Mining the Future


A Future Circular Collider to support the future circular economy

Experts from around the globe are working together in the Future Circular Collider Feasibility Study, which is committed to investigating the technical and financial viability of a potential future facility at CERN. The Study is supported by the EU-funded FCCIS project, and follows the recommendations of the 2020 update of the European Strategy for Particle Physics. A new generation of particle colliders would ensure a new and exciting era of exploration throughout the 21st Century.

The FCC study wants to couple scientific discovery with environmental sustainability. Building this collider and the infrastructure related to it would create about 9 million cubic metres of excavated materials, mainly molasse. The study does not want to treat this material as waste but as a resource.

That is why the FCC collaboration, CERN and Montanuniversität Leoben, with the support of the EU-funded H2020 FCCIS project, are launching the Mining the Future contest. This contest wants to identify sustainable reuse solutions for the excavated materials. It also hopes to draw a roadmap for wider applications beyond this specific project.

Take part and help create the technologies of the future all while supporting a more circular economy! The winner(s) of the competition will together receive support worth €40 000 for further R&D efforts and business planning.

A Circular Collider at the heart of Europe

The European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) is thinking long-term. Together with its international partners, CERN has started planning for an upgrade of its particle accelerator complex. One of the projects researching the next generation of particle accelerators is the Future Circular Collider project (FCC).

The FCC project envisages the construction of a new, 100 km long, quasi-circular particle collider. This collider and the associated research infrastructure would be located in the Geneva basin, straddling the France-Swiss border. It would be placed in a complex of tunnels, alcoves and caverns, between 200 and 300 meters underground.

This publicly funded research infrastructure project would be a European flagship project. It would increase cohesion between the participating countries and could serve a worldwide community of scientists until the end of the 21st century. It also aims at being an innovation factory in many domains.

Find out more on CERN’s FCC website

Food for the soil

Crops need water to grow. They can wait for rain, but it’s easier to steadily use up water that lingers in the soils. Fine-grained, porous excavated materials can be used to bind more water to the soil. So, ground-up molasse could offer the perfect drink for fruit, veg or cattle feed.

Food for the soil

The fast track towards circular economy

When densely compressed, fine-grained materials can be used to stabilise road- and railworks. This requires a lot of raw materials though, increasing the carbon footprint of mobility projects. Fortunately, powdered molasse might offer a more ecological reused alternative.

The fast track towards circular economy

Slow-burn architecture

In French-speaking Switzerland, molasse has long been used to decorate houses. With 9 million cubic metres of excavated materials, its architectural applications could be scaled up for more and larger buildings. Even more so, because molasse is fire-resistant and insulates against noise.

Slow-burn architecture

Concrete sustainability

With the right types of sand for concrete becoming scarce, construction companies are urgently looking for alternatives. The molasse that would be excavated could be reused as next-gen construction materials, even to build the Future Circular Collider’s tunnel complex!

Concrete sustainability

Who can apply?

The Mining the Future competition is open to all persons and organisations eligible to participate in Horizon 2020:

  • Individual persons
  • Non-profit, academic and higher education organisations
  • International European Interest Organisations (IEIOs)
  • For-profit organisations, including companies and consortia that have their corporate headquarters in EU or Horizon 2020 Associated Countries

Applicants should present a promising and credible solution for the reuse of excavated molasse materials. The proof-of-concept for the technology should already have been demonstrated in laboratory conditions (TRL3). The technology should credibly be on track to be turned into a product, service or industrial process by 2030 (TRL 9).

How to apply?

Applicants can submit one or more applications by 31 October 2021.

More information about eligibility, evaluation criteria and the contest proceedings is available in the competition guidelines.

Download the competition guidelines

Submit your application

How will winners be selected?

An international jury panel of 10 experts from the industry and academia will evaluate the proposals to select the most promising ones. The jury includes leaders in the fields of geology, subsurface engineering, materials science, innovation management and environmental management.

The jury will announce the selected proposal(s) in August 2022. If a winner is selected, they will be presented with their prize during an award ceremony in October 2022.

The winner(s) of the competition will receive support worth up to €40 000 for further R&D efforts and business planning.

The jury

Guillaume Attard
Jacques Burdin
Laetitia D’Aloia Schwartzentruber
Herbert H. Einstein
Robert Galler
Klaus Marhold
Manuela Rocca
Severin Seifert
Cédric Thalmann
Alexander Wyss

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