Better project management is to get MAX IV back on track

A lack of professional project management, unclear decision-making processes and shortcomings in communication underpin delays in the beamline programme at MAX IV. A new plan of measures will prioritise tackling these problems.

Ian McNulty is the acting director at MAX IV.

“We must get more beamlines ready faster, and that requires increased efficiency in the organisation”, says Ian McNulty, who will be the new acting director of MAX IV until the board recruits a new director.

Ian McNulty was appointed by MAX IV in March this year as the facility’s physical science director. Previously, he worked for the Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, Illinois, where he was a senior researcher in charge of the CNM-X-ray Microscopy Group for five years.

The delays in the beamline programme at MAX IV, combined with certain internal problems with processes and management, resulted in the resignation in early September of the laboratory’s director, Christoph Quitmann, and his replacement with Ian McNulty.

 In spring this year, the Swedish Research Council, which is MAX IV’s largest financial backer, became concerned about delays in the completion of the beamlines. Over the summer, the Research Council conducted an inspection on location in Lund to identify the causes of the delays and to propose appropriate measures. Their report, presented in early September, pointed out serious shortcomings in project management and proposed a number of measures. With regard to project management, an experienced project manager will be appointed to support the director and a project office will be set up to tighten up procedures concerning scheduling and financial follow-up.

Until this spring, MAX IV was a success story. It is Sweden’s largest investment in research infrastructure and a flagship for Swedish research. The facility was built with a strong environmental focus and has won several prizes and awards for its innovative approach, including a prize for the best future project at the MIPIM property fair in Cannes in 2014 and for the best Environmental Building at the Concrete Gala in Malmö in 2015. Since the inauguration in 2016, the central accelerator project has been successfully completed.

However, progress on the beamlines that are to be connected to the synchrotron light source has not kept up with the positive developments. In total, the facility was to accommodate around 30 beamlines, of which 16 are financed. So far, only three beamlines are operational and receive researchers, while two others are in the final stage of completion.

Now the board of MAX IV is working on the plan of measures and the recruitment of a new director. Vice-chancellor Torbjörn von Schantz believes there is now a consensus on the problems behind the delays, as well as a consensus on the need for decisive measures to ensure successful completion of the beamline programme.

“The situation is serious, but the new management will solve the problems in due course”, says the vice-chancellor.


Text: Maria Lindh