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Flemish Minister for Innovation Jo Brouns visits our VUB Photonics Campus


Flemish Minister Jo Brouns has visited the VUB research infrastructure at our Photonics Campus in Gooik. The Minister came to take a look at the pilot line for extreme optics in the framework of the Einstein Telescope, a groundbreaking research and innovation project funded by the Flemish government.

Flemish Minister for Economy, Innovation, Work, Social economy and Agriculture Jo Brouns paid a visit to the VUB Photonics Campus in Gooik. In light of the recovery plan 'Vlaamse Veerkracht' (€5M), the Minister discovered the innovation opportunities with photonics at research group B-PHOT Brussels Photonics.

"We're here to prepare the enormous project of the Einstein Telescope, a gravitational wave detector of an unseen scale", Minister Brouns said. "We want to win the race to bring this groundbreaking and innovative European initiative to Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. It's a scientific institute I would like to compare to CERN. There will be a lot of scientific research, which leads to concrete innovations that will improve daily life."

Minister Jo Brouns visits the VUB Photonics Campus together with vice-rector Hugo Thienpont and mayor of Gooik Simon De Boeck.

Stretch the limits

At the Photonics Campus, a team is doing research on silicium mirrors used for the optical detection of gravitational waves. VUB collaborates with research institutions from Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany in Maastricht, where the ETpathfinder is being built as a prototype for the eventual real telescope. The goal is to convince Europe by 2025 to pick Flanders and the border region as the ideal location.

"The ETpathfinders is a testing environment for new technologies", says VUB vice-rector Innovation and Research Director of B-PHOT Hugo Thienpont. "That's also the goal for the final version of the Einstein Telescope. We need to stretch the limits of existing technologies far beyond what's possible today. The super-polished mirrors are a great example. They must reach a certain sensitivity but on a huge scale. Those challenges also require a big cost of investment. We're very grateful for the support of the Flemish government and Minister Brouns. It also means a boost for Flanders in terms of innovation, job opportunities, a stronger knowledge economy and STEAM education."

Minister Brouns also expressed his admiration for the story of VUB in Gooik. "At B-PHOT, we also have a lot of other projects besides the Einstein Telescope, of course", says Thienpont. "Photonics can play a big role in agriculture, think of innovations in food safety, sorting machines, quality and ripeness control and in the packaging industry. But also in other domains, light technology is an innovator: smart lighting or "LiFi", glass fiber network for your internet at home or sensors in smartphones to help it recognise your face. We're even looking into fibers to monitor the strength of bridges or aeroplanes."

"The Minister also appreciated our efforts for young people in STEM. The connection between science, innovation and agriculture means a lot to him. We need to invent the scientists of tomorrow today. The launch of the very first STEAM Academy in Belgium fits perfectly in that strategy!"

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