Author profile picture

In a weekly column, alternately written by Lucien Engelen, Mary Fiers, Maarten Steinbuch, Carlo van de Weijer, and Tessie Hartjes, E52 tries to find out what the future will look like. All five contributors – sometimes accompanied by guest bloggers – are working on solving the problems of our time. Everything to make Tomorrow Good. This Sunday, it‘s Maarten Steinbuch’s turn. Here are all the previously published columns.

It was the warmest new year’s eve in years. On average, the earth has warmed up again, and the question is whether 2018 will again break records in terms of climate?

In this series, we look forward, usually far ahead. What technology can and will bring us. What major problems we can and must solve. But sometimes we forget that in order to get there, we have to work hard, every day. And that not everything is simple.

Soon my 60th doctoral candidate will defend his thesis. I am proud of that: those 60 young people who have worked on their project with many ups and downs. And in the final sprint, feel an enormous pressure of time, and, actually, not only feel it! It is a privilege to help them to master a process themselves and get through well. The crowning achievement is the defense and the Ph.D. title of course! At the beginning of their four years, I always tell my Ph.D. students that the most important thing is that you learn to process ups (your first paper accepted) and downs (your first conference contribution is rejected) and to find your own limits and push them further, to improve yourself. Because it is a long project, you also learn to think strategically and see the long term. You start with the end result, the solution of solving the problem as a dot on the horizon. Then you have to convert that into small, manageable chunks of research.

The same applies, but with other accents, for startups. An uncertain future, but with a strong will to realize that endpoint. I am now learning that myself. My plan to set up a 1000+ jobs company is still in its infancy. But my dot on the horizon is clear. The learning consists of translating that dot on the horizon into the first steps, learning to walk, and then the adult sprint, to stay in the imagery of the shoes. And that is not easy. With many uncertainties and optional decisions. Finding the customers, the construction of the financing, the team composition, the execution of the plan. And all this as a function of time.

This is also true of the future of our society, the point on the horizon: an inclusive society without hunger and poverty, with sufficient water and energy and internet for all. With a sustainable nature. That vision of the future is clear. And how do we get there? These are small steps, every year again. We will continue to experience this in 2018: the acceleration of electric driving, the possibilities of data usage and artificial intelligence, the shift to sustainable energy generation, breakthroughs in understanding diseases and the increase in portable measurement functions for our health. Small steps, and hard work!

I wish everyone a healthy, happy and innovative 2018!