A multimillion-pound bid to discover the secrets of our universe could provide a trade boost for Northern Ireland, it was revealed today.
Scientists in Switzerland are searching for a particle which could explain why matter has mass using a massive underground testing circuit called a Large Hadron Collider (LHC).
With millions of pounds spent on energy, research and equipment by the international team at Cern (European Organisation for Nuclear Research), Invest NI wants local electronics companies to win some of the work.
Belfast-born Steve Myers is a senior member at the centre near Geneva.
"There could be commercial benefits through procurement contracts from Cern carried out by Northern Ireland industry," he said.
"Physics under and post-graduates could also be involved and there is potential for joint collaboration on hi-tech projects between Northern Ireland universities like Queen's University Belfast and Cern."
Mr Myers was in Belfast this week for talks with Invest NI.
Terry Reilly, from Invest, said: "Cern is a potential purchaser of electronics products and services. When we got this offer from Steve it seemed like an opportunity whereby some of our companies might get involved.
"Between the next 6-12 months it is an opportunity and it is good to exploit all the opportunities that come to you, particularly in today's economic cycle."
Scientists are attempting to discover the elusive Higgs boson, or "God particle".
The particle, whose existence has been predicted by theoreticians, would help to explain why matter has mass.
Researchers hope to see evidence of the Higgs by colliding sub-atomic matter at very high speeds. If it exists, the Higgs should emerge from the debris.
The LHC has been out of action since last September when an accident damaged some of the magnets that make up its giant colliding ring. It could be next year before it is operating a full capacity again.
The problem arose after a joint in the system was not soldered properly and some of the equipment was damaged. Experts are checking the remaining connections for faults. It takes two months to heat and cool the area before work can be carried out.