guidelines and rules to apply for access to NFFA Europe Infrastructures
NFFA-Europe offers to European and Third Country (see eligibility criteria) scientists from both academia and industry the possibility to carry out comprehensive projects for multidisciplinary research at the nanoscale.
Activities are performed in 6 different types of Installations:
Each Installation includes laboratories located in different NFFA-EU sites; when needed, limited* access to co-located Large-Scale Facilities for Fine Analysis is offered as part of Litho, or SM, EC or ME nano-characterization.
NFFA-Europe proposals necessarily**
Whenever possible access will be granted in a single NFFA-Europe site for all research steps. Access to more than one site for a given proposal will be considered only when technically or scientifically justified. Multiple access to the same facility (facilities) under the same proposal cannot be supported beyond standard reimbursement limits.
*NFFA-Europe is not an alternative vehicle to access Large Scale Facilities with respect to the standard LSF access procedures proposed by each facility. Limited access to beamtime (SR, neutrons) may be granted by NFFA-Europe only in agreement with the rules stated below.
**Limited exceptions include access to the Theory Installation, combined access to neutron and synchrotron facilities and access by SMEs (see Proposal Requirements (a)).
The Single Entry Point (SEP) on this portal provides the overall list of tools and methods available and is the portal to submit a proposal. Proposals can be submitted at any time but will be periodically collected for scientific evaluation. These periodic collections will take place on 15 January, 15 April, 15 July, 15 October at 17:00 (extended to the next working day should the official deadline fall on a nonworking day) each year.
After submission, the technical feasibility of each research step will be assessed by the Technical Liaison Network (TLNet). If proposals are submitted well before the collection deadlines, possible technical problems will be promptly identified and solutions worked out and proposed to the users.
Feasible proposals will then be evaluated and ranked according to scientific merit by an external panel of reviewers (ARP).
The best-ranked proposals are assigned to the most appropriate NFFA-Europe site/sites, guaranteeing free access* to the most appropriate combination of methods and instruments. The responsibility of the site choice is entirely on the NFFA-Europe side.
The user group leader is notified by the TLNet of the results of the technical and scientific evaluation and of the assignment to one or more specific NFFA-Europe access sites.
All users are asked to accept and undersign the NFFA-Europe User Access Policy. NFFA-Europe will not schedule any research activity before signed forms from all participants are received by the TLNet.
The user group leader will be contacted by the specific access site/s to agree on a scheduling and to be instructed on specific procedures for access.
The general timeline of all access related procedures can be found here. NFFA-Europe will make all efforts to respect the timeline, with the active collaboration of users.
*Access to the experimental and theoretical installations is completely free of charge. Moreover, a contribution is given for travel and subsistence expenditures (see below the “travel & subsistence support” section for detailed information).
Access is granted to user groups, i.e. teams of one or more researchers, led by a user group leader, according to the following eligibility criteria:
The user group leader and the majority of the users must work in a country other than the country(ies) where the installations are located.
In case of positive proposal evaluation, access for user groups with at least half of the users working in a EU or associated country is granted within the capacity of NFFA-Europe; access for user groups with a majority of users not working in a EU or associated country is limited to 20% of the total access provided by NFFA-Europe.
Only user groups that are allowed to disseminate the results generated within NFFA-Europe can apply, unless the users are working for SMEs (see below).
Users working for or with industry of any size are very welcome to apply for NFFA access either alone or in partnership with academic teams. Access is granted free-of-charge provided results are published with the exception detailed below. Industrial users may also opt for a proprietary access where all work and results remain confidential, with no external peer review evaluation. Industry interested in such a fee-based access is invited to contact TLNet directly for a full explanation of the relevant H2020 project rules.
Users working for SMEs are exempted from the obligation to disseminate the results generated within NFFA-Europe. Proposals submitted by users working for SMEs will undergo technical feasibility check and scientific evaluation as for all NFFA-Europe proposals.
The Technical Liaison Network (TLNet) is the backbone of NFFA-Europe, providing a wealth of skills and technical information across the NFFA-Europe multidisciplinary and multi-site research infrastructure. TLNet supports the full lifecycle of user proposals, from first explorative contact by the user to data management. The TLNet will give feedback to requests and questions by users and liaise with contact scientists and specific instruments.
The TLNet tasks are the assessment on the technical feasibility of the proposals and the assignment to the best suited NFFA-Europe sites according to technical requirements and availability and overall optimisation. A mechanism similar to the peer review system of an editorial board is used to rapidly obtain technical responses from the NFFA installations and the best solution for the user is setup.
The first step in approaching NFFA-Europe for specific technical questions can be made by simply sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. In the future, a one-stop-shop will be implemented for a more efficient interaction with the user.
NFFA-Europe proposals must include access to at least two different types of Installations (Litho/Growth/Theory/SM Charact./EC Charact./ME Charact.).
The following exceptions to this general rule are admitted:
Access to Fine Analysis methods only is not allowed as it is directly provided by the Large Scale Facilities, except for proposals employing both neutrons and synchrotron radiation. This is a unique opportunity not provided by other access programs.
Access to Fine Analysis at Large Scale Facilities by NFFA-Europe proposals is limited to six shifts/proposal, where a shift is the usual quantum of access to the specific Large Scale Facility (eight shifts/proposal in well-justified cases only).
A maximum number of 20 UoA is advised for any user project. Proposals claiming for more resources should provide due justifications. A maximum cumulative usage for a given technique/installation at a given provider by the same user group is set at 50%. When such usage is exceeded the user will get the appropriate message and proposals from that group will no longer be eligible. In any case, such users will be able to apply in the last two NFFA calls if there is still remaining capacity. This limit will not apply to those techniques locally offered in such low numbers that a reasonable access by the user will consume it anyway.
A preference for access to a specific NFFA-Europe site can be indicated by the users, but this information is not binding for the NFFA-Europe scheduling. Whenever suitable for the performance of the proposal NFFA-Europe will grant access to a single site that includes all the installations needed.
Research steps are not necessarily consecutive. If you need time to perform further work at your home Institution before continuing your research at NFFA-Europe, please justify your choice and add your timeline in the description of work. If your justification is accepted and your proposal is granted access, the scheduling will take into account your needs, with limitations applying only to the total travel and subsistence cost per proposal.
For a limited number of tools/methods, part of the work might sometimes be done without the physical presence of the user group, e.g. for the provision of reference materials or samples, or for performing a remote sample analysis or sample deposition, or for access to a high-performance computing facility. If remote access is available for part of your proposal, the TLNet will offer you this option during the scheduling phase.
Proposals are prepared and submitted through the NFFA-Europe Single Entry Point (SEP), where you can find an up-to-date catalogue of all tools and methods offered by the six NFFA-EU types of Installation and their geographical distribution, as well as their main technical specifications.
Please follow instructions below:
NFFA-Europe proposals are first checked for technical feasibility. Proposals assessed as “feasible” will be then sent for evaluation of scientific merit by an independent, external Access Review Panel (ARP).
The ARP consists of twelve experts in nanoscience (including a Chairperson) covering all necessary competences foreseen by the NFFA-Europe access programme, including representatives of the Large Scale Facilities to warrant alignment of the selection criteria for optional limited beam time.
The ARP may ask for advice to industrial experts when evaluating the innovation potential of proposals submitted by SMEs.
At present, the ARP is composed by:
Artur Erbe, José Maria de Teresa, Paulo Freitas
Alexej Kalabukhov, Jacobo Santamaria, Apostolos Avgeropoulos
David Prendergast, Matteo Gatti
Michèle Sauvage (Chairperson), Jose A. Martín Gago, Sabrina Disch, Kristiaan Temst
The main criteria followed by the ARP in the evaluation process are:
In case of competition between projects at equal level of scientific ranking by referees, a preference will be given to:
Rejected proposals will always be accompanied by a written report explaining the reasons for rejection. Where appropriate, the report will also include recommendations and suggestions for improvement and possible resubmission of a new proposal.
EU funding, up to the maximum budget available, will be allocated to travel and subsistence support to NFFA-Europe users, according to the following criteria: