Northern Ireland firms urged to bid for work on Large Hadron Collider
The Large Hadron Collider could soon be an integral part of the Northern Ireland economy if businesses here take up the challenge of becoming suppliers to the organisation which runs the ground-breaking facility in Switzerland.
So keen is the Geneva-based European Organisation for Nuclear Research (Cern) to spend some of its £200m procurement budget here that a number of representatives visited Belfast yesterday.
They gave a seminar at Invest NI's headquarters alongside members of UK Trade and Investment to give 28 potential suppliers a rundown of how to apply for and win business from Cern.
It runs the 27km circular laboratory which houses the Large Hadron Collider which last year discovered the Higgs boson, the maker of mass considered one of the greatest discoveries of science in recent years.
While high-tech businesses are among the most likely to have products and services which fit with Cern's shopping list, there are also big opportunities for less obvious suppliers.
"The main purchasing areas are in advanced technology, electrical engineering, electronics, computer systems, vacuum and low temperature technology and particle detectors," Kevin McCann, Invest NI's Director of Advanced Engineering and Construction. "Contracts are also available in other fields such as mechanical structures and civil engineering, and all the services involved in running the 600-hectare site."
Enniskillen company Elite Electronics has been supplying Cern since 2009 with electronic units for use at the core of the particle accelerator.
Jonathan Balfour, director at Elite Electronics, said the deal has helped boost the business.
"Winning this contract recognised our expertise in the development and assembly of electronic systems and we have used this success as a platform to grow our business."
Stephen Myers, Director of Accelerators and Technology, Cern, said Elite Electronics was a good example which more Northern Ireland companies should follow
"The particle accelerator at Cern is one of the world's most advanced technology-driven programmes, which will run continuously until sufficient data has been accumulated.
"Companies like Elite Electronics have demonstrated they have the technological capability to win business against major international rivals in knowledge-led industries, and we are keen for more UK businesses to benefit."
Companies can play part solving mysteries of universe
What is the universe made of? How did it start? Physicists at CERN are seeking answers, using some of the world's most powerful particle accelerators.
At CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, physicists and engineers are probing the fundamental structure of the universe. They use the world's largest and most complex scientific instruments to study the basic constituents of matter – the fundamental particles.
The particles are made to collide together at close to the speed of light. The process gives the physicists clues about how the particles interact, and provides insights into the fundamental laws of nature.
The instruments used at CERN are purpose-built particle accelerators and detectors. Accelerators boost beams of particles to high energies before the beams are made to collide with each other or with stationary targets. Detectors observe and record the results of these collisions.
Founded in 1954, the CERN laboratory sits astride the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva. It was one of Europe's first joint ventures and now has 20 member states.
What should companies do if they want to become a CERN supplier?
The Science & Technology Facilities Council acts as the official industry liaison. Northern Ireland businesses can register at www.stfc.ac. uk/tenderopportunities and also directly with CERN's supplier database at www.procurement.web. cern.ch/register-for-our- suppliers-database.