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From an academic figment of the brain to a true European project

The Minister for Higher Education and Science Esben Lunde Larsen's speech at the ESS ERIC Plate Celebration 8 September 2015 in Lund, Sweden.

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Ministers, representatives from the European Commission and partner countries, distinguished guests.

I am proud to join you today in what is a historic milestone for the ESS. The day where the ESS becomes a true European project.

But allow me a small digression.

Last week, Denmark in earnest positioned itself as a spacefaring nation when the first Danish astronaut, Andreas Mogensen was sent to outer space.

I had the privilege of walking next to Andreas Mogensen when he approached the 50 meter tall and 305 ton heavy Sojuz-rocket standing tall in the test area Baikonur in Kasakhstan.

And I felt both the heat wave and the ground shake underneath my feet when the rocket was launched – beginning the 2-day travel towards the International Space Station, the ISS.

It was a fantastic experience.

But - as you might already have guessed - the last week has to a great extent been about the Danish astronaut, Andreas Mogensen, and the International Space Station, the ISS.

Today it is about the ESS.

There are, however, several similarities between the ISS and the ESS.

The research conducted on the ISS might be about the infinite universe, about great distances and major dimensions.

And in the ESS it is about the tiniest of things.

But the focal point of the research conducted on the ISS and the ESS is the same:

To gain greater insight, to reach new scientific awareness and to obtain new knowledge to the benefit of both humans and societies.

The ESS will not take us to outer space.

But it will open the gates to another universe. It will take us to the uncovered knowledge of inner spaces.

It will make it possible to examine phenomena so small that the human brain can barely comprehend it. The inner of the inner spaces.

The ESS is science for society

The ESS is a next generation facility of great magnitude – both in scale and in its potential for scientific results.

It will open up a new world of materials that we cannot see and examine today.

It will enhance science and technology that touches almost every aspect of modern life.

And it will be a ground-breaking scientific tool, playing an essential role in addressing great societal challenges.

Material scientists will be able to examine new materials for wind turbines and fuel cells. Bio-technological researchers will be able to examine how medicine works. And I could go on.

As my minister colleague so thoughtfully just said: We are investing in the future.

And with my own words: We are investing in science for society.

From an academic figment of the brain to a true European project

The idea of the ESS was raised more than 20 years ago. At the time, more as an academic figment of the brain.

But in 2009 the decision of placing the ESS in Lund and the ESS Data Management and Software Center in Copenhagen was taken.

And Sweden and Denmark took on the responsibility of co-hosting the establishment of the ESS organisation.

Today we celebrate the transition from a Swedish-Danish company to an ERIC. Today the ESS is a research infrastructure within a European legal framework.

We celebrate that the ESS has evolved to meet the scientific demands for facilities that are beyond the capability of individual nations or institutions in scope and complexity.

And it is indeed a celebration.

Henceforth, the ESS is not only a next generation facility.

The ESS is also a symbol of a common will to strengthen Europe’s world leading position within large-scale research infrastructures.

European partners - many of you present here today - have joined forces and secured the long-time future of the research facility.

You have invested in the vision of a stronger Europe where the ESS will contribute to job creation and growth and raise the competitiveness for an innovation-driven economy.

We should be proud of this.

So today we celebrate that the vision of the ESS becomes a reality – that the ESS is no longer a figment of the brain but a true European citizen.

Visionary projects demands dedicated commitment

Sweden and Denmark are proud to welcome a broad range of European countries as co-owners in the new ESS ERIC organisation.
Thank you to the EC for the long-term commitment and support.

And thank you to the member countries for the collaboration and commitment.

Let us promise each other to continue our efforts and follow the ambition of making Europe world- leading in research infrastructures.

If we are to fully utilise the ESS it requires investments, joint efforts and close collaboration across borders.

It requires dialogue and bridge-building – not only among member countries but also with universities, research institutions and businesses.

The realisation and long-time future of a vision as great as the ESS require dedicated commitment from all partners involved.

Thank you to all who have taken part in the creation of the ESS. And congratulation with the transition to ESS ERIC.

In the beginning of my speech I compared the ISS and the ESS.

On the ISS everything is limitlessly big.

In the ESS everything is limitlessly small.

But the objective is the same - to gain greater insight and to reach new scientific awareness to the benefit of humans and societies.

Thank you.

last modified Sep 14, 2015