Institute of Physics (IOP)together with higher education institutions, academics and students across Ireland called on the government to join the CERNEuropean Organization for Nuclear Research, as an associate member.
The IOP estimates that membership will cost €1.46 million, or 10% of the cost of a full membership, and will demonstrate a clear commitment to research and development.
Members of the IOP, the largest physics professional body in Ireland and the UK, and scientists met with senators on Wednesday to lay out the reasons why Ireland has joined CERN, home to the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s most powerful particle accelerator.
Senator Regina Dohertythe leader of Seanad, and a number of senators, including Malcolm Byrne as well as Jerry Buttimersupported the call and the high house of government will discuss how to promote Irish membership.
The briefing with senators took place after the minister of higher education Simon Harris reported that the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science is preparing a submission to the government regarding Ireland’s accession to CERN.
The IOP said associate membership would have significant benefits for Ireland in terms of investment in infrastructure, science, education and training, and technology, as well as increased employment opportunities.
Lee Reynolds, head of the Ireland and Northern Ireland IOP at the Institute of Physics, said: “The urgency to join CERN is clear; Ireland is currently one of three EU countries with no relationship with CERN, along with Malta and Luxembourg.
“This means that Irish researchers who want to take advantage of opportunities rely on their relationships with overseas universities to access research projects.
“This means that once innovations are introduced and projects are completed, Irish researchers cannot reap the full benefits. Equally, Irish companies are prohibited from bidding on a wide range of high value contracts.”
Irish companies can apply for CERN contracts. Irish companies are currently only able to apply for contracts that cannot be obtained in a CERN member country and have only awarded one contract to date.
Irish citizens were also able to apply for jobs at CERN, creating significant international employment opportunities for Irish citizens working in physics, engineering, law, accounting and management.
Irish scientists can also apply for CERN research projects, potentially creating a huge investment for Irish scientists and showcasing Irish expertise in education, and Irish students of all levels can apply for CERN study programmes.
The IOP stated that membership would place Ireland at the forefront of advancing technology and research.
“Joining CERN will create employment and employment opportunities, ensure that Irish companies operating in these fields thrive, and create additional international opportunities for our students,” Reynolds added.
“Furthermore, it will clearly demonstrate Ireland’s commitment to research and development and will significantly strengthen the Irish research base through access to a global scientific infrastructure.
“It will also facilitate cross-border research with researchers in Northern Ireland who currently benefit from the UK’s full membership of CERN.”
Associate membership at CERN was recommended by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Business, Entrepreneurship and Innovation in 2019 and as part of the government’s “Innovation 2020” strategy.
Photo: CERN Research Linear Electron Accelerator (CLEAR) Lab coordinator Roberto Corsini points to the 40-meter linear particle accelerator at CERN in Geneva last month. (Photo: ELODIE LE MAU/AFP via Getty Images)
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