A neighbourly collaboration

CERN and its host territories in France have created a new partnership aimed at reinforcing and making permanent numerous projects for the people who live in the region.


Over the last four years, CERN has developed a number of initiatives with its partners in Geneva and neighbouring France. To formalise and improve the structure of this collaboration, CERN, the French government, the Conseil général de l’Ain and the Communauté de communes du Pays de Gex have recently formed a quadripartite partnership. The CERN Director-General has been appointed Chair of the committee leading the partnership for this year. “Due to its geographical location, activities and aims, CERN has always placed great emphasis on dialogue with its neighbours,” explains Friedemann Eder, Head of the Relations with the Host States Service.  “The current Director-General wanted to boost dialogue and collaboration – an aim that the authorities in the Host States share – and this partnership is a perfect example.” The partnership covers the following four areas: knowledge and technology transfer, education and training, scientific tourism, and town, country and transport planning.

One of the flagship projects in the field of knowledge and technology transfer is the forthcoming opening of a business incubation centre on the Technoparc site in Saint-Genis-Pouilly. This facility will promote the creation of businesses based on CERN technologies. CERN will provide its technologies and technical know-how to entrepreneurs, while the local authorities will provide the premises, as well as material, administrative and financial assistance.  “Three incubators have already been created under CERN’s aegis elsewhere in Europe: in the UK, the Netherlands and Norway," explains Giovanni Anelli, Head of CERN’s Knowledge Transfer Group. "For the Technoparc at Saint-Genis-Pouilly, the proximity of CERN will certainly help the process and increase the level of technical support that we are able to provide. I’m sure that we will have many proposals from entrepreneurs who would like to monetise CERN technologies.”

Many projects in the fields of education and training, the second theme of the partnership, have already emerged within local educational networks. The “Be a scientist” project, designed to improve understanding of the scientific process among pupils aged 9 to 12, will enter its fifth year in January, and continues to be a resounding success. More than 3000 schoolchildren from the Pays de Gex, the Haute-Savoie and the Canton of Geneva have taken part since 2011. Many other activities have been run in parallel, in particular lectures by Marie Curie Fellows for high school classes and other one-off collaborations connected with the schools’ own projects. “We hope to be able to ensure that these projects continue, as they have had a very positive impact for both the young people involved and for CERN,” explains François Briard, who has recently been made responsible for local communication at CERN. Under the partnership, visits to CERN by pupils of secondary schools in the Département de l’Ain and lectures by scientists in schools will be organised more systematically.

On the tourism side, the partnership makes provision for an increased exchange of information between CERN and local tourist organisations. With around 100,000 visitors per year, CERN has become one of the region’s unmissable tourist attractions. Collaborations are already in place, such as the 'Passport to the Big Bang' circuit or the opening of slots for tours of CERN organised by the Pays de Gex - La Faucille tourist office. But such collaborations could be further reinforced, for example through the involvement of other tourist organisation partners.

Everyone at CERN is very interested in the introduction of more effective public transport and in the development of green transport routes. The local authorities have complete jurisdiction in this respect, but CERN is able to support projects that improve mobility on the cross-border routes, which are becoming increasingly congested.

by Corinne Pralavorio