December 11th, 2019
EASN is entering a new era as Prof. Andreas Strohmayer (Dept. of Aircraft Design, University of Stuttgart), has been appointed as the new Chairman of EASN. In addition, the title of EASN Honorary Chairman was granted to Prof. Spiros Pantelakis in recognition of his exceptional contribution and long-lasting support to the Association. On the occasion of this new beginning, Prof. Andreas Strohmayer and Prof. Spiros Pantelakis share their thoughts for the current status and the upcoming steps of the Association.
Q1: Just 3 months ago the EASN General Assembly has elected you as the new Chairman of the EASN Association. How do you feel about this?
Prof. Andreas Strohmayer (AS): It is of course a great honor, but also a considerable duty to follow Spiros Pantelakis in this position. Over the last 16 years Spiros has led the Association from the very beginning to the status one can see today, a well-structured pan-European Association with a large member base. This is a huge achievement and I am fully aware that the new position is linked to a responsibility to keep this pace. The last three years I was a member of the Board of Directors (BoD) of EASN and therefore I have a good insight in the ongoing activities. But having left industry only about four years ago there is still a lot I have to find out about academia, interfaces and processes well known to the veterans in this profession. In this situation it is good to have an experienced Honorary Chairman at my side for a permanent exchange, to jointly challenge new ideas and develop new visions. I also feel lucky that I can rely on a new BoD which is well balanced between long-term experience and fresh ideas. The more EASN is appreciated as the academic stakeholder in the European aviation network, the more we face requests on short notice, fairly often requiring substantial time commitment. With the current BoD at my side I am confident that we can spread the load on more shoulders and that we are therefore well prepared for the upcoming tasks and challenges we will face.
Q2: So what are in your view these major tasks and challenges for the EASN Association on the horizon?
(AS): EASN has been established as the academic voice in the chorus of European stakeholders, in particular for all aspects related to research activities. This task has been well accepted over the last decade, now we have to be a reliable partner to the other parties in the aviation network. We have to strengthen our links to the research establishments, represented by EREA, to the Commission and the Joint Undertaking, to European organisations such as EASA and EUROCONTROL and of course also to industry. Having set out in the BoD over the past term as Industrial Advisor I would like to continue to work along the lines of our respective policy to establish a closer link between upstream research and product development, also in order to contribute to an accelerated technology validation process. As Spiros already pointed out, the most pressing task today is to jointly shape a new European research agenda for Aeronautics and Space with a commitment of all stakeholders. We contribute very actively in this process with the aim of a balanced roadmap addressing the most urgent challenges, and in particular the climate crisis. But at the same time we have to ensure that innovative research does not only focus on the threat perceived as today's curse, firefighting emergencies, but at the same time stays prepared for the upcoming challenges not yet picked up by the mainstream public opinion today. This will require a long-term vision as a basis for fundamental research and we will have to ask ourselves already today what challenges we will find beyond CO2.
Q3: EASN has seen a huge transformation from a Support Action in the early days to a veritable Stakeholder in the European aviation community. What is your vision for this BoD term, i.e. the next 3 years?
(AS): The strength and value of the EASN Association as the stakeholder representing European academia is directly related to its member base. We have to make sure that we can speak with a unified voice for a significant part of European academia which in the past tended to be quite fragmented. This requires efficient mechanisms to collect and aggregate our members? opinion on pressing requests and issues almost instantaneously. The network of National Contact Points, re-established in the past term, will have an even more important role in this task. We also have to carefully listen to the advice given by our newly established Stakeholder Advisory Board in order to broaden our vision. Dissemination of research results is an important element of Open Science and Innovation and we contribute our share with the annual EASN conference as well as with specific workshops organized by EASN Technology Innovation Services (EASN-TIS), our executive body in the framework of research projects. But speaking of "vision" and of facing fragmentation of the research community, I would like to see one single, joint scientific conference event for all European aeronautics and space research activities, just as our American colleagues can benefit from their annual Aerospace Conference. And finally, 3 years from now, I would like to see EASN assuming its role in Horizon Europe to ensure a balanced and successful execution of the ambitious research agenda that is currently jointly elaborated by all European stakeholders in aviation and space.
Q4: We would like to close this interview with the same question as raised before to the Honorary Chairman: is there any message you would like to pass?
(AS): As a reliable and agile partner in European aerospace community EASN will take its part in preparing decisions on all levels to respond to the challenges of our time and our industry. But the EASN association is only as strong as the link between all its members. We therefore have to further increase our member base, to strengthen the link between our members and to aggregate our individual opinions to one solid academic voice. We aim for a focussed and successful research which will be our contribution towards a sustainable air transport system, not the least ensuring the leadership and competitiveness of the European aircraft industry.
Q1: During the recent EASN Conference held in Athens from September 3rd to 6th 2019, the General Assembly of the EASN Association has awarded you the title of the Honorary Chairman of the EASN Association. You are the first one ever granted this title. How do you feel about this?
Prof. Spiros Pantelakis (SP): I feel really honored and touched. Yet, I feel I have to share this honor with the hundreds of EASN members and supporters as EASN is its members. Without them nothing could happen. However, it would have been an omission not to underline the significant role of some specific people in the process of developing EASN from an idea going back to 2001 to the EASN Association of 2019. Two of the few people who had the Vision of an open, pan-European platform facing the Academia fragmentation and expressing the Academia views with a single voice, formulated this idea and initiated its implementation are Dietrich Knoerzer and Dieter Schmitt. I want to thank both of them. Please let me also acknowledge the significant contribution of the current and past members of the Board of Directors of EASN, the members of Stakeholders Advisory Board and of course our National Contact Points. I want to personally thank each of them for his/her valuable and permanent support. Completing a significant phase of one`s career is always a strange moment. EASN has been for me my first professional priority for nearly two decades and would like to ensure you it will remain so although obviously I will not have any more the duty and the honor of leading the Association. On the other hand I am very glad to hand over to the new Chairman Prof. Andreas Strohmayer, who, I am sure, will be an excellent one and wish him to be much more successful than I could be and, together with the new BoD, engraft the Association with fresh ideas and new visions. I am confident that the new BoD will manage to successfully lead the Association at a time that is particular crucial for the future of Aeronautics and Space Research in Europe.
Q2: Which are, in your view, the main Challenges to be faced by the EASN Association in the upcoming period?
(SP): As we all know we are running a critical phase of the discussions on shaping the Aeronautics and Space Research programme in the frame of Horizon Europe. Horizon Europe is the tool we have for facing the huge challenges of protecting the environment and facing global warming, safeguarding the prosperity and the stability of the European societies, ensuring the satisfaction of the European citizens, etc. I am sure we all agree that there is no time to lose with responding to the above challenges. As an example of emergency I would like to mention the environmental issues. Their consequences are already here and we?ve got to hurry up in a way that will be affordable and will not threaten Europe`s economy and prosperity. Yet, it is obvious that meeting, as an example, the targets set in the Paris Agreement is complex and difficult and requires for the joint efforts of all Stakeholders. EASN, being the Aeronautics and Space Research Association of European Academia is ready and keen to offer its part in this joint effort. Therefore EASN is actively participating on proposing the research priorities of Aviation and Space research in the frame of Horizon Europe. Please let me notice that, as you may know, we have now an EASN contact point in almost each European Country having the role to consolidate the views and the ideas of the local research Community and be its voice. Furthermore, we are working on a "White Book" consolidating the input of several decades of research teams Europe wide. I admit that it cannot be exhaustive but I am expecting and hoping that this EASN initiative will be proved the initiator of a snowball effect. As many of you know EASN is heavily involved in the preparation process of Clean Aviation. EASN represents Academia at the level of coordinating the Clean Aviation programme and actively contributes to formulate the content of the Clean Aviation Pylons which refer to both, collaborative research as well as integration and demonstration of technologies. In both of the respective working groups, EASN participates to the chairing teams. Furthermore, EASN is representing Academia and has actively participated on preparing the Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda for space research by participating in the respective platform set and coordinated by DG GROW. Due to the significance of the challenges we have to face it is obvious that the priorities that will be set in Horizon Europe will be crucial for the future of Europe.
Q3: You said that the Research Programme of the Aviation sector is currently under discussion as part of Horizon Europe. Which should be in your view the main features of this Programme?
(SP): In my view, Aeronautics Research in Horizon Europe should be readjusted to boost low TRL and collaborative Research so as to regain lost ground on developing innovation. The latter has been the consequence of the obvious and reasonable decision to boost employment during the years of European financial crisis through priorising research at high TRL and close to market in order to increase the European competitiveness in Aeronautics and retain European global leadership and, of course, jobs. Yet, the challenges we have to face now require for disruptive and breakthrough ideas, innovative and out of the box thinking and the fresh spirit of the younger engineers and other scientists working on research projects or their PhD Theses at Universities. The research programme of the Aviation sector should facilitate this type of research by ensuring sufficient funds and implementing appropriate tools. At this point I have to admit that also we, namely the Academia side, will need to improve our performance on developing breakthrough technologies and really disruptive concepts.
Q4: By concluding this discussion is there any message you would like to pass?
(SP): Actually before passing a message I would like to put together some facts: We have a big number of excellent European Universities offering high quality education and high level research, a number of excellent research establishments, high quality infrastructures, our industry is global leader, we could establish efficient cooperation schemes between the Stakeholders and we enjoy the support of the European Commission. Last but not least we have the enthusiasm, the skills and the creative thinking of a highly qualified young generation that is determined to do not fail. Despite the high degree of difficulty of the tasks we have to accomplish in order to cope with the huge challenges we got we have good reason for being optimistic.