Science and Engineering Stories blog with CERN Alumnus Simone Callegari | Which Strategy makes a Project last?
Mar 12, 2021
Science and Engineering Stories with Simone Callegari
“Business and society have been pitted against each other for too long, every firm should look at decisions and opportunities through the lens of shared value”. Michael Porter.
Wonder generated by scientific and engineering mega-project discoveries drives human curiosity towards excitement, but how does this excitement become useful for humanity? What can firms learn from those scientific mega-projects? Over the course of the coming weeks, I will publish a short series of blog posts, where I will talk about the value of scientific communities in science, and how creativity in those communities has the potential to generate the future of science for our society. The first episode is "What Makes Scientific Mega-Projects Successful?"
These episodes are my opinions and I welcome any comments or discussions in the comments, alternatively, please free to reach out to me on alumni.cern: https://alumni.cern/users/2225991
Once I started my MBA, I learned the importance of Strategy. In Strategy courses, I became more aware of the world’s problems e.g. environmental sustainability and wealth inequality. I studied that global GDP has been continuously rising for several decades, nevertheless, we can observe rising wealth inequality between the richest and poorest in developing countries. This effect could be caused by the different situations in developed and developing countries. On the one hand, developed countries face the 4th industrial revolution made possible by the capillary distribution of technology. On the other, some developing countries face the challenges of corruption and the absence of infrastructure. Unfortunately, it would appear that the situation is even worsening due to the pandemic.
Dealing with these challenging situations, we hear the words "social responsibility" and "sustainable development" often in the news and social media, and we are aware of the so-called, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The United Nations set those 17 goals in 2015 with the purpose of orienting world strategy towards a positive and sustainable trend. Examples of these goals are "no poverty" "gender equality" and "climate action".
How do we attain these goals? Which examples can we follow?
I want to elaborate on these goals based on my experience at CERN. The first time I heard about the SDGs at CERN was at the Technology Transfer meetings. These meetings were held weekly at the Globe of Science and Innovation. They were organised to stimulate entrepreneurship within CERN and to seek useful applications of CERN technologies in society. CERN has a proven track record in producing valuable technologies for the benefit of society. The world's most famous example of CERN's successful technology transfer is the World Wide Web, invented and developed at CERN in 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee which gave birth to the technology we use daily.
The first innovation methodology that CERN utilizes consists of taking technologies developed for satisfying accelerator purposes and expanding their use to other industrial domains. For example, in Robotics, CERN has developed a long list of prototypes to cope with radioactivity in human risk areas during operations in accelerator tunnels. For this purpose, CERN developed robots in the years between which the most famous is the CERNbot that paved the way to industrial applications in the healthcare sector and process automation. Another example of this methodology is the development of compact accelerators for purposes different from fundamental physics. MACHINA is a model of a compact linear accelerator developed at CERN to analyze in situ immovable artworks. MACHINA has increased precision, smaller size and weight, and is more versatile compared to other non-destructive analytic methods.
Another CERN innovation methodology is the creation of spin-offs. A set of examples is hadron therapy medical machines, where CERN technology
created extraordinary improvements in the medical treatment of localized tumours such as the ADAM SA project, where the Italian Entrepreneur Alberto Colussi invented a new technological concept utilizing CERN technology and the one developed at Fermilab. Recently CERN published a new medical machine design called NIMMS, and CERN spin-offs are proposing innovative machine designs such as the GAToroid, EBAmed, and TERAPET to make this technology affordable for many hospitals.
What is the goal of these methodologies? How can innovation strategies create value?
These are questions I often ask mysef, especially when in the company of friends critical about CERN's worth. When working at CERN, the accusation that CERN scientists only deal with their fundamental physics problems instead of dealing directly with more urgent environmental and societal issues was commonplace within my entourage. Whilst researching this topic, I found a declaration from Fabiola Giannotti, CERN's current Director-General, that opened my perspective “CERN is not only physics research. It's the commitment to promoting the values of science, education, and collaboration across the borders". After, I found another sentence that opened even more my perspective in the proceedings of the 22nd international economic conference. This sentence says that we have to keep a "complex view to reality" in formulating a strategy instead of a simplistic one because "an enterprise's internal value depends on external complexity". I asked myself: is there something more behind the CERN strategy?
India became an associate CERN member in 2017, and Mumbai hosted the first exhibition of CERN technologies last March. India is the biggest democracy on the planet, home to 18% of the world's population, and is strained by inequalities, with more than 40 million people living in extreme poverty. Nevertheless, India is expected to become the second-largest economy by 2030, surpassing the US. To reach this goal, India has to invert its tendency in R&D that has been stagnating over the past 20 years. Is there any promise that CERN membership is going to help?
Looking deeper, I found some interesting literature about the so-called "CERN effect" which consists of the positive trend that correlates countries participating in CERN and their social-economic development. These articles explain that the higher the nation's R&D spending in international projects, the stronger the capability to keep track of SDGs, generating not only economic returns for the country but also social growth. As an example, Germany is between the European states dedicating the larger fraction of their GDP to R&D (around 2% private and 1% public, 3,19% in total in 2019) and, at the same time, amongst the largest CERN contributors and with the highest social progress ranking according to World Economic Forum study performed in 2020 (Ref. link below).Recently Serbia also joined CERN as an Associate member in March 2019, following Lithuania and Slovenia. They probably expect that participation in the CERN project could drive a positive impact on their economic and social development. Furthermore, I found that the CERN strategy aims not only to perform fundamental physics discoveries but also provide insights into climate change. I found relevant information about the CLOUD experiment where CERN scientists have created an experimental setup to estimate emperatures in 50-100 years. Scientists performing these experiments could pave the way to revolutionary discoveries for society.
In conclusion, we imagine CERN as a specialized physics center addressing only fundamental physics questions but in reality CERN also engages with the complexity of world circumstances, such as poverty, wealth inequality, and climate change. We could reasonably say that CERN's value consists more in this set of decisions to deal with the matrix of complex problems rather than concentrating on the single physics issue. I believe decision Strategy in every kind of scientific, business, or human project becomes an exciting adventure when it deals with this "complex view to reality". Only this way, I believe Strategy can engage with the complexity of world problems creating continuous value for humans and society.