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The entrepreneurial side of fundamental research

Spanish science student Alba Vico investigated the economic impact of the Einstein Telescope during her Bachelor’s at Maastricht University. When she asked us permission to use our video clips in her final presentation, we got to talking about the overlap between entrepreneurship and fundamental research.

Tell us a bit more about your bachelor thesis.

“During my science bachelor I have gotten interested in entrepreneurship. I had just completed the course on the commercialisation of science and wanted to study that in more detail. What kind of impact can fundamental science have? Can one field of science boost another? I approached Dr Jermain Kaminski at the School of Business and Economics and pitched the idea of studying how the Einstein Telescope can be a proving ground for the new field of quantum computing. A successful symbiosis could increase the economic impact of both fields.”

Alba Vico
Alba Vico
Why pick that combination?

“The Einstein Telescope will produce enormous amounts of data, and I had heard there is already a collaboration with IBM to investigate if quantum computers can handle that data more efficiently that existing supercomputers. Because quantum computing and gravitational wave research are both so new, there are only few examples of its possible economic impact. I couldn’t just do a historical analysis, which made it more interesting!”

How did you approach the research?

“On the one hand, I wanted to put numbers to how quantum computing can increase the economic impact of gravitational wave research. Right now there are only a handful of people studying this application; what if that became a large, dedicated laboratory? By using the Crunchbase database I could compare the economic performance of cities (as a proxy for the Einstein Telescope) with and without quantum research laboratories.

I also held interviews with seven experts to understand important aspects that you cannot easily catch in numbers. The big surprise for me was that all of the people I interviewed, from diverse backgrounds like science, regional development and high-tech, all identified the same important pillars for the Einstein Telescope: a top ecosystem of science, technology, industry and government working together.”

And what did you learn?

“My thesis hints that with a proper match of technologies, quantum computing and gravitational waves  can boost each other beyond what they can achieve alone. Of course I only studied how quantum computing could boost gravitational wave research, but this would also hold for other technologies like vibration dampening, cooling or lenses.”

Congratulations on completing your thesis and your Bachelor! What is next for you?

“I find myself getting more and more interested in the intersection of science and business, so I am looking into a master’s programme with a business orientation. I do not have a lot of background there yet, so I am looking into a year with internships. It will be exciting to find out where I can have the most impact myself!”

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