A conversation with Giuseppe Iacobucci on innovation and interactivity
Magic happens in the kitchen for Giuseppe Iacobucci when students from the Challenge-Based Innovation Programme rub off their energy and vision to the CERN users and help them in the "ideation phase" of new projects. According to him, witnessing large groups of interdisciplinary master students solving enormous innovation challenges is unusual, refreshing, and can bring great potential for innovation for scientists.
"If you think about it, both students and the CERN users have a common interest: the search for innovation."
Giuseppe Iacobucci is currently working on the Thin Time-Of-Flight PET project, an experiment whose aim is to develop new technology to generate high-resolution positron emission tomographies. He has used IdeaSquare's lab to test beams, repair minor parts of their scanner, and solve mechanical challenges. Having worked more than thirty years at CERN now, he is a good connoisseur of the place and knowledgeably says that IdeaSquare is a unique place within CERN. "It's a place that inspires you to think and interact."
According to Giuseppe, CERN was an innovative institution in the 50s and 60s, "with the electronics sector evolving, the many physics achievements, the many Nobel prizes earned, etc.” What's currently developing really fast, he says, is “the tech industry” —that is, high-end electronics, silicon chips, etc. "Maybe the time has come for CERN to focus on innovation through connection with other fields", he declares. That's where he believes IdeaSquare jumps in “with all its fresh minds and out-of-the-box ideas”.
Iacobucci trusts that IdeaSquare has the infrastructure and capabilities to act as a meeting hub between CERN's technical staff and their youngest, innovation-driven students. He sees that combining the CERN's long-acquired Know-How with the students' new views could be "explosive". He goes as far as saying that, if we encouraged interactions between students and long-time experts, they could both more easily devise innovative joint solutions to tackle some of the CERN's most pressing technological and scientific needs.
"I'm sure that, by working together, scientists and students could very well address the current big IT challenges in the industry. I believe this would be a strong catalyzer for generating new physics-related research at CERN."
The focus here is not market-ready technologies; though. "For that, we have CERN’s Knowledge Transfer group, which deals with well-defined ideas that need grant or support". For Iacobucci, the missing link at CERN is the "place and platforms to find early-stage support to develop new ideas", that is, projects that are still sitting in the "before" phase. "We need to find a place where CERN staff can propose extraordinary plans, develop innovative ideas, and maybe even patent them, and this could be IdeaSquare", he concludes.
"If IdeaSquare develops a strong programme for the early-stage ideation, I believe it would become the perfect hub on which to build this kind of innovation at CERN."
Giuseppe Iacobucciis aNuclear and CorpuscularPhysicist who has been collaborating with CERN for more than 30 years. Also a professor at the University of Geneva, he has dedicated his life to leading and participating in multiple CERN projects such as ATLAS, ISOLDE and FASER. He is currently working on Thin Time-Of-Flight PET project, a GRADE experiment which aims to develop a pre-clinical TOF-PET scanner with very precise 3D spatial reconstruction for ultimate use in a Magnetic Resonance Image (MRI) scanner for medical applications.