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 signed the agreement on Friday.
Minister of Foreign Trade and IT Raul Siem said that 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.
Successful international tenders should in turn beget future tenders, Siem added.
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.
Associate CERN membership is set to run 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. 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.