Concepts to simplify justification for decision makers and to optimize CERN’s fundraising process

25. Februar 2016

CERN - Wintersemester 2015/2016


Project partner

CERN is the European Organisation for Nuclear Research and leading in the field of particle physics. The organisation achieved numerous breakthroughs in scientific research since its founding in 1954 and in addition, new technologies have been developed that have been applied in various different fields.

To guarantee an independent scientific research, CERN is financed by public funds. Apart from the annual fees of the member countries, CERN needs additional resources for new projects. These projects last on average for ten years, because before scientific research can be done, the technology has to be developed first.

Picture: 201601_il_cern_01.png

Tasks and Target

CERN is facing the difficulty of convincing political decision makers for their projects, both in a rational and in an emotional way. These people have, however, a completely different knowledge about the scientific research than the scientists and engineers at CERN. As a consequence, CERN’s challenge is to illustrate the added value, which these planned projects could offer for the society, because in the beginning of a project it is not quite clear in which field of application this technology can be used in the future.
As a result, it was the team`s responsibility, in the context of the course InnoLab, to develop new concepts, which enable CERN to acquire public funds in an easier way, by portraying complex technologies like basic research easier and more exciting for decision makers.


For reaching the defined project target, the design thinking method was used. This process has six phases: understand, observe, define, ideate, prototype and test. These phases are not linear but influence each other during the whole process and can be repeated several times. Consequently, the team began with the understand phase to get a deep knowledge of CERN’s problem. After this phase, the group worked in the second phase, observe, but also repeated the first phase sometimes when there were for example understanding problems. This process continued during the whole project. Therefore, the phases cannot be regarded as separated, as they influenced each other massively.
Consequently, in the following weeks, different phases were at the agenda of the design thinking method. In the first two steps, "understand" and "observe" focused on gaining as much relevant information as possible. In detail, the plan was to

  • interview politicians and funding agencies about their decision-making process

  • observe existing ways to explain complex topics

  • understand the system of public funding

  • and interview political experts in order to understand how politicians think.

Moreover, the process can be divided in two major phases. The first one, which is called research phase, includes understand, observe and define. Its aim is to gain a deep knowledge of the target audience. Therefore, we conducted a large number of interviews with decision makers, but also with other people of several analogies of the target audience (e.g. top managers, doctors, lawyers, university professors, etc. ). Based on these results, we created out first key insights.

The second phase contains ideate, prototype and test. During this phase we created prototypes for the selected key insights and tested them repeatedly. After fifteen iteration loops, we improved the prototypes and came up with the final versions, which we presented CERN during the final presentation. (cp. figure)


The three final prototypes were:

  • Keynote: An annual presentation where expected breakthroughs and their impact on everyday life are being presented.

  • CERN Week:  It is meant like a travelling exhibition, showing people what CERN is researching and explaining its benefits.

  • Innovation Bang: An event taking place at the CERN headquarters, reminding possible cooperation partners and customers of the abilities of CERN and giving them the opportunity to join in a project

Cooperation Partner

  • European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN)
    Route de Meyrin 385
    1217 Meyrin

  • Switzerland Contact Person
    Dr. Heinz Pernegger

Student team

  • Stefan Fasching
    Fabian Keresztfalvi
    Philipp Larisch
    Magdalena Schiefer
    Sebastian Wimmer
    Martina Zodl


  • Dr. Steffen Keijl
    Mag. Nadine Moser

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