Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The impact of CERN

The impact of CERN 

by Kozics György

It has been more almost 60 years since the foundation of CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research), and now we can ask the question: how much impact did it have on the economy of the Geneva region?

This summer, me and my friends spent one day in Geneva. While wandering the streets, suddenly a tram occurred with a label: „14 CERN”. While running after the tram to see the place where thousands of scientists work, one of my friend said: „Unbelievable, I thought the CERN is 10km from here!” When we arrived, we were surprised: after leaving the city and 10 minutes of traveling out of the city, we saw huge buildings, vast parking places and even a gas station.

CERN was founded in 1954 for the sole purpose of the studying and experimenting particle physics. Now, it employs 2,400 full-time employees, 1,500 part-time employees and over 10,000 visiting scientists, who visit the facility regularly. This article’s purpose is to study the impact of CERN and its huge number of researchers on the local economy.

First, let’s examine the direct impact of CERN. As it is quite far from Geneva, and Geneva being a very expensive city (4th most expensive city in the world in 2008), most of the 4000 employees doesn’t live in Geneva. Instead, they live in Meyrin, which is the closest village to the facility. Originally it was a small agricultural village, with a small population, but after the start of the construction, it grew rapidly, as seen on the chart below. 

What we see, is that the population of the village increased by 12,000, which is more than 600%, just because of the foundation of CERN. It means that the employees of CERN attracted very much people, who don’t work for the laboratory, but work in the manufacturing or the service sector. It is also obvious, that the 10.000 of visiting scientists attracted transportation companies. These people need a transportation system to be able to get to the facility, therefore the tram line 14 has been built. Probably not solely of the CERN, the Geneva Airport is the headquarters of number of airlines, and the airport started to construct a new terminal.

Now, we can examine the secondary effect of the foundation of CERN. More than 10,000 of physicists and engineers could attract other research laboratories or schools, and the facility is always in need of new equipment which can attract many different industries. While it is true that some electronic and telecommunication companies came to Geneva, and in 1970 a new industrial park appeared near CERN, we cannot say for sure, that they came because of it. Some may work for CERN, but they aren’t dedicated for it, and they also don’t work together with it.

The reason for the failure to attract other firms that can work for or work with the CERN is simple. It could be beneficial, if a factory that produces devices for CERN move close to it. However, the investment costs of it would be very high, and the firm couldn’t make enough profit compared to the costs, moreover CERN already has its supplier. The other reason is the following: working together with CERN has very low transport costs. Most of workers examine data, so it can be easily sent via internet, therefore someone who wants to work for CERN can do it anywhere in the world, if he has access to internet.

In conclusion, CERN attracted a lot of people and firms that serve the people who works there, but it didn’t attract similar companies as working together with CERN has very low transportation costs.


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