Prepare for the best

James H. Yeck, CEO of ESS

Prepare for the best

CEO of the European Spallation Source (ESS) James H. Yeck calls for involvement and coordination from the Nordic countries as we prepare for the onset of neutron scattering in 2020.

How will the ESS affect the Nordic countries?

‘It is safe to say that the ESS will have a tremendous impact on society, economically and scientifically. We know that from the experience of other facilities. What is less easy to predict is what will be the results of the science programmes. The ESS is a discovery tool. We know there will be discoveries; we just do not know what they are. And by having a highly trained workforce there is a benefit for companies in the area. Some of the best and brightest people in the world will come to ESS and spend three days, maybe a week to produce data, they will leave, analyse the data, publish a paper, and contribute to the body of knowledge,’ states James H. Yeck, and continues:

Geography matters. Geography makes a difference. People closer to the facility have a better opportunity to make use of it. There tends to be a catalyst with the local universities. By local I mean 500 miles. The Nordic countries have an absolutely fantastic opportunity here. To have MAX IV and ESS coming online within the same decade is spectacular.’

Jim Yeck

The Nordic countries have an absolutely fantastic opportunity here. To have MAX IV and ESS coming online within the same decade is spectacular.’ James H. Yeck, CEO of ESS



What did we do to make that happen?

‘In the Nordic countries there is a very deep appreciation for the benefits of science. The investment in science in GDP is relatively large which is a reflexion of that priority. So the Nordic countries have a cultural value as a backdrop which makes it easier to have the political discussion,’ James Yeck says.

How can the Nordic countries gain the most from the ESS?

‘At the ESS, we want the community to be involved so what we are doing will be shaped by the input we get. This makes it stronger, makes it better. Everyone recognises that the best approach to developing research facilities is bottom-up, so that ideas come from the researchers. But that is not enough to realise success in a facility of this scale. Here, you need both bottom-up and top-down, and they have to be in sync. If you combine top-down recognition of the broader value to society with bottom-up initiatives, then you have a frame where good things can happen.

We have recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Chalmers University, and I think that is fantastic. I would love to see that with lots of universities. And if the involvement were organised in bigger groups than one university, it would be even better,’ asserts James H. Yeck.

What would you like to see from the Nordic countries?

‘Better coordination is very useful. We walk down a path together, but there can be many deviations. We need coordination, so we do not drown in details, but are able to see ahead.

It is amazing what Sweden and Denmark have accomplished as host countries. I think it is due to a profound commitment. When difficult issues come up, there is an understanding and willingness to find solutions because of the level of engagement.

The most important thing is that the facility has a strong foundation of support in the scientific community. We benefitted from the fact that the countries have prioritised ESS through a national process, and that puts it on a solid foundation.

I hope all the Nordic countries join in, because we are building a tool that will be the best in the world. Not all countries may have the researchers it takes within this area today, and it makes sense to begin preparing. It does not happen overnight,’ James H. Yeck concludes.


The interview is published in NordForsk Magazine



Text: Linn Hoff Jensen

Photo: Kim Wendt/NordForsk