Apply for Medium Range Facility 1
Call for Direct Access Round 24-1
Call opens 12:00 CET Monday 8 January 2024
Call deadline 19:00 CET Sunday 31 March 2024
The MRF1 instrument suite of ISIS@MACH ITALIA is free at the point of access for academic and industry researchers, provided the results from experiments are published in the public domain.
The Access Panel meeting for MRF1 proposals evaluation will take place 8-9 April 2024, with results to Principal Investigators (PIs) expected by early May 2024.
The digital User – Hub is the single access point were users can submit experimental and training proposals.
Who we are
IM@IT is a multidisciplinary project linking a wide range of scientific facilities of different scales, bringing together research teams across Italy, Europe, and the world. It was initiated in 2019 with the ISIS@MACH project and the earlier ‘seed’ of the ISIS collaboration . Launched in 2020, IM@IT has already attracted well over a hundred users, with participants doubling in the last year. With sustainable funding, IM@IT has the potential to develop a new generation of collaborative researchers from both academia and industry, and to be a game-changer in transforming the research ecosystem in Italy and beyond.
IM@IT encompasses a suite of distributed laboratories, with MRFs offering open access tailored to the needs of academia and Industrial user communities with appropriate peer-reviewing procedures, and SRFs offering service.
The users’ first contact with IM@IT is through a dedicated helpdesk portal with informative documentation on instrumentation and related techniques and IT tools for data acquisition and analysis. Through the USER HELP DESK portal users discuss and negotiate with a team of multidisciplinary pools of expertise (PoE) in the field of their interest, and build a personalized access program. STEM and communication experts address users to the suitable PoE or instrument scientist, who collaborate with and/or assist users for the writing of an instrument, service or training combined access proposals.
IM@IT is listed in the Italian Ministry of University and Research’s Piano Nazionale delle Infrastrutture di Ricerca (PNIR 2021-2027) “in the broader notion of ISIS”, and ISIS Facility and IM@IT are jointly listed in high priority RI’s (see Table 10 page 40 PNIR in 2021-2027.
Vision and Mission
The multidisciplinary IM@IT has catalysed the creation of a multi-site collaboration of twenty-eight Medium Range Facilities – which are more specialised collections of equipment – (see document Annex – MRFs) and one hundred and thirty Small Research Facilities – of which many universities will have some, but not all – (see document Annex – SRFs). Without IM@IT, these would not have been realised.
Through synergistic research activities among MRFs, SRFs, and Large Scale Facilities – highly specialised infrastructures operated nationally or internationally (see at link LSFs), IM@IT operates a multi-level Transnational Access (TA) program for users from both academia and industry. The TA program enables the multidisciplinary community – from life sciences to engineering – to take full advantage of the very significant investments made by European Countries in LSFs, which are not always fully geared to support national priorities (see document Annex – MRFs Proposals – Direct Access I and II Round 2023).
A key point is the recognition of a natural hierarchy of need/productivity in which users become familiar with different techniques at SFRs/MRFs, before progressing to more complex RIs and becoming LSFs expert users. This hierarchy applies not only to a given research question, but also to training and education of novice users in accessing the more advanced and more expensive methods. Research carried out at the European RIs needs to be constantly nourished with new users and new research and innovative ideas. However, for users having little or no experience in the use of the analytical tools required to exploit MRFs and LSFs there is a steep learning curve to develop proficiency in their use. Many researchers, if they do not have prior experience, find that the highly competitive access to LSFs is a high barrier. IM@IT is contributing to reduce this barrier, which benefits the research but also enables Italy to get better value from those LSF that it contributes to financially such as ISIS, the ILL (Institute Laue Langevin), and ESS (Lund).
In this context a particularly unique feature of IM@IT is that it provides users with a research pipeline from SRFs to MRFs and then to LSFs, and greatly enhances the deployment of user’s multi-disciplinary research ideas, which will then have better access to the European LSFs and in turn enrich their impact.
MRFs (and SRFs) are usually located at universities or research centres, used by few small groups, and not necessarily operating for user TA programs. Most of the SRFs and MRFs are based at universities and at research centres. In most cases instruments are financed by universities and research institutions through projects, and the operation costs are financed either by the same project or by other projects. These loans do not generally include provisions for external users access to unused machine time, which would require funding for external user support and training. Therefore, two significant opportunities are missed under the current system: 1) to exploit the initial capital investment to the fullest by maximising high-payoff machine usage and 2) to allow a wider section of the scientific community to make a qualitative leap, moving from SRFs to MRFs and to LSFs.
The creation of IM@IT in 2020 represents a significant step change in that it carried out a coordination action which joined five distinct laboratories (located at three universities and two research centres) into the IM@IT nodes, which started to operate synergically to provide user TA in a coordinated way. IM@IT is a partner in doing research with our users, not just a community doing research.
What is the IM@IT added value compared to what is already financed?
The IM@IT added value consists in selecting research centers with state-of-the-art instrumentation and providing targeted funds to make machine time available for external groups (industrial or other Italian university departments and research centers) that do not have such instrumentation at their own institutions. This would allow significant leveraging of public investment in small- and medium-scale instrumentation: a realistic goal is 80% usage, up from a typical 50% under the current model.
IM@IT has designed the simplest possible governance (see Figure 2) and access models required to fulfil the spirit of the ESFRI requirements. The governing bodies are: The General Assembly (GA), The Board of Directors (BoD), The Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC).
The General Assembly is the highest governing body having full decision-making powers on its policies in scientific, technical, and administrative matters:
- appoints the Executive Director of members of Boards of Directors
- approves the members of the Scientific Advisory Committee
- approves the IM@IT Technical Programmes
- approves the annual budget
- approves the admission of new Partners
Member of General Assembly are:
- Prof Silvia Licoccia (JRU coordinator), Università degli Studi di Roma “Tor Vergata”
- Prof Giuseppe Gorini, Università degli studi di Milano Bicocca
- Dr Sara Morisani, Associazione Italiana Ricerca Industriale
- Prof Emiliano Fratini, Consorzio Interuniversitario per lo sviluppo dei Sistemi a Grande Interfase
- Prof Lidia Armelao, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche
- Prof Umberto Vattani, Venice International University
The Board of Directors (BoD) oversees the scientific and technical coordination and implementation of the strategies approved by GA and acts as internal advisory body to the Executive Director who chairs the BoD. BoD is composed by the Director proposed by each of IM@IT Unit Facilities and appointed by the GA.
Members of the Board of Directors
- Carla Andreani (Executive Director), Università degli Studi di Roma “Tor Vergata”
- Prof Massimo Bonini (Deputy ED), Consorzio Interuniversitario per lo sviluppo dei Sistemi a Grande Interfase
- Dr Daniela Gaglio, CNR – Istituto di Bioimmagini e Fisiologia Molecolare
- Dr Giuseppe Gargano, CNR – Istituto di Metodologie per l’Analisi Ambientale
- Dr Gennaro Gentile, CNR – Istituto per i Polimeri, Compositi e Biomateriali
- Prof Claudio Greco, Università degli studi di Milano Bicocca
- Prof Ilda Mannino, Venice International University
- Dr Sara Morisani, Associazione Italiana Ricerca Industriale
- Dr Claudio Sangregorio, CNR – Dipartimento di Scienze Chimiche e Tecnologie dei Materiali
- Prof Roberto Senesi, Università degli Studi di Roma “Tor Vergata”
The Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) provides independent advice to the GA and the ED on all strategic issues, as well as on the scientific, technical and operation activities. It is composed by a maximum of 11 independent experts in the fields relevant to IM@IT scientific core activities and it is appointed by the GA. SAC has no executive powers or liability. Its terms of reference are to advice to the GA on operations and developments with respect to:
- the status and future prospective in cutting edge areas of scientific research including opportunities and their potential scientific impact.
- the actions necessary for IM@IT to make a relevant contribution to these areas
- areas of current scientific activity which are declining in relevance:
- analysis of the achievement of IM@IT regarding its mission.
The SAC provides a broad based and long-term view considering experimental techniques, service, and training available at the Units IM@IT national sites and complementary neutron scattering techniques accessible through its “E-platforms” to ISIS and LSFs.
Pools of Expertise
The core of IM@IT are the interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary capacities and capabilities of PoE identified around existing SRFs equipment and the ‘flagship projects’ to be transferred into national MRFs (namely, FOURDIM and SOURIRE). The PoE assist users requesting access to IM@IT to do it at its best. The PoE establish multilevel dialogue and actions, starting from the ‘grassroot’ level of direct communication and by specific actions between these experts and academic/industrial users.
PoE are organized in Clusters (i.e., node-specific pools of expertise) and operate the suite of equipment and facilities (SRFs and MRFs) establishing a multilevel dialogue and actions with public/industrial users, starting from the ‘grassroot’ level of direct communication and by specific actions.
Training and Outreach
ISIS@MACH ITALIA PoE provide the unique opportunity for researchers and professionals from industry to learn about the techniques and tools for investigating complex materials and interfaces, and how to use them. Training experts, using a unique suite of analytical facilities, are engaged in training and capacity building activities as well as in the development of a strong industrial outreach program. The scope is to enable potential users in industry and academia to expand their capacity in using the SRFs and become users of MRFs and LSFs. This is pursued by developing a vibrant environment of exchanges, starting from a ‘language and practise’ that are accessible to potential industrial partners. This would be extremely beneficial for early-career researchers on the academic side, providing them with career opportunities outside academia of which they are likely unaware at present.
Training and Outreach has a multiple purpose:
- to train users to answer to industrial users’ needs and questions, creating the opportunity for an interface between IM@IT and the general public;
- to provide users with an element of facility development (for example, equipment, software or experimental processes);
- to train PhD candidates and early-career researchers to become users of IM@IT and to be involved in building new instruments and methods and
- instrument upgrading developers of SRFs, MRFs and LSFs;
- to facilitate open access of high-tech companies to IM@IT SRFs, MRFs and LSFs through the User – HUB;
- to link academic-industrial PhD positions for fostering the development of a new generation of scientists, including beamline researchers at LSFs, who will generate fruitful synergy between Neutron and Muon science, materials science, theory and technological development.