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Taking CERN and ESA technology to the world’s largest industry fair

Signed just two weeks ago, the new CERN-ESA agreement is already bearing fruit


Signed just two weeks ago, the new CERN-ESA agreement is already bearing fruit. This week, our two organisations went to the World’s leading industrial fair, the Hannover Messe, with a joint stand showcasing technologies derived from particle physics and space research.

The notion that space brought us Teflon is something of a cliché, and of dubious veracity, while the World Wide Web is the technology most closely, and in this case correctly, identified with CERN. But technology transfer from the European Space Agency (ESA) and CERN goes well beyond clichés: much of the technology we take for granted today can be traced back to basic research in the highly demanding research fields our organizations deal in. This is a message that both CERN and ESA strive to communicate, and the Hannover Messe gave us that opportunity.

But going to Hannover was about more than showcasing past success: it was first and foremost about laying the groundwork for future success. Much of the technology developed by CERN and ESA pushes the envelope in disciplines as diverse as ultra high vacuum and lifecycle management, and it is incumbent on us to make sure that our innovations get to the people who can turn them into new technologies that will benefit mankind in ways that go beyond the laboratory. For that reason, we invited companies that have built on our technologies to share our stand, showcasing their products and passing the message to other industrialists that there’s a lot more technology where that came from.

Going to the Hannover Messe is a new departure for CERN, though not entirely without precedent. We were there in 1977 showcasing the touch-screen technology that we’d invented for the control system of the SPS accelerator. That turned out to be an idea well ahead of its time, but it was nevertheless picked up by industry and commercialised for similar applications to that at CERN. We’d have to wait several decades, however, before finding that particular kind of technology in our pockets today.

I hope that our return to Hannover will become a regular fixture in the CERN-ESA calendar and that, as years go on, we’ll be able to build a solid edifice of technologies that make the successful transfer from research to industry.