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Knowledge Transfer at CERN: from the tiniest fragments of matter to everyday life

As surprising as it may sound, research in fundamental physics conducted at CERN has a direct impact on society. Since its creation in 1954, CERN's commitment to knowledge transfer has aided in the advancement of fields as diverse as cancer treatment, industrial automation, information technologies, and art restoration.

The Large Hadron Collider
The CERN Knowledge Transfer group eases the transfer of CERN's know-how and technology to industry and eventually to society. © 2014-2018 CERN

For most people, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is a mysterious tube located 100 meters below the ground between Switzerland and France, used by scientists to unravel the secrets of the universe. But the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator has affected our daily lives in more ways than we realize. Innovations developed for use in LHC and other CERN experiments have often resulted in novel products and services with applications across a wide range of sectors.

The Knowledge Transfer group at CERN aims to maximize the positive global impact of these new technologies on society, by helping companies of all sizes, from all industries incorporate them. “The technological and human capital developed at CERN has applications above and beyond fundamental research in particle physics, which is our core mission,” says Aurélie Pezous, Knowledge Transfer Officer. “Our role is to provide advice, support, training, and infrastructure to facilitate the transfer of CERN's know-how to industry and eventually to society.”

Collaborations between CERN and industry can take various forms, ranging from technology consultation, to licensing for commercial use, to collaborative R&D on specific topics of mutual interest. CERN’s knowledge transfer activities, which have intensified in the past 20 years, have led to hundreds of collaboration agreements from the field of medtech and aerospace, and from industry 4.0 to cultural heritage.

The latest technology transfer success story comes all the way from New Zealand, where MARS Bioimaging developed a breakthrough color medical scanner based on CERN’s hybrid pixel-detector technology. A license agreement was established between CERN and the company. “It is always satisfying to see our work leveraging benefits for patients around the world. Real-life applications such as this one fuel our efforts to reach even further,” says Aurélie Pezous.

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