Pilar Aranda, Rector of the University of Granada

In 2015 Pilar Aranda Ramírez became the first woman to be at the forefront the University of Granada in its 500 year-history. Professor in Physiology, Dr. Aranda has combined both her passion for teaching and research with management responsibilities at the highest level. In this sense, before becoming Rector of the University of Granada, Dr. Aranda was coordinator of the Andalusian Plan for Research (PAID) for 12 years. It is beyond doubt that this experience has allowed Dr. Aranda to place the University of Granada among the world’s elite in multiple research disciplines. This experience will be an essential asset when tackling one of the major challenges this institution has had to face throughout its history: the implementation of IFMIF-DONES

-The University of Granada has played a key role in Granada’s candidacy to host the particle accelerator IFMIF-DONES. What milestones have led the province to be Europe’s candidate for the construction of this facility?

-The province of Granada has become a centre of specialised knowledge over the past years. This has been a quantitative and qualitative leap in terms of biomedical science, artificial intelligence, and other disciplines which the University of Granada leads in international rankings. As a result, highly competitive business networks have been established. These milestones have allowed the province of Granada and IFMIF-DONES the unique opportunity to meet just at the right time and in the most favourable of conditions.

-Do you believe that having a prestigious academic institution involved such as that of the University of Granada has been beneficial for the province?

-There is no doubt that the University of Granada and the strong synergies with the public administration and private companies throughout these years have been determining factors.

-The general director of CIEMAT, Carlos Alejaldre, has referred to the candidacy as a ‘marathon’ on multiple occasions. Which stage in the ‘race’ to confirm the construction of IFMIF-DONES in Granada are we at currently?

-At this moment in time, Granada is the official candidate in Europe and has received the authorisation for the creation of the Consortium between both the Spanish Government and Regional Government of Andalucía. The European Commission and Japan, the other candidate, have yet to finalise the negotiations that have been taking place for some time now. I would like to clarify that we are not rivals with Japan. On the contrary, Japanese and European institutions are working side by side on multiple technical aspects of IFMIF-DONES. This will be a project that will strengthen both parties.

-Along which lines has the University of Granada been working on in relation to IFMIF-DONES? Besides participating in the preparatory phase of the project (DONES-PreP), the University is also involved in other initiatives related to this scientific infrastructure…

-The Office for IFMIF-DONES Implementation (OFID) at the University of Granada coordinates the tasks that have been assigned to it within the project. Apart from scientific and technical aspects of IFMIF-DONES, the University of Granada is in charge of two lines of investment. The main line of investment is the implementation over the next years of €16 million from ERDF and own funds that the Regional Government of Andalucía will provide at the beginning of the project. The University of Granada will use this budget to host, hire staff and equip at least two highly specialised laboratories for research purposes related to IFMIF-DONES. We are creating quality employment and high-tech services, while promoting the project with cutting-edge research. In addition, the University of Granada coordinates the Structural Funds and Communication work packages in the DONES Preparatory Phase project, funded by the European Commission with €4 million.

Apart from working on these lines of investment financed by national and international institutions, the University of Granada contributes with economic and human capital in different aspects of IFMIF-DONES. For instance, in addition to the tasks I mentioned earlier, the OFID is involved in a variety of activities, ranging from visiting schools to present the project to communicating daily with the national and regional Governments.

-The Minister of Science has assured that bringing IFMIF-DONES to Granada is a priority for his department. The authorisation of the Spanish Council of Ministers for the creation of a Consortium between the Spanish Government and the Regional Government of Andalucía is considered an important step forward. What will this Consortium provide? What role will the University of Granada have once it is created?

-Ever since the authorisation for the creation of the Consortium, the national and regional governments have continued working towards the construction of the facility. The importance of this lies in the legal and economic structure for managing a facility like IFMIF-DONES, which is not available in entities such as the University of Granada or CIEMAT. Our focus is teaching and doing research, not the construction of this type of facility. Regarding the University of Granada, its role will barely change. We will continue playing a main role in IFMIF-DONES, not at a political level, which is the national and regional governments’ competence, but in the daily implementation and future scientific exploitation, as would correspond to a globally recognised research institution.

-The COVID-19 pandemic has forced institutions into rearranging their priorities, and consequently their funds. Do you think that this will be an obstacle in the construction of the particle accelerator?

-Now, in June 2020, it is difficult to say. Obviously, the tragic situation caused by COVID-19 will require an important investment in terms of health and economic reconstruction in Spain. However, IFMIF-DONES should not be postponed. It is as an unprecedented economic driving force which will contribute to the reactivation of the economy.

-What will the construction of IFMIF-DONES mean to the University and its research groups? By being placed in the nuclear fusion map, will the University of Granada become a reference in this field?

-The exploitation of nuclear fusion is a complex matter and it can be worked on from different angles. Absolute references are not possible. The IFMIF-DONES facility in the province of Granada will be a historical milestone, allowing the study of materials that will be used in the construction of future fusion reactors and the developing of the technology to conduct such a study. The researchers of the University of Granada will be involved working at the highest level.

-The construction of a scientific infrastructure of the importance of the particle accelerator will constitute a turning point for the province of Granada. How will the province change? Will IFMIF-DONES be the decisive boost that Granada and Andalucía need to consolidate the change in their production model?

-The construction and operation of IFMIF-DONES will be a turning point for the production model of the province. However, we should not expect a change without any effort. New opportunities will entail challenges that only those willing to adapt their work schemes to the new reality will be able to make a greater contribution to IFMIF-DONES.