The story of CECAM

The Centre Européen de Calcul Atomique et Moléculaire, is the longest standing European Institute for the promotion of fundamental research on advanced computational methods and their application to problems in frontier areas of science and technology.

Once upon a time…

Activities to create CECAM begun in 1967, but its date of birth was set to October 1969 by its founding father, Carl Moser. CECAM originated from the intuition that – spurred by the growing power of computers – numerical methods were destined to play an increasingly important role in science. It was, from the very beginning, founded on the belief that international cooperation, involving academic and funding institutions across Europe, was essential for success. The Center established its key role in Europe and the world combining two critical ingredients: creating a venue for open discussion focused on open challenges and providing the practical tools to turn theory into results. These ingredients took shape in the CECAM workshops and in the easy access to considerable computational power at CIRCE, its first location. The workshops, in particular, rapidly came to be regarded as the distinguishing unique feature of CECAM. In the words of Moser, they consisted in “[…] getting together a small number of scientists (the optimum number will depend on the subject matter) who are willing to work together for several weeks on a central theme though each one should be encouraged to try out his ideas”.

Embodying and enriching this tradition for fifty years, CECAM has marked the professional life of many of us. It has adapted to the changing times, without giving up the spirit of the early years; it has continuously sustained international and interdisciplinary collaboration among three generations of researchers, training them via schools and fostering advancement and collaboration via workshops. CECAM was instrumental in establishing simulation as a new way of doing science and, by embedding researchers in a broad, open and interdisciplinary environment at the leading edge of the field, has created a uniquely strong sense of community that transcends specific research areas. In this way, CECAM has been the catalyst that has put Europe at the forefront of many areas of particle-based simulations: almost all the leaders in the field have, over the years, been strongly involved in its activities and many have taken leadership roles in it. The interest and commitment of the community have turned even crises into opportunities: the two “CECAM migrations” – from Orsay to Lyon and from Lyon to Lausanne – may have originated from local difficulties but became opportunities to reaffirm the value of CECAM and to develop it as a fully European organization.


CECAM has now evolved from a single focal point for simulation and modelling into a network of 17 trans-European nodes plus one node in Israel, with its headquarters (HQ) at EPF-Lausanne (EPFL). It is governed by a convention signed by 25 member organizations located in 14 countries, which include National Research Councils, Research and HPC Centres, and Universities, from which it receives funding for ordinary activities. The CECAM nodes are, for the most part, consortia of more than one institution, constituting a network of excellence of academic and research partners located in 10 European countries and Israel. The network embraces essentially all relevant research groups in computational modelling in Europe, and the nodes are embedded in most of the relevant European research institutions. Every year, about 2500 scientist at different stages of their careers participate in our rich and diverse program of events, sharing their knowledge, learning and developing new ideas.


CECAM is committed to keep playing a central, internationally recognized, role in simulation and modelling. The scientific excellence of the meetings hosted in our network, the informal, open and careful discussions focused on new ideas and unsolved questions, and the commitment to training in schools where young practitioners can meet and interact with leading experts in the field are the trademarks upon which our service is founded.

We hope that, with the support of scientists in Europe and around the world, CECAM will keep growing younger and continue to indicate interesting directions in the field, inspire new activities and stimulate productive collaborations. Together, we shall endeavor to fulfill and enrich CECAM’s mission and ensure that our Centre Européen de Calcul Atomique et Moléculaire continues to live long and prosper.