In a weekly column, alternately written by Lucien Engelen, Maarten Steinbuch, Carlo van de Weijer, Daan Kersten and Tessie Hartjes, E52 tries to find out what the future will look like. All five contributors are all working on technologies that can provide solutions to the problems of our time. This Sunday, it‘s Maarten Steinbuch’s turn.
It is 1990: I have been working at the Philips Natlab (Research) for a few years, together with 3000 other very smart colleagues on the site in Eindhoven-South. When I was hired, I was told that 80% of us move to the businesses of Philips after 5 years and that if I would have 100 ideas and one of them would become a success, I would be called a successful researcher. The old idea of Prof. Holst, the founder of the NatLab, to place every new employee in another disciplinary group, is no longer implemented, but all doors between de groups are fully open. The Philips feeling is strong: we buy everything in the Philips store, and even in the entire family, buying Japanese electronics is not done!
Challenge-based research: formulating real problems as a big difficult challenge and solving them in teams,
It is 2000: I have just switched to the TU Eindhoven. It is great to work with all those young people every day, in education and research! And the freedom is lovely! Setting out my own research for the future. I realize only now that at Philips I have learned to solve real problems: we see a nail and we look for the right hammer. Here at the University, this works differently: we develop theory and methods and then look for practical applications. We have a lot of hammers here and we are looking for the right nails for it. Also fascinating to see! By the way: I do miss the TU/e feeling! It could perhaps help to see us on the national news more often.
It is 2010: in my group at the TU/e, there are now working 15 employees of DAF and its suppliers. Together with our researchers, they are designing the first hybrid electric truck! During the crisis of 2008, we buckled down together to retain the knowledge workers: the knowledge workers’ arrangement. We’re also running big projects with Oce and ASML. Two senior employees of DAF and Oce have decided to stay in my research group one day a week, paid by their employer. The interaction with our research and our students remains optimal this way, and we are learning what the real problems in practice are! Also since a few years, we compete in the world top with our soccer playing robots, and we are clearly more visible at the Dutch national television.
It is 2020: the Eindhoven Engine is operational at our campus now since two years: a collaboration between the knowledge institutions in our region and the industry. We are doing challenge-based research here: formulating real problems as a big difficult challenge and solving them in teams. Also, often with a temporary residence of employees of the companies. We are working a lot with (inter)national PDEng (2nd year) and PhD (4th year) students, and including our numerous student teams. It is a vibrant breeding ground, with research-hackathons, in the middle of the greater-Eindhoven ecosystem. Connected by electric autonomous shared cars with the High Tech Campus, the Brainport Industries Campus, the Automotive Campus, the Design Hotspot at Strijp S, with a high-speed connection to Eindhoven International Airport. We showcase a new era with new forms of co-operation, a 4th generation University and at the same time it is like before: buckle down together again!
Picture: Ed van der Elsken, NatLab 1984, Collection Philips