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Dutch government embraces plans for Einstein Telescope in border region South-Limburg

The Dutch government intends to conditionally allocate 42 million euros from the Dutch National Growth Fund to the Einstein Telescope, and is also reserving 870 million euros for a future Dutch contribution to the construction. This decision was taken by the Dutch government based on the advice of the Advisory Committee of the National Growth Fund. With this decision, the Cabinet gives an enormous boost to Dutch science and to the broad development of the South Limburg border region.

The intended investment of 42 million euros will go towards preparatory work such as innovation of the necessary technology, location research, building up a high-tech ecosystem and organisation. With the reservation of the 870 million, the Netherlands has an excellent basis to apply in the future, together with Belgium and Germany, for the realisation of the Einstein Telescope in the border region of South Limburg.

The Cabinet however does ask for a further explanation of the valorisation strategy of the scientific project. The initiators are also asked to further elaborate the plan for monitoring and evaluation of the project. The partners involved will of course work to meet these conditions timely.

The proposal for granting money from the National Growth Fund to the Einstein Telescope was submitted on 31 October 2021 by the Minister of Education, Culture and Science (OCW), with the support of the colleague from Economic Affairs and Climate Policy (EZK).

National Institute for Subatomic Physics Nikhef, the Province of Limburg and regional development agency LIOF jointly drew up the growth fund proposal last year, supported by the Ministries of OCW and EZK. Nikhef director Stan Bentvelsen has been involved with the Einstein Telescope for years. He is delighted, but also sees that there is still a lot of work to be done: “It is fantastic that the cabinet embraces the ambition to make the Netherlands a world leader in research into gravity waves. These Growth Fund resources form the basis for further cooperation with our partners in Germany and Belgium and for research into the geological subsurface in the border region of South Limburg. A major project requires a careful process, and we are putting our heart and soul into it. I am confident that we will meet the additional conditions.”

Stephan Satijn, Provincial Executive member for Limburg, is very enthusiastic about the opportunities that the possible arrival of the Einstein Telescope offers for the Netherlands and Limburg.

“With today’s decision, the Cabinet places our country at the global forefront of high-tech and science. Limburg is the logical place to help shape this leading position. Not only because of the suitability of our soil for the Einstein Telescope, but also because we are accustomed like no other to working together internationally and to connecting science and business. I am pleased and proud that the government recognises the value of Limburg and is helping to increase it further with such a substantial investment. In addition to direct orders for companies, the Einstein Telescope gives Limburg and the Netherlands a unique lead in knowledge, expertise and innovative technologies that can be marketed by existing or new companies. This is essential for the economic development of the Netherlands in the medium and especially the long term.”

About the Einstein Telescope

The Einstein Telescope is a future underground observatory for measuring gravitational waves. Powerful laser beams will soon bounce between deep-cooled, vibration-free mirrors at the ends of kilometre-long vacuum tunnels. The instrument will be much more sensitive than existing detectors. As a result, it can detect many more sources and scan a volume of the universe thousand times larger. Researchers will use this instrument to look for instance for the precise structure of neutron stars, the birth process of black holes and the structure of the universe immediately after the Big Bang.

The border region of South Limburg – the Euregio Meuse-Rhine – is one of the possible locations for this observatory. Housing the Einstein Telescope in this region could have a major positive impact on science, the economy and society in the Netherlands. With the committed investments from the National Growth Fund, the Netherlands has the basis to join forces with Belgium and Germany to establish a strong candidacy in 2024/2025.

This is a joint press release of National Institute for Subatomic Physics Nikhef, Province of Limburg and regional development agency for Limburg LIOF.

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