CERN Accelerating science

How fundamental science is changing our world

Fundamental science benefits society in many ways, from generating knowledge about how our universe works, to enabling unexpected and often transformative applications. Particle accelerators have been at the centre of many of the most advanced research infrastructures for decades. They have enabled many discoveries, such as the Higgs boson, and also led to the development of technologies that have changed our lives.

Future particle accelerators are expected to have a similarly bold impact on science and society. To showcase and the discuss the technologies that are currently being developed within the global Future Circular Collider (FCC) study, almost 1,000 researchers and industrialists from across Europe, university and high school students participated in “Particle Colliders – Accelerating Innovation”, an international science Symposium that took place in Liverpool on Friday 22nd March 2019.

The event, which was co-hosted by the University of Liverpool and CERN together with partners from the Future Circular Collider and EuroCirCol projects and the support of the EASITRain and AVA MSCA training networks, investigated the opportunities that a next generation of colliders can offer to industry, scientists and society.

In January 2019, CERN published the conceptual design report for the Future Circular Collider (FCC), a potential successor to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which aims to expand our current understanding of nature beyond the established physical model of the universe.

Professor Carsten P. Welsch, Head of the University of Liverpool Physics Department and organizer of the event, explains why fundamental research is key to advancing a knowledge-based society: “Fundamental research enables discoveries that push the boundaries of our understanding of the universe. This requires highly advanced experiments, made possible through a true global effort. Developing the design concept for future research infrastructures is not just about the science they would enable; it also requires us to drive technological progress that can benefit our everyday lives.”

The keynote talks from the Symposium were live-streamed to institutions across Europe and are now available to watch via the event website. Dozens of companies from across the UK and other EU countries showcased their latest products in an industry exhibition which followed the morning talks. The exhibition also served university students as a careers fair. They had their normal modules replaced by this unique event and found an ideal opportunity to discuss employment opportunities in different sectors. A wide range of high tech companies joined the event and provided insight into where their physics degree might take the students to next.

Image 1. Part of the outreach exhibition with the LHC interactive tunnel in the front. (Image: University of Liverpool)

More than a dozen different outreach activities, each one offered several times in parallel, were available to high school students. This included the Plasmatron, an interactive game explaining the physics behind plasma accelerators, salad bowl accelerators showing how high voltages can be generated, the augmented reality accelerator acceleratAR that turns paper cubes into components of a particle accelerator, and cryo-experiments that turned flowers into glass-like objects…which were then smashed into pieces by the children, as can be seen on the photo below.

Image 2. Part of the outreach exhibition with the LHC interactive tunnel in the front. (Image: University of Liverpool)

The entire hall was full of physics, in fact, there was even physics in the way that activities were set up as they were arranged along the spectral colours of the rainbow. A leaflet was made available to all participants and explained the link between each individual activity and ongoing accelerator science R&D.

A highlight for the hundreds of visually impaired and sighted students attending was a demonstration of the world’s first interactive ‘Tactile Collider’, which uses touch together with real sounds from the LHC to create an immersive experience. This unique experience was developed by experts from the Cockcroft Institute and has been touring the UK over the past 2 years. The event was made inclusive for VI children: in addition to tactile collider, all talks were supported by a narrator who explained the slides on display via Bluetooth headset to them. RNIB Connect Radio's Simon Pauley spoke with Dr Chris Edmonds and Professor Carsten Welsch the day before the event and you can listen to the interview here.

Finally, delegates also had the chance to play proton football and interact with visualisations of themselves in two different universes within CERN’s interactive Large Hadron Collider Tunnel, which made its UK premiere at the Symposium.

The “Particle Colliders: Accelerating Innovation” Symposium was co-hosted by the University of Liverpool and CERN, together with partners from the Future Circular Collider and EuroCirCol projects, on Friday 22 March 2019 at the ACC Liverpool. All talks and further information are available via the event website:

Federico Carra (CERN)
A novel composite for HL-LHC collimators
12 Jul 2019

A novel composite for HL-LHC collimators

During the LS2, the LHC collimation system will be upgraded with new primary collimators for halo cleaning and in the dispersion suppression region.

Mohammed Shahzad (University of Strathclyde)
Laser-wakefield accelerators for High-energy coherent Terahertz radiation
26 Jun 2018

Laser-wakefield accelerators for High-energy coherent Terahertz radiation

Paper just published in New Journal of Physics describes a promising pathway to more efficient radiation sources

Panagiotis Charitos
FCC Week 19: Towards 16T magnets for future particle colliders
18 Oct 2019

FCC Week 19: Towards 16T magnets for future particle colliders

In past decades, the development of high-field superconducting accelerator magnets received a boost from high-energy physics.

Accelerator-Industry Co-Innovation Workshop

The particle accelerator community is increasingly engaged with industry, for the development of the critical components that will power the next generation of accelerators and in a joint effort to bring down to society the benefits from the technologies developed for the past generation of accelerators. Physicists have been inventing new types of accelerators to drive charged particles to higher and higher energies for more than 80 years and it looks like they are not running out of ideas. In parallel, more and more accelerators went to fields such as energy, industry and healthcare where is installed the vast majority of the 40,000 accelerators estimated to be in operation around the world.

More than 90 representatives of scientific institutions, industry and European Commission programmes met for the “Enhancing co-innovation with industry in the Particle Accelerator Community” workshop. Credit: Valérie Brunner .

Industry is increasingly becoming a key partner in these processes. To define instruments and tools to structure and foster industry participation to accelerator development programmes, a well-attended Workshop was organised by three teams engaged in the development of particle accelerators. The TIARA  consortium of European research institutions in the Particle Accelerator Research Area, the  ARIES  Integrating Activity project for accelerator R&D and the AMICI project for support to accelerator and magnet technological infrastructures joined efforts to bring to Brussels for two days in February more than 90 representatives of scientific institutions, industry and European Commission programmes. The Workshop that went under the title of “Enhancing co-innovation with industry in the Particle Accelerator Community” gave a unique opportunity to people coming from different horizons and experiences to discuss issues and to develop a common language, with the goal of creating a community around the main actors of the development of accelerator technology and of the related technology infrastructure.

Meeting on Accelerator-Industry Co-Innovation Workshop, 6-7 February 2018, Brussels - Credit: Valérie Brunner 

During the meeting, many presentations highlighted the long way that we have come through to reach the present status of accelerator technologies. The collaboration between European research infrastructures and the industry has been seminal for the realization of unprecedented scientific endeavours. José Manuel Perez on behalf of the TIARA consortium stressed the importance of developing a consistent collaborative programme for Accelerator Science and Technologies as well as the need to further integrate the industrial partners from the beginning onwards of the design of research infrastructures. In the following talk Maurizio Vretenar, ARIES project coordinator, highlighted the broader goals for this event. He emphasized that a project like ARIES promotes accelerator R&D but at the same time will create an academia-industry community around common R&D activities, contribute in developing novel applications for accelerators and finally help the research community to meet the market needs and come closer with the industry. He added: “as we are all part of the same socioeconomic system, it is our interest to help companies develop their business around accelerators and extend the reach of accelerator technology”. An additional dimension was brought in by Olivier Napoly, AMICI project coordinator, who highlighted the importance for industry and for the accelerator community of the vast technological infrastructure of the accelerator laboratories, whose sustainability is a priority goal for Europe.

Successful projects in the framework of FP6, FP7 and H2020 have enabled to integrate the European expertise for collaborative accelerator R&D. Philippe Froissard, Deputy Head of the EC Research Infrastructures (RI) Unit, discussed some of the lessons gained from H2020. “Many industries through involvement in public RIs can validate and produce reliable and standardized results while public procurement for RIs should be used to boost innovation in industry”. Innovation ecosystems can be developed around RIs and is important to think of efficient mechanisms to facilitate knowledge and technology transfer. Finally, he stressed the need to “set roadmaps in key technologies for the construction and upgrade of the pan European network of research infrastructures in order to maximize the benefits for the research community and society as a whole”.

On the second day of this event, representatives from industry shared lessons and their thoughts on how joint R&D projects could be a win-win opportunity for industry. Representatives from ASG, Bruker, Oxford Instruments, SigmaPhi and Elytt, four of the key companies developing magnets for accelerators, shared their experience of collaborating with different research centres. Working with research centres offers unique opportunities for R&D and innovation but also certain challenges given the discontinuity in R&D projects. Designing long-term large-scale research infrastructures represent the best chance for setting a new frame of co-innovation.  

Finally, Riko Wichmann, head of the XFEL Project Office in DESY discussed the lessons learned from XFEL. The challenging technology of superconductivity required a strong collaborative effort between researchers and the industry while knowledge transfer has been challenging and often more time-consuming than expected.

With the active support from the European Commission, accelerator laboratories and projects are joining efforts with industry to propel accelerator technology into the next decade. This was the first in a series of events that aim to advance a rigorous collaboration with industry and consequently maximise the impact that accelerators have for science and society.

Link to the event


Tessa Charles (University of Melbourne)
Synchrotrons on the frontline
26 Mar 2020

Synchrotrons on the frontline

Tessa Charles describes the impressive progress being made by synchrotron X-ray facilities to solve the structure of SARS-CoV-2 — a first step towards the development of drugs and vaccines.

Shane Koscielniak (TRIUMF), Tor Raubenheimer (SLAC)
IPAC 18: Vancouver welcomes the world of accelerator physics!
28 Jun 2018

IPAC 18: Vancouver welcomes the world of accelerator physics!

IPAC18 brought together accelerator scientists and industrial vendors from across the globe to share ideas on the cutting edge of accelerator science and technology.

Daniela Antonio (CERN)
Power converters specially designed for CERN can now be used by the wider accelerator community
11 Dec 2019

Power converters specially designed for CERN can now be used by the wider accelerator community

CERN has developed new software layers to allow the wider particle accelerator community to use the CERN-specific power converters controls.