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German head of giant Lund X-ray quits over delays

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German head of giant Lund X-ray quits over delays
Professor Christoph Quitmann speaks at the inauguration of the facility in 2016. Photo: Björn Lindgren/TT
20:02 CEST+02:00
The German director of Lund's Max IV reactor, Sweden's biggest ever science investment, has resigned after an investigation found that the 6bn SEK project was at least two years behind schedule.
“Christoph Quitmann has decided to finish his work as director after the Swedish Research Council's investigation,” Torbjörn von Schantz, Rector of Lund University, said in a press release on Monday. “Quitmann has done fantastic work as an ambassador for Max IV.”
 
Ian McNulty, the laboratory's American physical science director, will now take over as interim director. 
 
“We have a lot of work ahead of us,” Marianne Sommarin, chairman of Max IV's board, said. “Now the MAX IV management and the board need to fully focus on the action plan that the board is in the process of developing.” 
 
The Max IV synchrotron radiation facility produces the world's brightest X-rays, allowing materials to be studied in unprecedented detail. The facility was inaugurated in 2016, but work to get all of the planned beamline projects operating has run into serious delays. 
 
In May, a progress report from the facility revealed that work had been knocked behind schedule due to sick leave, shortages of resources and a lack of funds to employ new staff. Shortly afterwards, Hans Hertz, chairman of the MAX IV board resigned after losing the confidence of Lund University's leadership. 
 
The Swedish Research Council, the agency which is the biggest funder of the project, then ordered an independent investigation. According to the report, which was submitted at the end of last month, the original 2011 timeline for the project had always been overly optimistic. 
 
At the same time, the Max IV organisation had so many levels of hierarchy that information on project delays rarely reached either top management or those financing the project. 
 
The report recommended that the organisation's management structure be streamlined and that a professional project manager be appointed, reporting directly to the board and the director. 
 
After the report was made public on August 30, Quitmann said the investigation's conclusions had come as no surprise. 
 
“We are aware of the problem and that there is a lot that needs doing,” he said, explaining that the project was almost unrivalled in its complexity. 
 
“We are working with around 20 different project simultaneously and they are all competing for the same resources, which must then be prioritised in the right way,” he said. “This is an extremely complicated installation which no one has ever done before.” 
 
Quitmann will continue as Professor of Physics at Lund University. 
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