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50 years ILL

The ILL was founded on 19 January 1967. Its high-flux reactor started delivering neutrons for science in 1972 and since then is the major steady state neutron source in the world.

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What is the ILL?

Fifty years of the ILL

The ILL was founded on 19 January 1967, with the signing of an agreement between the governments of the French Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany.


It was therefore in 2017, 50 years later, and day for day, that the ILL celebrated its half-centenary, with festivities at the World Trade Centre in Grenoble in the presence of Mr Thierry Mandon, French Secretary of State for Higher Education and Research, Mr Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut, German Ambassador to France, the Rt Hon Lord Llewellyn, British Ambassador to France, and prominent personalities from the world of European research. Whilst marked by the formality of the occasion, the ceremony was also a lively reunion, with some 600 participants attending. A great many of ILL’s current workforce were present, as well as many of those, now retired, who have made essential contributions over the past fifty years to the Institute’s success.

ILL has maintained its world-leading position over its 50 years of activity, and its international renown has infused teaching and research at local, national and European level. It has persisted, with astonishing regularity, to produce scientific results of the highest calibre. For Beatrix Vierkorn-Rudolph, Director of Large Research Infrastructures and Fundamental Research in Germany’s Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), “The ILL is an acknowledged leader in neutron research. Its most powerful neutron source benefits researchers from many scientific disciplines”. Indeed, the Institute has long set the standards for other neutron sources and will continue to provide unrivalled service to European science far into the future.

The ILL was one of the first research facilities in the world to assume the innovative status of “service institute”, a model which has since been adopted by countless laboratories around the globe. Thierry Mandon, France’s Secretary of State for research highlighted the quality and diversity of the services offered by ILL to its visiting scientists. “It is primordial that the ILL continue to be supported, and France will be playing its part to the full.”

The ILL remains a pioneer at heart, a melting pot for research, a centre where scientists from around the world develop their intuitions and share their findings. This was recognised by the UK’s Ambassador to France, the Rt Hon Lord Llewellyn - “Science is at his best when it is most collaborative: the bigger the science, the bigger the collaboration. And the ILL, we can all agree, is a fantastic example of that.”

With a workforce of some 30 different nationalities, the ILL can boast a long and particularly rich history of cross-cultural cooperation. Its success bears witness to European intellect and creativity, a symbol of the progress made in Europe over recent decades for the benefit of all.

L'ILL,c'est l'Europe qui marche !