EU commissioner Frans Timmermans visits ETpathfinder in Maastricht

10 March 2023

Limburg and the Euregion have gold in their hands with the Einstein Telescope. This was said by EU Commissioner Frans Timmermans on Friday during a working visit to the ET Pathfinder in Maastricht.

Timmermans: ‘The facilities and environment for scientists are in excellent order here and the infrastructure is good. I am very impressed with the Einstein Telescope and will support from Europe this region that has gold in its hands. There is worldwide demand for this technology. Even the ET Pathfinder is already a unique piece of science worldwide.

With that statement, European Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans concluded his visit to the Einstein Telescope ET Pathfinder test site and the Einstein Telescope project office on Friday, March 10. Frans Timmermans was among the guests in Maastricht at the invitation of the Dutch Province of Limburg. Here he was updated on the status and planning of the telescope and guests were given an explanation about the ET Pathfinder.


Director Guido Derks of the Dutch project office for Einstein Telescope used the map of the Meuse-Rhine Euroregion to show the extent to which this is an international, cross-border initiative, where Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany must jointly come up with a convincing bid book. He also indicated that the Einstein Telescope is not only of great scientific value, but also provides prospects for future generations in economic and social terms. In addition, he said he hopes that even more European countries will join the Einstein Telescope initiative. Any attention to this from the European Commission can help, Frans Timmermans was told.


Stefan Hild, professor of experimental physics at Maastricht University and Nikhef and project leader of the ET Pathfinder, spoke about the “magic” of gravitational wave research and its importance for science. He outlined how the research work for the ET Pathfinder test stand is laying a solid foundation for the Einstein Telescope. Meanwhile, 25 universities from 7 countries are collaborating within the ET Pathfinder. There is also considerable interest from Japan and the United States.

Doctoral student Zeb van Ranst illustrated with examples that the Einstein Telescope will yield new technologies in the future that can also be used outside the scientific field.

Mementos from the soil

Frans Timmermans, who hails from Heerlen in southern Limburg, was given an original memento to take back to Brussels when he bid farewell to Governor Emile Roemer of the Dutch Province of Limburg: a bell jar containing a cross-section of the soil structure in this region. Geologist Bjorn Vink, who works from Nikhef for the Einstein Telescope project office, had assembled this regional “cocktail” of soil samples, taken from previous drilling at Terziet and Cottessen to a depth of 251 meters.


Later in the day, a Flemish delegation was the guest of the Einstein Telescope project office. At the invitation of Dutch deputy Stephan Satijn, Belgian-Limburg governor Jos Lantmeesters and Flemish Brabant deputy Ann Schevenels, among others, had come to Maastricht. Again, director Guido Derks explained the cross-border cooperation, which is the basis for presenting a strong bid book in a few years. He mentioned the economic and societal opportunities created by the arrival of the Einstein Telescope. University lecturer Gideon Koekoek of Maastricht University took the company into that magical world of scientific opportunities and challenges.