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Rescue package agreed for MAX IV light source laboratory

The future of MAX IV, a light source laboratory being built near Lund, Sweden, has been secured after months of funding uncertainties.

The laboratory, which is expected to be operational in 2015, got into financial difficulty as project costs grew. But last month, its funders agreed to put in the extra amount needed—in return for greater control over the project.

Plans for the cutting edge accelerator complex and laboratory were signed off in 2009 with a total budget of 1.55 billion Swedish kronor (€1.8bn). However, in October this year the project issued a call for rescue funding. Project costs had crept up and a further kr177m was required to complete the building work, it said.

Last month the project’s main funder, the Swedish research council (Vetenskapsrådet), said it would pay up and continue to support the project, but it expected the lab’s other funders to contribute their fair share.

Region Skåne, a provincial investment agency and one of those other funders, has followed suit, saying it will pay an additional kr65m to the project. This accommodates inflation as well as the agency’s contribution to the requested budget increase.

Pia Kinhult, director of Region Skåne, says the funding request was approved since the cost increases were justifiable. “The need for extra funds was not about a budgeting error but due to the complicated nature of the project,” she says.

Christoph Quitmanns, director of the MAX IV project, says most of the extra cash was needed for “contingency money” to insure the project against fluctuations in price and exchange rates, as well as supplier bankruptcies. “We don’t know if this contingency will be needed but the additional funding makes us confident that we will complete MAX IV to its full capacity,” Quitmanns says.

The guarantee from Vetenskapsrådet should allow the project to be completed on time by 2015, he says. “MAX IV will be the best light source worldwide for many years to come.”

But, in exchange for the extra money, the project will have to cede some control to its funders. Region Skåne has placed a representative on the board of MAX IV for the rest of the project. This is a temporary measure to improve transparency and to ensure future budgeting problems are reported faster, Kinhult says.