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From research to application: Helmholtz funds three new innovation platforms with 40 million euros

Our world is characterised by change and transformation. From energy to mobility, health to climate, new challenges are constantly emerging. Researchers in the Helmholtz Association are working on solutions that address these challenges. To transfer research results into practical applications for the benefit of science, society and industry, Helmholtz is funding three new innovation platforms. Together with external partners, concrete innovations can now be developed quickly and flexibly - in the fields of accelerator technologies, photovoltaics and maritime economy.

At the Helmholtz Centres, scientists work on unique, high-performance research infrastructures in relevant fields. The knowledge generated at these infrastructures forms the basis for innovations and new technological developments for industry. Equally, this research data helps us understand and shape our environment. Facilitating direct access to this knowledge via new, faster cooperation models is an important task, and one that Helmholtz takes seriously. Innovation platforms represent a suitable instrument for this exchange, creating access to ideas and exciting infrastructures, thereby facilitating the exchange between research centres and external interested parties. Helmholtz is now funding three new innovation platforms to create new structures and opportunities for technology transfer and the shared use of large-scale equipment, research infrastructures and data.

Accelerator technologies for all: HI-ACTS

(Helmholtz Innovation Platform for Accelerator-based Technologies & Solutions):

Particle accelerators enable innovation in a variety of application areas. For example, in medicine, they help scientists develop novel tumour therapies or medicines; in material science the spectrum ranges from high-performance semiconductors, to novel and sustainable materials. Until now, however, access to particle accelerators has been very expensive and complicated.

With the HI-ACTS innovation platform, the Helmholtz Centres Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron DESY, the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf, the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin für Materialien und Energie, the GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research and the Helmholtz-Zentrum Hereon want to make their accelerator technologies more readily accessible to partners from industry, science and society. The new knowledge gained from these collaborations will lead to new, commercial solutions for materials research, medicine and the energy sector. At the same time, the research infrastructures can be further improved so that in the long term compact and reliable systems can be developed that are affordable and accessible for a broader range of applications.

Fast, flexible energy from the sun: Solar TAP

(Technology Acceleration Platform for emerging Photovoltaics)

In order to achieve the climate goals in Germany and Europe, renewable energy technologies have to be used much more extensively and widely. This includes including photovoltaics (PV), i.e. energy from the sun. However, this does not always require the construction of new large-scale solar parks: thanks to new flexible and efficient PV systems, existing infrastructures can be used to generate electricity from the sun.

With the Solar TAP innovation platform, Forschungszentrum Jülich, Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology are developing new PV applications consisting of printed solar panels. These are lightweight and flexible. Users can freely shape and design the modules - depending on their needs. This creates new potential for the expansion of PV in the agriculture or the building sector, for example, but could also open up new possibilities in the transport sector. The three Helmholtz Centres want to make the new technologies quickly and easily accessible to industry, society and end users via the platform.

Creating and improving knowledge about oceans: SOOP

(Shaping an Ocean Of Possibilities)

The ocean affects us in many ways, regardless of where we live. It determines the global climate and provides people with food, materials, energy, transportation and recreational opportunities. However, large parts of the ocean are largely unknown, partly due to the lack of uniform standards and the right tools to collect reliable data. These are important, however, in order to support new possible uses in the maritime sector and to better regulate overexploitation.

This is where the SOOP innovation platform comes in. It will develop sustainable structures in ocean observation to help collect important data, improve access to ocean data, thereby increasing our knowledge about the oceans. To this end, GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research and the Helmholtz-Zentrum Hereon bring together stakeholders from industry, society and science and involve them in ocean observation. Together they are working on measuring devices such as sensors or probes that can be installed in a wide range of vessels, from cruise ships and sailing yachts to global container fleets. Among other things, the ocean data collected with these sensors will flow into new ocean models and improve early warning systems and reports about ocean health or the spread of microplastics. The main focus, however, is on transfer: SOOP will open up a larger and more reliable market for ocean sensor technology, with scalable and mutually compatible instruments, that are easy to use and with known properties. SOOP also has the potential to support stakeholders from low-income countries and indigenous communities with respect to climate protection and adaptation.

Helmholtz supports the three platforms with 40 million euros from the Pact for Research and Innovation. In close cooperation with partners from industry and society, the platforms will strengthen transfer and innovation in the Helmholtz Association and initiate long-term applied solutions. Funding for HI-ACTS and Solar TAP began on 1 January 2023, while funding for SOOP will start on 1 April 2023.

Helmholtz contributes to solving major and pressing issues facing society, science and industry through scientific excellence in six research fields: Energy, Earth and Environment, Health, Information, Matter, and Aeronautics, Space and Transport. With more than 43,000 employees in 18 research centres and an annual budget of around 5 billion euros, Helmholtz is Germany's largest scientific organisation. Its work is in the tradition of the great natural scientist Hermann von Helmholtz (1821-1894).

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