World Engineer’s Convention 2011: Engineers Power the World

Can the increasing global energy consumption be met without intensifying global warming? Do the necessary technical solutions exist, and is the switch to a low-carbon energy supply feasible and financially viable? These crucial questions and many others were dealt with at the 2011World Engineer’s Convention (WEC). CERN was invited to participate in the event, highlighting its significant contribution to global engineering with an exhibition space devoted to the LHC on the convention floor and a keynote speech delivered by CERN’s Director-General.


From 4 – 9 September 2011, more than 2000 engineers and researchers, as well as politicians and business representatives from about 100 countries gathered at the 2011World Engineer’s Convention (WEC). Held in Geneva, Switzerland, they met to discuss solutions for a sustainable energy future. Discussions looked at the development of engineering solutions through a variety of approaches, with CERN demonstrating how basic research can act as a catalyst for new technologies.

“There is a symbiotic relationship between the fundamental and applied sciences,” explains CERN’s Director-General, Rolf Heuer. In his keynote speech entitled  ‘Engaging with Science in a Science-based age – Innovation, large-scale science projects and their impact on society’, Heuer described how CERN’s research has acted as a driving force for various technological innovations, such as the development of PET-scan technology. “Fundamental research is innovation, needs innovation and drives innovation,” says Rolf Heuer. “Forefront science needs and drives forefront technologies and engineering.”

The CERN exhibition at the World Engineer's Convention 2011.

CERN was also present in the exhibition section to highlight the Laboratory’s excellence in engineering and illustrate the many technological spinoffs stimulated in diverse areas by development of the Large Hadron Collider. “WEC was an opportunity for us to showcase the extraordinary engineering feats that have been achieved at CERN,” says Ray Lewis, who managed the logistics of CERN's WEC exhibition on behalf of the Education Group. “Over 60 engineers and technicians from across the Organization helped us create the content for the exhibition and many of them acted as CERN’s representatives on the convention floor.”

Imitating the LHC ring, the exhibition took the form of a semi-circular display design with a graphic representation of the LHC running across all panels. Various materials were used to showcase CERN’s diverse and complex engineering, covering the areas of detector technology (the four large experiments), accelerating techniques, cryogenics, vacuum technology, timing precision and beam control, civil engineering, computing, and data storage. The impact of CERN’s research on society was also part of the exhibition space, featuring some examples of CERN’s fundamental research finding applications in fields other than high energy physics.

The goal of the convention was to identify future-proof energy solutions through an open exchange of ideas and information. But while technical discussions on urban development, energy conversion and renewable energy are essential, applying new ideas will not be any easy task. “Engineers alone cannot change the world,” said Ruedi Noser, president of WEC 2011, during the opening ceremony. “It is necessary for engineers to step out of their laboratories, talk to people and look for solutions.”

WEC was jointly organized by Swiss Engineering, the Swiss Society of Engineers and Architects (SIA), Electrosuisse, FTAL (Symposium for Engineering, Architecture and Life Sciences), and the Swiss Academy of Engineering Sciences (SATW). The patrons of the convention were UNSECO, WFEO and the Swiss Confederation.

by Yi Ling Hwong (Knowledge Transfer) and Katarina Anthony