Research and industry unite at 2022 CERN openlab Technical Workshop

CERN openlab brings together IT experts from research and industry to address the computing challenges posed by the LHC’s ambitious upgrade programme.

Over 200 people attended the 2022 CERN openlab Technical Workshop. The event was run online over three days, from 21 to 23 March. It saw leading computing experts from research and industry come together to discuss the work carried out through 32 joint R&D projects spread across CERN.

CERN openlab is a unique public-private partnership, through which CERN collaborates with leading technology companies. For 20 years, this partnership has been working to accelerate innovation in the computing technologies required by the LHC research community. Today, there are over 20 companies and research organisations working together in CERN openlab. Industry members include Intel, Oracle, Siemens, Micron and Google.

At the 2022 CERN openlab Technical Workshop, project teams shared their progress and discussed upcoming IT challenges related to the LHC’s ambitious upgrade programme. “Through CERN openlab, we are working with industry leaders to tackle tomorrow’s IT challenges today,” says Enrica Porcari, head of the CERN IT Department. “These challenges are relevant to a growing range of scientific fields, as well as wider society. Through collaboration with CERN’s Knowledge Transfer Group and dedicated R&D projects focused on sharing knowledge and tools with other communities, CERN openlab plays an important role in contributing to CERN’s positive impact on society.”

Exascale, AI, quantum computing and more

A particular highlight from the first day of the workshop, dedicated to exascale computing technologies, was the opening technical presentation, which focused on the Allen project. This project has developed a new, more efficient system that sees the first level of the LHCb experiment’s data-filtering ‘trigger’ system move to running on graphical processing units (GPUs), rather than general-purpose central processing units (CPUs).

The second day of the workshop focused on two separate topics: AI and collaborations with research beyond particle physics. The presentations on AI picked up on discussions from the first day about the cutting-edge computing resources that are unlocking new possibilities for approaches such as machine- and deep-learning. Several exciting projects were showcased, demonstrating innovations that can help to handle the increasing volumes — and complexity — of data from the experiments at CERN. The session on collaborations with research beyond particle physics featured a diverse range of projects, addressing issues from quantum encryption to biological simulation and from health data to climate modelling. Highlights included a presentation from CERN’s Knowledge Transfer Group and a presentation on a CERN openlab project with UNOSAT, outlining efforts to employ machine-learning techniques to improve the satellite imagery used to support humanitarian interventions by UN agencies.

The third day of the workshop focused on quantum technologies. Alberto Di Meglio, the head of CERN openlab, opened the session with a presentation on the CERN Quantum Technology Initiative (QTI). This exciting new venture published its first strategic roadmap in October 2021, outlining its medium- and long-term quantum research programme. CERN openlab contributes to CERN QTI, also led by Di Meglio, through many collaborative R&D projects related to either quantum computing or quantum communications and networks. Ten of these were presented at the workshop.  

Working together to tackle tomorrow’s IT challenges today

During 2022, the CERN openlab team will carry out work to strengthen existing collaborations with industry, finalising plans for a range of exciting R&D projects, as well as establishing new collaborations to address emerging IT challenges.

“CERN openlab has built deep connections between members of CERN’s research community and the R&D teams at the leading technology companies participating in this partnership. It is testament to the strength of these connections that we have been able to both grow our collaborations and make important technical progress on projects over the last two years when in-person interaction has been severely limited,” says Maria Girone, CERN openlab CTO.

“We are now looking forward to resuming face-to-face meetings with our collaborators and to welcoming the 2022 cohort of CERN openlab Summer Students to the CERN site in July.”


-- Andrew Purcell