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Environmental awareness: creating a positive impact on the environment through innovation

A new programme will harness CERN’s technologies and know-how to contribute to society’s efforts towards preserving the planet

08/02/22 Bulletin
(Image: Unsplash; Shutterstock/Sergey Tinyakov; NASA; CERN)

The potential of technological innovation is vast, and when it comes to curbing the impact of activities harming our environment – such as energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions – it holds a particular significance. In this context, innovative ideas and technologies developed in research centres like CERN represent a promising opportunity to stimulate positive environmental impact.

CERN-developed technologies, facilities and know-how can be applied to environmental research. One recent example is the CERN Control and Monitoring Framework (C2MON), which was originally designed to cope with the Laboratory’s demanding infrastructure-monitoring needs and is now used in several external initiatives, such as the spin-off company PlanetWatch (the company uses it for data acquisition systems in the framework of air quality monitoring). Further, through fundamental research, CERN produces scientific knowledge with direct environmental relevance, as illustrated by the CLOUD experiment, which studies atmospheric and climate science. 

Acknowledging global environmental challenges, CERN is taking steps to move from serendipity to a conscious effort to harness the Organization’s unique skillset, with the aim of participating in society’s efforts to preserve the planet.

Concretely, a CERN Innovation Programme on Environmental Applications is now being set up. The programme will be instrumental in maximising CERN’s impact on environmental applications. As a first step, ideas on how to address major environmental challenges through CERN technologies, know-how and facilities will be collected from experts, and the  most promising concepts selected. The CERN Knowledge Transfer group will then provide full support to the selected ideas, which may give rise to impactful projects in collaboration with external partners.

Several strategic sectors and sub-domains with high impact potential and strong synergies with CERN’s technical domains of expertise have been identified:

  • renewable and low-carbon energy (production, transformation, distribution, storage),
  • clean transportation and future mobility (aviation, shipping, rail and automotive),
  • climate change and pollution control (monitoring, modelling, mitigation),
  • sustainability and green science (power management, heat management, industrial processes).

Possible examples include superconducting technologies for high-efficiency power transmission, cryogenics and vacuum for advanced hydrogen storage, and big data analysis tools for global-scale climate simulations.

More information about the call for ideas for the CERN Innovation Programme on Environmental Applications will follow in the coming months. Find out more on the Knowledge Transfer page dedicated to environmental applications.

This article is part of the series “CERN’s Year of Environmental Awareness”.


CERN’s Knowledge Transfer (KT) group has the mission to transfer the innovations produced  by CERN experts to fields beyond high-energy physics, maximising the global positive impact of CERN on society. This is made possible in particular through industry in the Member and Associate Member States. From 2022, KT is focusing its efforts on five main application areas: medical, aerospace, digital, quantum and environment. Every year, some 50 knowledge transfer contracts are signed, and many more technologies are identified internally, spanning all application fields.