Pure research has always been a rich source of new ideas. From Alessandro Volta's early experiments with electricity 200 years ago to the World Wide Web, many of the technologies we now take for granted had their origins in basic science. In the past, such discoveries made their way from laboratories to the wider world largely of their own accord. But as the pace of progress increases, new technologies may need a helping hand. That's why from 2000, CERN will have a new division to ease the transition of ideas from the Laboratory to industry, to the general public, and eventually into our everyday lives in the form of new technologies.
The Education and Technology Transfer (ETT) Division is the result of a new pro-active policy within CERN towards knowledge transfer. It will incorporate the Laboratory's existing public relations groups and strengthen the Industry and Technology Liaison Office (ITLO) first set up in 1987. The new ITLO will monitor technological developments at CERN and make information about the latest advances available through the World Wide Web. It will actively foster particularly promising ideas and take a pro-active stance on intellectual property issues and technology licensing. And by following the careers of young engineers and Ph.D. students taken on by industry after leaving the Laboratory, it will ensure that CERN's long tradition of transferring expertise to industry through people continues to grow.
Fledgling technologies currently being developed at CERN and with other organizations have potential applications ranging from medicine to multimedia. In the Compton Camera and MEDIPIX projects, for example, CERN is working with universities and institutions around the world to develop better medical imaging devices than are currently available.
These projects are building on technologies first developed at CERN for imaging fundamental particles. Still in the medical arena, the linac booster (LIBO) project is developing particle accelerator technology to the level needed for cancer therapy of deep-seated tumours using protons. The technology for such therapy is just coming to fruition, but the idea itself is not new - that came from Robert Wilson, an American particle physicist, in 1946. In the domain of computer science, CERN is a step or two ahead of the rest of the world in its need for distributed data management to handle information about all the components for the LHC and its detectors, but CERN will not be the only place where such systems are needed. The CRISTAL project is developing these technologies in collaboration with research institutes, telecommunications and aerospace industries around the world. And in the apparently esoteric field of ultra-high vacuum, advances made in preparation for the LHC might not only help accelerator builders, but could also provide the television and computer screens of the future. At least one emerging flat-screen technology - the field-emission display - also requires ultra-high vacuum.
CERN's basic mission remains fundamental research. But the tools it uses, particle accelerators and detectors, push technology to its limits and beyond. The World Wide Web, medical applications and advanced informatics techniques are just a few of the many recent spin-offs from fundamental research at CERN. CERN's new ETT Division will help ensure that there are many more to follow.