ESRF, European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, Grenoble



ESRF is a model of European scientific cooperation with 21 partner countries participating in the funding and running of one of the world’s most intense sources of X-rays. The ESRF’s extremely brilliant synchrotron-generated light opens up unrivalled opportunities in the exploration of molecules in living matter, nanomaterials, catalysts in action, fossils and valuable objects of cultural heritage. It is indispensable for structural analyses in solid-state physics, molecular biology, materials science, medical diagnostics and radiotherapy, as well as for special experiments in radiobiology, fundamental physics and physiochemistry.

With its 30 beamlines, the ESRF has been fully operational since 1998. The ESRF has made a name for itself worldwide thanks to the high availability and stability of its X-rays. The ESRF works around the clock and provides researchers with 5,500 hours of beam time a year.

The ESRF has built a solid worldwide reputation as a unique source of synchrotron radiation. This is because it enables experiments and analyses that cannot be done anywhere else. For this reason, the ESRF receives some 7,000 guest researchers each year, who travel to Grenoble with the aim of studying subjects such as the processes involved in growing high quality crystals and the quality control of alloys and ceramic materials. Other user-oriented projects include: ways to improve battery performance; investigations into changes in materials in structures; and measurements of environmental damage caused by heavy metals.

The following countries are members of the organisation: France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Russia, Switzerland and the United Kingdom together with the following consortiums: BENESYNC (Belgium and the Netherlands) and NORDSYNC (Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden). Cooperation agreements exist with Austria, Israel, Poland, Portugal, South Africa and the CENTRALSYNC consortium (the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia). Running costs of ESRF with a staff of more than 6oo employees, which are funded by its members and associates, amounts to somewhat more than EUR 100 million per year.

Upgrade programmes (ESRF UP, ESRF EBS)

ESRF is currently undergoing two ambitious upgrade programmes, ESRF UP (Upgrade Programme) and ESRF EBS (Extremely Brilliant Source), which will consolidate its world leadership position in X-ray science and create a more powerful instrumentation and system for obtaining data. The ESRF UP programme, designed around completely new beamlines and updated instrumentation, was carried out between 2008 and 2015. The aim of ESRF EBS, the next programme that will last until 2020, is to optimise the source of ESRF X-rays and produce the brightest, most coherent, and smallest X-ray beams ever obtained on a synchrotron. These upgrade programmes were funded without special increases in members' contributions, thanks, in part, to Russia's accession in 2014.

Swiss participation

Swiss researchers from over 20 institutes and research centres use ESRF beamlines for their investigations and experiments. Given the fact that access to beam time is competitively awarded on the basis of the scientific quality of the applications and that Swiss researchers have one of the highest success rates, the cost effectiveness of using the facility over many years is favourable for Switzerland. The cost effectiveness has fallen somewhat since 2008, now that Swiss researchers make increasing use of the Swiss Light Source (SLS) at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI).

At ESRF, Swiss specialists from the synchrotron department have been working with their Norwegian counterparts since 1994 to exploit their own ‘Swiss Norwegian Beamlines' (SNBL). The team is headed by a Swiss national and has been funded since 2002 by the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI).

During construction of the ESRF, Swiss industry delivered several high-technology components and systems to the site in Grenoble. Today, the value of contracts going to Swiss industry for operations and maintenance at the ESRF corresponds to around 70% of the contribution that Switzerland makes to the ESRF's total budget (three year average).

Switzerland contributes approximately CHF 5 million, or 4%, of the ESRF annual budget. SERI is responsible for Switzerland's participation in ESRF. During the construction phase, Swiss industry supplied several high-tech components and systems for the facilities in Grenoble, and the operation and maintenance of the facility continues to generate substantial orders for Swiss industry. The share of ESRF contracts provided by Swiss companies amounts to 9.4%, while Switzerland only holds a 4% share in ESRF (average value over three years). Switzerland is the ESRF member with the highest industrial return, in particular owing to the excellence of Swiss companies active in the detection of X-rays. The Swiss Industry Liaison Office is responsible for promoting relations between Swiss companies and ESRF. 

Further information


SERI, Xavier Reymond

Head of the Swiss delegation to ESRF Council
Head of International Research Organisations Unit

T +41 58 462 34 52

SERI, Patrice Soom

Swiss Representative to the ESRF Administrative and Finance Committee (AFC)
Scientific Advisor, International Cooperation in Research and Innovation Division

T +41 58 462 89 42

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