Working visit to Maastricht of the Parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia

Written by Martine

On Monday 3 August, representatives of the parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia came to Maastricht for a working visit. This Benelux group of the Landtag of North Rhine-Westphalia wanted to be informed about the Einstein Telescope. The Dutch Province of Limburg hosted the event, and Prof. Stefan Hild (Maastricht University and Nikhef) and Prof. Achim Stahl (RWTH Aachen) gave presentations and answered questions. The professors talked about the groundbreaking gravitational wave research, the major breakthroughs of recent years, and the steps that have been taken to realize the Einstein Telescope.

ESFRI roadmap and candidacy

The border area of Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands (Euregio Meuse-Rhine) is one of the two possible locations for the underground gravitational wave detector. In the coming months, European countries will decide on a proposal to include the Einstein Telescope in the ESFRI roadmap of 2021. This is a European roadmap for large research infrastructures. If the Einstein Telescope is included in this roadmap, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands will have to decide whether they will apply to house the infrastructure. The choice of location will be made around 2024.

In the meantime, the Euregio Meuse-Rhine and the Benelux Parliament have asked the national governments to support both the application for the ESFRI roadmap and the candidacy of the region. The Province of Limburg and North Rhine-Westphalia support the research institutes. The Euregio is now also fully engaged in the steps towards a candidacy. Since 2016, 40 million euro has already been invested in Euregional research projects and research capacities.

From subsurface studies and economic impact to ETpathfinder

The parliamentarians were given a diverse programme on 3 August, so that they could learn about all the topics related to the Einstein Telescope. One of the topics was geology. The underground Einstein Telescope requires special conditions of the subsurface. In 2019 it turned out that the soil of the Euregio Meuse-Rhine is quiet enough for the Einstein Telescope. In the coming years the subsurface of the region will be further mapped. The E-TEST project will be carrying out part of these studies. Geological information is an important basis for a candidature.

The economic impact of the Einstein Telescope was also discussed. It is expected that every euro invested will generate 3.6 euro of total output. The estimated overall employment effect during the construction phase is about 34,000 person-years.

An economic impact study shows that the expected economic effects of Einstein Telescope in the Euregio are large. For example, it will create 500 direct jobs and 1150 indirect jobs. The study compared the Einstein Telescope with other research infrastructures, including CERN. This gives a good picture of innovative clusters, high-tech industry and economic growth generated around scientific infrastructures. Key technologies, the innovation potential of the Einstein Telescope and the strength of high-tech industry in Belgium, the Netherlands and North Rhine-Westphalia were also discussed.

Finally, parliamentarians visited the location where the ETpathfinder is now being built. In this R&D lab for gravitational wave detectors, research institutes and companies will jointly tackle technological challenges in the coming years.

Game changer for the region

During his explanation Professor Hild indicated that the Einstein Telescope is a ‘game changer’ for the region. It is a unique opportunity for a long-term investment that establishes the area as a cross-border research and innovation region. There is already a great deal of interest from companies to work together, including in the ongoing research projects E-TEST and ETpathfinder. Research institutes and companies are also jointly preparing a project application for the next Interreg-EMR call. This will support the €20 million in innovative orders resulting from the E-TEST and ETpathfinder projects. The proposed project would improve the ability of companies in the Euregio to compete for these orders.

A recurring theme during the working visit was programmes for innovation and economic growth. These are intended to boost economic growth in Europe in the future, and may also offer opportunities for the Einstein Telescope. Attendees also considered the national and federal procedures that play a role when considering an application.