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FEL Strategic Review

15th May 2019 - Science Case Update for a UK Free Electron Laser

In light of progress against STFC’s strategy for Free Electron Lasers (FEL’s) over the last 2-3 years and recognizing the growing experience of the UK Science Community, STFC is seeking to update the science case for a UK based FEL.

The aim of the update is to focus on transformative scientific opportunities that would be enabled by a UK FEL and to conduct an assessment of these in the context of the UKRI Strategic Prospectus and Government Priorities. This will include an identification of the performance gap between current, planned and required capabilities & capacities to exploit the identified opportunities. It won’t, at this stage, be a detailed technical design.

STFC has asked Professor Jon Marangos from Imperial College, London to lead this science case update. Prof Marangos will be assisted by a Science Team he will assemble from UK universities and Institutes, and an internal team within STFC. Collectively, the process is expected to take about 1 year to complete.

A key element will be an assessment of the level of interest within the UK Scientific Community. A short survey, followed by series of dedicated workshops are planned for later this year. The process will formally kick off with a Town Meeting at the Royal Society on July 16th 2019. Details of speakers and registration for this will be announced shortly.

We hope that those of you with an interest in the opportunities offered by FEL based science will be able to participate in the various events planned and the development of this update.

Future updates will be available on the CLF website.



June 2015 - STFC is carrying out a review to determine a strategy for the UK’s Provision of Free Electron Laser (FEL) facilities.

The purpose of the FEL strategic review is to develop:

  • a 15 – 20 year vision for UK FEL science;
  • a 7 year strategy for FEL access, UK FEL facility provision, community development, and underpinning technology/skills.

The major focus of the review will be X-rays, but it will also examine the UK community's needs for lower energy machines and incorporate this into the strategy. The UK has committed to becoming a full member of the European XFEL facility (now under construction near Hamburg, Germany), and so this review will provide the framework for making decisions on any further FEL commitments the UK may make.

The review will be carried out between March and July 2015.


As part of the Programmatic Review, STFC’s Science Board considered the future of large facility provision for the UK and made the following statement and recommendation.

“The national and international context for large facility provision and future planning is evolving rapidly, and a coherent strategy for the future development of UK large facility provision must be developed.

We recommend that Science Board lead reviews in the areas of neutron and photon provision and develop a coherent strategy for UK large facility provision.”

STFC Executive Board has previously considered how to implement this recommendation and it is recognised that free-electron lasers (FELs) is a key area where the UK / STFC needs to develop a strategy for facility provision. STFC Executive Board has agreed the following Terms of Reference and process for the development of FEL strategy.

This strategy will:

  • identify the key science challenges that require FEL access;
  • identify the requirements for FEL access in terms of both capability and capacity;
  • identify opportunities for meeting these access requirements;
  • provide a roadmap for user community development;
  • identify the requirements for any underpinning technology or skills / capability needs noting where such development may also be important for other types of facility.

Towards a UK FEL strategy

The purpose of this review is to produce a strategic document that includes:

  • a 15 – 20 year vision for UK FEL science;
  • a 7 year strategy for FEL access, UK FEL facility provision, community development, and underpinning technology/skills.

This document will provide a basis for shaping future support for FEL science, FEL facility provision, and any long term technology developments in areas such as accelerators and instrumentation.

To achieve this, an expert group be convened; terms of reference for which are provided in the paragraph below. This group will ensure that all key stakeholders (including the other Research Councils, Wellcome Trust, relevant facility directors, technical experts, and academic and industrial user communities) are fully engaged in the process.

Terms of Reference

Building on the outcome of the 2013 Programmatic Review and the direction already established within STFC of participation in XFEL and CLARA, examine the long term key science challenges that require FEL access based on inputs from the UK Research Councils, the UK science community via relevant STFC advisory panels and user groups, industrial stakeholders, and relevant facility directors. This includes:

  • exploring the scientific and industrial opportunities arising from FEL science that will benefit the UK;
  • exploring any competing experimental methods;
  • identifying any potential impacts on other facility provision.

Identify the requirements to address the key FEL science challenges. This includes:

  • identifying FEL access requirements in terms of both capability and capacity;
  • exploring the best approach to develop the UK FEL community.

Identify means for meeting the UK's FEL access requirements. This includes:

  • examining the current international landscape for FEL facilities based on currently available strategies and roadmaps;
  • identifying potential future facility opportunities in the UK and abroad (including developments of existing facilities), evaluating their advantages and disadvantages based on fit to UK need, technological feasibility, and barriers to access, and identifying how they could be delivered;
  • identifying any technologies that need to be developed in areas such as accelerators, detectors or instrumentation or skills that need to be maintained in the UK in order to underpin future UK FEL science.

Identify potential capital and operating costs, and potential technology and instrumentation R&D costs.

Last updated: 15 May 2019


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