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Economic impact

A new centre for leading-edge research can give an impetus for economic growth to a whole region. Already in the start-up phase, the European XFEL project would provide more jobs, revenue, and income as well as major innovations for the participating firms.

This was made evident by the Institute for Allocation and Competition at the University of Hamburg in studies describing the economic effects that are to be expected from the construction of the 3-kilometre-long European XFEL.

Innovations …

One study examines the so-called supply effects, e.g. new technologies and procedures developed within the framework of the X-ray laser project, which in the long run will strengthen the economic development. The investigation is based on a survey of 57 firms which provided the equipment for the TESLA test facility at DESY. This facility was also used to develop and test the technology for free-electron lasers. The results of the survey are quite promising:

  • 38 percent of the suppliers achieved important innovations or anticipate this when they cooperate in the construction of the X-ray laser.
  • 53 percent will be able to use the products developed for the X-ray laser for other purposes.
  • 60 percent notice an influence on their whole product range.
  • 23 percent register a substantial learning effect among their employees.
  • 82 percent report that they regard DESY as an important reference customer. With regard to the collaboration with DESY, the creation of innovations played the most important role—more important than revenue.
  • 38 percent of the firms achieved “important” or “very important” innovations in at least one product range,
  • another 29 percent achieved “average” innovations.

Further developments have been made, particularly in high-frequency technology, in the fields of electronics, power engineering, and pulse-power-technology. Another example is cooling technology: The superconducting particle accelerators for the free-electron lasers operate at minus 271 degrees Celsius. The composite materials developed for this purpose are very resistant to radiation and can also be used in other fields of application. The building of the accelerator structures yielded innovations in the field of mechanical manufacturing processes, chemical engineering, metallurgy, machine construction, and measuring and control technology. These innovations are applicable among other things in medical technology, chemical analysis, radar and satellite technology, communications engineering, and chemical plant construction. A total of 67 percent of the firms working for the free-electron lasers have designed new products, methods or services. 79 percent of them have been successful in finding new customers for these products or expected this for the future. The direct technology transfer is matched by the indirect one: 60 percent of the firms indicated that the new developments for the X-ray laser project had an influence on the development of other products or that they expected this to happen during the progress of the project—specifically, an improvement of product quality and cost reduction in development, production, and service.

… and employment

In another study, the economists investigated the so-called demand effects in the phase of construction and equipment of the European XFEL—i.e. employment, income and revenue that are created or achieved. According to this, there would be more than 1350 new job opportunities in Germany during the construction phase, approximately half of them based in the area of Hamburg and northern Germany. The sectors which would benefit most are distributive trades, construction, financial services and machines. In addition, income would mount up to more than 55 million euros and revenue to approximately 120 million euros. Approximately half of the jobs and the income and revenue obtained come from DESY and its suppliers. The other half are so-called induced effects resulting from the wage-earners’ income flowing back into consumption. Retail, service and housing benefit the most.

Already in the construction phase of the European XFEL facility, the total costs—58 percent of which are being funded by Germany—are matched by substantial growth and innovation effects. This is beneficial not only for the region but for the whole country.

Another factor, which has not been taken into account in the study, is of enormous importance: the impact that such a leading-edge research centre has on Germany as a research and technology location. Especially in the operating phase, which has not been taken into account in the study, the European XFEL would be the source for further innovations and for the settlement of research and industry.