Final evaluation report of RADDESS Academy Programme highlights the high quality of research

23 Nov 2023

The RADDESS Academy Programme of the Research Council of Finland researched novel device-driven and functional radiation detection systems in the areas of health and safety. The main recommendation of the panel that evaluated the programme was that the programme should be continued in some way. Detector technology based on the detection of photons is key to developing new applications in the areas of health, safety and security.

The RADDESS research programme of the Research Council of Finland funded 18 research projects with a total of 12 million euros between 2018 and 2022. The programme focused on the research of measurement systems based on innovative and functional systems and radiation detectors suitable for these purposes in the areas of health, safety and security. It is a cross-disciplinary topic, and the scope included research on areas ranging from quantum data to optical imaging of biological tissues.

Strong international cooperation in RADDESS

The panel that carried out the final evaluation of the programme stated that the RADDESS programme was overall quite successful in funding excellent consortia and in producing excellent results even when compared to the global stage. The panel also noted that a high level of multidisciplinarity was achieved in many of the projects, which increased the quality and interest of the research.

The projects achieved ambitious results thanks to researchers and collaborating institutions with complementary expertise. For example, the MINMOTION project aimed to develop a motion compensation approach for PET/CT to allow better imaging and potentially more accurate radiotherapy. This involved collaboration between researchers in computing (machine learning and image reconstruction), molecular imaging (from Stanford University), physics, hardware development and clinical expertise.

The HyperStokes project, on the other hand, developed microscope and macroscope hyperspectral polarisation imaging systems that could detect diseases based on histology, for example by assessing diabetes-induced skin lesions. Such projects require large teams and close collaboration between the clinical and technical sides. This level of multidisciplinarity did however increase the risk to the project, particularly due to the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

International collaboration was strong overall in the programme projects. Several projects involved cooperation with researchers from at least three countries, but four projects worked together in a consortium of researchers from up to six or seven countries. The RADDESS programme resulted in several joint publications with international partners. What’s more, several EU collaborative projects (granted or submitted) originated from the programme. In addition, the LIGTHER project of the research programme has an interface with the recently selected Flagship of Advanced Mathematics for Sensing, Imaging and Modelling.

Success stories

In its report, the evaluation panel highlighted three success stories, all of which have filed patent applications.

The SICSURFIS project researched incorporating a FabryPerot interferometer (FPI) into a hand-held imaging device, AI-based computational technology linked to the device and using the device for identifying melanoma. The project successfully combined expertise from many universities and central hospitals. The project resulted in a method for detecting melanoma with over 90% accuracy.

The BOLOSE project developed new sensitive detectors in the THz range. With these detectors, the project succeeded in developing a video camera in the THz range that produces nine images per second. This is a significant improvement compared to earlier impractical solutions. The device can be used to research the detection of objects concealed under clothing, for example. The evaluation panel stated that the project significantly strengthened the already significant know-how base in this domain in Finland.

The LAMARS project researched the fabrication and optimisation of 2D nanomaterials for detector applications. The project focused heavily on basic research, but it was still strongly connected to practical applications. The achievements of the research included the visualisation of THz plasma waves and understanding of the THz detection mechanisms in graphene filed-effect transistors. The project also promoted the technology of ultrasensitive mid-infrared detectors. The results of the research project are generally applicable for designing new types of THz detectors and spectrometers. The project had a strong international collaboration network, involving THz laboratories in Europe, North America and Asia.

Room for improvement in the involvement of industry in research projects

The evaluation panel pointed out that there was room for improvement in the involvement of industry in the projects. Less than 40% of the projects involved industry either in the projects or their advisory boards. According to the panel, RADDESS projects could have aimed at achieving higher technological readiness levels. The programme could have done more with active industry collaboration or the preparation of clinical evaluation and acknowledge the importance of radiation detection in many applications alongside the rapidly heightening societal requirements for the detection, measurement and imaging of radiation.

Research Council of Finland has funded research in the field of the RADDESS programme with several instruments

The Research Council of Finland has funded research in this field with several other funding instruments as well. Between 2020 and 2022, the Research Council’s funding for the PREIN flagship for photonics research and innovations was approximately 5.6 million euros. During that same period, the Research Council’s funding for researcher-driven projects in the field (including Postdoctoral Researchers, Academy Research Fellows, Academy Projects and mobility funding) was in the range of 7–9 million euros. In addition, the Research Council awarded funding to the Turku PET Centre and the international research infrastructure for nuclear physics by a total of 4.8 million euros.

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