Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD has today secured Government approval to submit Ireland’s formal application to join the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) as an Associate Member.

CERN is one of the world’s largest and most respected centres for scientific research.

Speaking at Government Buildings today, Minister Harris said:

This is a development that has been, for decades, eagerly awaited by our Academic community and I would like to thank them for their assistance in bringing us to this milestone in Irish science and in preparing Ireland’s formal application.

I am so pleased we have reached this milestone moment. CERN will consider the application in mid-December. I really want to thank my Department officials for all of their work. We are on the cusp of something significant.

Membership of CERN can be expected to bring benefits to Ireland across research, industry, skills, science outreach, and international relations.

It will open doors for Ireland’s researchers to participate in CERN’s scientific programmes and will make Irish citizens eligible for staff positions and fellowships at CERN.

With CERN membership, Irish citizens will gain access to CERN’s formal training schemes.

These include masters and PhD programmes, apprenticeships, a graduate engineering training scheme, internships for computer scientists and engineers, and technical training experience.

These skills will be developed far beyond what is possible in Ireland and are in industry-relevant areas such as electronics, photonics, materials, energy systems and software.

Membership will also allow Ireland’s enterprises to compete in CERN procurement programmes.

Much of CERN’s instrumentation and equipment requires the development or exploitation of novel technologies, which spurs enterprise innovation.

Many of these technologies have applications in other spheres such as medicine, space, energy and ICT.

The Minister said:

My Department will continue to work closely with CERN, in order to expedite the application process and we hope that Ireland’s membership can commence in late 2024. We will continue to work with the academic community to make the necessary preparations for the Irish researchers to participate effectively at CERN from day one of Irish membership.

It is hoped that CERN Council may be in a position to agree this December to send a fact-finding Task Force to Ireland in March 2024 to carry out their formal assessment.

The Department will then formally establish the National Advisory Committee on CERN to prepare for membership and to coordinate with CERN’s fact-finding Task Force.

The Task Force will submit a report on Ireland’s suitability for Associate Membership to the Director-General and the President of the CERN Council. In June 2024, the CERN Council may take a final vote on whether to admit Ireland as an Associate Member.


About CERN

CERN is an intergovernmental organisation that operates the largest particle physics laboratory in the world.

CERN is the leading global collaboration investigating the fundamental composition of matter.

It was established in 1954 and straddles the Franco-Swiss border, just outside Geneva.

CERN currently has 23 Member States (including most of the EU Member States) and has co-operation agreements with over 40 other states.

The main focus of activity in CERN is the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

This is an underground ring which is 27km in circumference in which protons, one of the constituent particles of an atom, are accelerated to 99.9999991% of the speed of light and collided into one another.

The Large Hadron Collider was used to discover the Higgs boson in 2012.

CERN also plays a leading role in promoting and organising international cooperation in scientific research.

The CERN Convention specifically stipulates that CERN “shall have no concern with work for military requirements and the results of its experimental and theoretical work shall be published or otherwise made generally available.”

CERN has, from its establishment, been prohibited from any involvement in the development of nuclear weapons and has a long-established history of non-proliferation.

The practical scientific outcomes of CERN research are focused on the development of revolutionary healthcare advances (new cancer treatments) and other new technologies.

The expected financial commitment is circa EUR 1.9 million per annum, for an initial period of 5 years. After five years both Ireland and CERN will work together to consider the best membership options for Ireland.

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