As explained by MagLab Director Gregory Boebinger
Oftentimes research gets divided into basic and applied research. It's not a clear-cut separation, but more basic research would be more explorations of how nature works without really knowing how we might be able to use that knowledge to our advantage. Early basic research in gravity that Einstein did, for example, nobody had any clue how that would be helpful sometime in the future. But now, in fact, it's being applied so that GPS satellites will work. Similarly, at the Magnet Lab, the basic research that we're doing here is seeking to understand how some new superconductors work – materials that conduct electricity without any heating, without any energy loss. Until we understand why they're superconducting, it's difficult for other researchers to come in and figure out how we can use that knowledge. So, applied research is often taking basic research and applying it to everyday problems that we'd like to solve.