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Small Companies to Get Easier Access to Materials Research

Since 2016, the LINX Association has helped inventors get in touch with leading researchers in materials science.

Using the right materials may be crucial in developing new physical products. Unfortunately, material scientists are often out of reach for small and medium sized companies. Now, the association LINX is spear-heading a high-speed link between industry and academia. With a 21 million DKK grant from the Danish Industry Foundation, they are creating the project “Motorway for Materials Expertise” with the grand purpose of aiding the green transition. By Annelise Mølvig.

Inappropriate materials harm innovation

Many small and medium-sized companies, SME’s, develop new inventions but may often run into challenges because the inventor lacks crucial insights into characteristics of the materials used. A machine might generate so much heat that it breaks down. Molds can deform what one is trying to cast. Parts may wear out too quickly.

Assistance on materials in general

Since 2016, the LINX Association has helped inventors get in touch with leading researchers in materials science. The magic wands initially wielded was X-rays and neutrons as diagnostical tools. With these, scientists can examine materials at the atomic scale, just as they can investigate an instrument or tool while it is working. Since then, LINX has expanded its field of operation to include assistance on materials in general – also outside the area of advanced diagnostics.

Open arms to innovation district companies

Until recently, LINX’ office was located at the start-up community COBIS in Copenhagen Science City. It has now relocated to headquarters near Vesterport Station, but naturally still welcomes SME’s from the whole innovation district.

Expanding to fit new goals

Thanks to the ambitious goal for the “Motorway for Materials Expertise”, LINX is in the process of hiring. From a few permanent employees and affiliated freelancers, the director of LINX, Jacob Becker-Christensen, now expects to quadruple the size of the organization by the end of 2024.

We have already hired our central administration and most of our communications team. Soon to follow is a daily manager for our scientific team, whose first task will be to set up an affiliated group of young researchers to scout into current, Danish materials research. It is important for us to support the project’s associated researchers at Danish universities”: Jacob Becker-Christensen PhD, Director, LINX.

Need for Two-Way Mediation

With their grant, the Danish Industry Foundation wants LINX and the other project partners to create an efficient two-way dissemination of material knowledge. Industry needs knowhow and insights from researchers while researchers may benefit from insights into the challenges and needs faced by industry. Bringing these together requires a coordinated and national effort. Above all, small companies need easy access to understanding the many applications enabled by added insight into characteristics and properties of materials.

Partners in academia as well as industry

The Motorway project involves most Danish universities and the two largest RTOs (Research and Technology Organizations). Crucially, it also involves five local business councils, or Business Support Offices, which are the final tendrils of the Danish business promotion system and have intimate day-to-day contact with local businesses. The “Motorway” project aims to channel materials insights within fields as diverse as chemistry, physics, nano, biotech, pharma and various engineering disciplines.

We have a very strong partnership of universities, RTOs and business support offices. It is the project’s aim and expectation that within a few years we will be ready to expand this circle to a great many more stakeholders – especially within business promotion organisations”: Jacob Becker-Christensen PhD, Director, LINX.

About the Motorway for Materials Expertise Project

Motorway for Materials Expertise aims to increase the spread of green material solutions among SMEs and create national awareness of the possibilities of materials for Danish companies – starting with the companies that will directly interact with the project in the coming months and years. The project has broad national roots and is operated by the association LINX in collaboration with the Technical University of Denmark, Aarhus University, University of Southern Denmark, Roskilde University and Aalborg University as well as the Technological Institute and FORCE Technology. On the company side of the partnership, several Business Support Offices have contact with and knowledge of thousands of SMEs. The offices are local business promotion organizations operating at municipal level. Motorway to Materials Expertise currently include those serving the municipalities of Tønder, Varde, Ringkøbing-Skjern, Norddjurs, Syddjurs and Kalundborg.

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