Open Innovation at the forefront of particle physics research at CERN

Open Innovation have the potential to bring together the best part of open science and, at the same time, assure a return of the investment made in the project. Research on the forefront of particle physics at CERN is a good example of an expensive research with a high potential to develop many technologies and methods that are far more advanced than the normal practices in industry. The value of those technologies, and in particular of detector and imaging technologies, goes far beyond basic science alone. For instance, they have contributed to the development of touch screens for mobile phones, catalytic converters for cars, dental lasers, new cancer therapies and more.

With the aim of creating next-generation detector and imaging technologies and to spark a new wave of young entrepreneurs, CERN, ESADE and Aalto University are leading a new, pan-EU initiative to accelerate the development of these technologies – through a process of co-innovation with other research institutions, industry and universities. The ATTRACT Initiative will work with scientists, students, entrepreneurs and investors to invent new products and services and to attract new investment to the sector.

A pilot effort is already underway at CERN’s Geneva campus, with the aid of Aalto, the leading Finnish university with a world-class reputation for design innovation and management. Meanwhile, at ESADE in Barcelona, Associate Professor Henry Chesbrough – the man who first coined the term “open innovation”- is developing a new framework for scaling up this kind of collaboration at scientific establishments. It is a “co-innovation” framework that can be used more generally to convert open science into open innovation.

According to Jonathan Wareham, Vice-Dean of ESADE and Head of the Institute for Innovation and Knowledge Management, “ESADE, as an important center of expertise in entrepreneurship and innovation, will contribute its know-how to develop and further commercialize innovative new products”. Wareham discussed the ways in which the ESADE community is helping to convert open science into open innovation: “The scientific community is doing basic research works to advance scientific knowledge as a social good; that is, as a contribution to all of humanity. However, the process of product development and commercialization generally requires some financial investment with the expectation of a return on the investment. This means that scientific knowledge and its developers must transgress from a world of open ownership and unrestricted access to one where property rights and investments are protected. Open innovation processes are strong in moving ideas across organizational boundaries, maximizing the potential of new configurations and applications, yet maintaining an optimal level of property-right protection to secure the needed investment.”

Wareham also discussed the ATTRACT Initiative’s goal of seeking new partners: “The project is looking for all kinds of partners that can contribute to the process of transforming CERN’s fantastic technological innovations into products and services for, and of, the European economy. This includes venture capitalists, but also traditional industrial and service organizations that can benefit from these opportunities and integrate them into their product lines. In addition to working with the European Union and Aalto, other businesses (Oracle and Airbus) and research infrastructures have also joined the effort.”

The main objectives of this great co-innovative project are to create breakthrough, open innovations in health, energy and information and communications technologies within the next 10 years and building a more entrepreneurial, innovative Europe in a strategic sector.

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