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Estonia to become associate member of CERN

CERN's famous Large Hadron Collider in Geneva.
CERN's famous Large Hadron Collider in Geneva. Source: CERN

Estonia is officially to become an associate member of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), a European research organization based in Geneva, Switzerland, which operates the largest particle physics laboratory in the world.

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) signed the agreement Friday, BNS reports.

Minister of Foreign Trade and IT Raul Siem (EKRE) said CERN cooperation will open  doors to Estonian businesses elsewhere in the world, will significantly strengthen the country's position in international tenders, and boost export capabilities. 

Siem also pointed to the seal of approval Estonian companies working with CERN would get.

"The CERN stamp of approval will definitely open doors for our businesses elsewhere in the world," Siem said, according to BNS.

Successful international tenders should in turn beget future tenders, Siem added.

Being a CERN associate member will also permit Estonian firms access to patents filed with CERN which previously had to be paid for.

Enterprise Estonia is the central contact point for Estonian businesses wanting to interact with CERN.

Tanel Rebane, director of the Trade Development Agency at Enterprise Estonia, said that the technologies and innovation developed under CERN cooperation projects are directly applicable in other fields, including industry.

"We can see that in the IT and electronics sectors, for instance, but also with businesses working on the basis of  new technologies and hi-tech more broadly, there is great potential," Rebane said, enumerating Estonian companies software company GScan, ultra-capacitors manufacturer Skeleton, Artec Design, chip-testing lab Testonica Lab, electronics firm Estel and Sillamäe-based rare-earth processor Silmet, as some of those that could potentially engage in cooperation with CERN in future.

Benefits of CERN associate membership

The prime minister added there are several companies in Estonia that are already collaborating with CERN or are interested in doing so, BNS reports.

"Estonia can share its experiences in building up a digital ecosystem, for instance, but also in the fields of interoperability of data systems and cybersecurity," Ratas said.

In addition, membership offers the opportunity for regular exchanges of teachers and students, and advanced training for teachers of the sciences, he noted.

Associate CERN membership is set to run from anything from two to five years as a prelude to full membership, after which a restriction forbidding income from CERN-related activities from exceeding membership contributions will be lifted, BNS reports.

Associate membership also brings voting rights on CERN's council.

The development is the culmination of a long period of CERN cooperation dating back to 1996; Estonia filed an application for membership in September 2018, which the government endorsed in February this year.

The agreement has to be ratified by the Riigikogu.

CERN currently has 23 member nations, two associate members in the pre-membership status, six associate members including Estonia, and six observer nations. 

CERN is also an official United Nations Observer.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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