The future of CERN's accelerators and technology in an intriguing physics landscape

On the accelerator and technology front, our core missions for the next few years have been mapped out in the 2020 update of the European Strategy for Particle Physics. Some are a continuation of established business: effective exploitation of our existing facilities and deployment of the ongoing HL-LHC upgrade.

Another key focus is the extension of the exploration of future options with the aim of securing the longer-term future via an energy frontier machine backed by targeted accelerator R&D. In addition, novel developments of our accelerator complex and its technology should foster diversification in an intriguing physics landscape. All this must be achieved working hand-in-hand with our international partners. 

The European Strategy update also set out an important conjoined vision of sustainability, environmental and societal impact stemming from the innovative application of the multi-faceted technology that underpins our efforts. It envisaged close connections with other branches of science and industry through common projects to foster effective use of R&D via knowledge transfer for society’s benefit. This vision is coupled with public engagement, education and communication and due regard for the social and career prospects of the next generations.

That such considerations are included in the European Strategy is not surprising; we are of the zeitgeist, and these themes are well reflected in the missions of, for example, the upcoming Horizon Europe programme and recent policies of governments and institutions around the world.

CERN is already actively pursuing some of these threads. The Knowledge Transfer group, for example, is working actively with the Accelerators and Technology sector and the Research and Computing sector, leading to many cases of successful crossover. Active recognition of societal impact and sustainability is becoming part of our baseline considerations. At the same time, it is recognised that these efforts have to be carefully balanced with the demands of CERN’s core mission and that overall priority is given to CERN’s scientific programme. With tightening resources, we have to make intelligent choices. Working together with our European partners is one way of leveraging the available resources, and the Horizon programmes provide one model of realising such cooperation.

As an example, the recently launched Horizon 2020 project Innovation Fostering in Accelerator Science and Technology (I.FAST) brings together 48 partners from 15 countries: 8 accelerator laboratories, 12 national research centres, 12 universities, and 16 industries (including 11 SMEs) with the aim of boosting innovation in and from the particle-accelerator-based research infrastructures with due regard for the long-term sustainability of particle accelerator-based research, knowledge transfer and the realisation of an open innovation ecosystem. The project encompasses an impressive breadth of innovative applications of key accelerator technology, such as materials science, superconducting magnets, superconducting thin-film-coated radiofrequency cavities and Additive Manufacturing, and provides a real opportunity to integrate resources and pursue agile exploration of the potential of accelerator technology.

Coupled with the incoming core accelerator R&D roadmaps, such collaboration, working together in a pan-European and worldwide context, is surely an imperative as we move forward.

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