication
Cutting-edge detection and imaging technologies – the core research target of ATTRACT – play a key role as enablers for all major technology areas. Most future scientific advances, technical applications, commercially worthwhile products and businesses targeting emerging societal challenges rely on these technologies in one way or another.
Can new networks of sensors be installed in big farms to make agriculture more productive and less energy-intensive? Can smarter use of monitoring and Big Data analysis make factories work better, cheaper and greener? Can we use sensors to help the visually impaired navigate the world more easily? Can we develop better forms of online learning? Can we pioneer ways to monitor our changing climate more accurately and cost-effectively and develop strategies to mitigate the damage?
Answering these questions requires an open innovation mindset so that breakthrough innovation concepts can be rapidly identified, assessed and industrially scaled by multiple experts throughout the innovation value chain.
To achieve this, ATTRACT will couple national and European Research Infrastructures, universities and research organisations with actors who can extract societally relevant and commercially interesting innovations from them.
From Open Science to Open Innovation
Traditional incremental innovations may bring about positive impacts on societal challenges, but getting ideas and hunches realised is a lengthy process. The ATTRACT methodology aims to springboard science towards actors with vision for innovation potential.
In contrast to incremental innovation, which generates reactive or adaptive responses to a problem, breakthrough innovation is driven by a desire to anticipate emerging or future needs.
These innovations trigger transformations in the way we think about societally challenging issues or identify solutions that will have real impact on people’s lives – for example smaller, portable scanners for patient treatment outside of the hospital, or replacing airplane windows with virtual images which reduces fuel consumption and increases safety of the aircraft.
However, the process of developing new science into technologies that enable breakthrough innovation often happens by serendipity. ATTRACT aims to create and deploy mechanisms and frameworks for systematically achieving such transformation.
By coupling research and innovation to a pipeline of entrepreneurial talent and public and private funding opportunities, ATTRACT seeks to boost Europe’s Horizon 2020 Programme. The initiative will promote world-class open science with a view to delivering innovative, future-driven solutions capable of enhancing economic and inclusive growth for a competitive Europe.
The project ecosystem
ATTRACT is the first major step in a much quicker technology development pathway that will yield a faster time-to-market for breakthrough innovations.
In 2018, an Open Call was launched ( ATTRACT phase 1 ) to bridge the gap between basic research and real market needs and it was aimed at researchers, entrepreneurs and companies to bring forward breakthrough projects on pioneering imaging and sensor technologies. There were 170 projects that received €100,000 each to develop technologies to change society.
In 2021, a Thematic Call was launched through ATTRACT phase 2 with a total funding envelope of 25 M euros, leveraging breakthrough technology concepts from phase 1 with strong potential for scientific, industrial and societal applications.
Moreover, another two calls were launched: the Academy call, an upscaling of the ‘Young Innovator and Entrepreneurs’ pilot from phase 1, in which students from Aalto and Esade have to apply design thinking methodologies to some of the ATTRACT projects’ technologies to solve societal challenges related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). And the Socioeconomic Studies call, in which projects will provide quantitative and qualitative data and insights about the ATTRACT initiative and its value for Europe. This will forecast the potential benefits of scaling up this initiative and its associated benefit for Europeans.
And in 2023, another Open Call will be launched through ATTRACT phase 1.b that aims to fund around 30 proposals from consortia which are expected to challenge the existing paradigm for Earth Monitoring which is still largely based on networks of sparse measurement stations and/or in situ human-operated measurement systems.