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Interview of Mr Giovanni Bertolone, Chairman of the ASD R&T Commission

Mr. Giovanni Bertolone, in his capacity of Chairman of R&T Commission in ASD shared his views and opinions on the cooperation of the European Aeronautics Industry with the Academia.

Q: The European research community, and as a significant part of it, the aeronautics research community is expecting HORIZON 2020 as an indispensible tool in order to retain Europe's prosperity and global economic leadership. In this context how do you see the complementarities of Industry and Academia in Aeronautics and which are the roles you would assign to their Associations, namely ASD and EASN?

A: Everyone recognizes the historical liaison between Academia and Industries in the field of high level Research. Speaking about Aeronautics, we know well that during and between the two World Wars these liaisons were so tight that it would be difficult to establish where Professors' Communities activities left the room to Industrial Managers' activities, also because often we had personalities doing well both as Professors and as Managers.
After those decades, another model of collaboration started to be developed, for many reasons: this model resulted in a substantial break between Theoretical / Applied Research and between Applied Research and Development. Still today in Europe, Academic and Industrial Research don't have common strategic roadmaps.
Within the H2020 frame, the priorities are now defined and they pave the way to a more integrated journey. In that vision, the role of Academic Associations like EASN and Industrial Associations like ASD is crucial: they have to encourage deeper collaborations also suggesting areas of common proposals in the frame of H2020 Specific Programs and of the ACARE Strategic Research Agenda.

Q: ASD and EASN have already created a remarkable cooperation record. Yet, this cooperation occurs on a rather occasional base and refers mostly to common participation in Coordination and Support Actions funded by the European Commission. Which could be topics for a more structured and permanent cooperation between ASD and EASN to the mutual benefit of their members and which actions would be needed to support this cooperation?

A: As you said, EASN and ASD started to collaborate in a promising way. For example, EASN has been a protagonist player during the recent ASD Lisbon Convention in October. In that occasion, ASD inside the three days Program gave a lot of attention to the voice of the Universities.
Now we need to make a step forward, during 2013, to be prepared to H2020 rendezvous. Permanent exchange of information and more operative proposals have to be established. I believe that the two Organizations must define a Joint Working Group that meets every 3-4 months, in order to elaborate common initiatives. I have the honour to be the Chairman of R&T Commission in ASD and I think that a subgroup flowing from this Commission could be the adequate interface. If EASN agrees, we can better define this working group in the next months.

Q: It is known that European Academia is performing world class research. On the other side, the European "paradox" is also a fact. Although Europe has a number of excellent Universities there is a weak innovation performance. What would you expect from academia in order to face the situation? What should be the role of Industry in their context?

A: Innovation is the great word largely adopted by H2020, but the risk is that the methodology for innovation still remains poorly performed and the dead valley between valid theory and valid application remains the most critical problem for Europe. By chance there are several universities that now fully understand the Spin Off and the Start Up importance. For example I may refer what has been done during the last years at the Politecnico di Torino, but there are many other examples. In my opinion, the Industries and in particular the Big Industries are a little in delay on this aspect, but it seems to me that they are now recovering in supporting these activities. In the meantime I want to outline the importance of Credit Institutions to complete an optimized concurrent innovation environment.

Q: Europe has a number of excellent Universities offering first class aeronautics education and producing high skilled aeronautical engineers. Yet, the European Industry reports a lack of aeronautical engineers in Europe and complains for a long integration time of new engineers in the production chain of the Industry. Do you share this view? What could be done to improve this situation and how could ASN and EASN support the actions which are needed to be carried out?

A: I agree about your considerations, many new specialist profiles, disciplines and processes inside advanced aeronautical companies are not fully covered inside the Universities courses.
More effort has to be spent at two different levels:
1) The Universities must be more attractive for non-European students (talents import)
2) Industries and Universities have to commonly design Studies paths that include new needed disciplines with industrial Specialists acting part-time as Professors and new Masters, suitably oriented with dedicated on the job training periods (talent exploitation)

Q: Sustainable European growth is only possible if we invest in innovation and human potential. Do we have the appropriate tools to take aerospace sciences further?

A: We have already spoken about some playing factors on this matter. I want just to add this consideration: in Science and Technology skills, we as Europe may reach excellence provided that the academic and engineering network is not only European; globalisation requires worldwide connections, also because we can export but also import best practices.

Q: It is recognized that Academia-Industry cooperation is a necessity. Should this cooperation be based on technology transfer or common ownership of knowledge?

A: Ownership of Knowledge is a quite complicate matter; sometimes the civil field of competition is similar to the military sensitivity. No industry would agree on common sharing of Knowledge with Academia if it doesn't obtain the full assurance that the know-how commonly developed shall not be distributed to competitors. But I'm sure that there are numbers of models that give this assurance, in particular if the researchers' teams are well integrated.
Having said that, we must avoid losing time in complicated rules where Europe has the worldwide primacy!

Date posted: December 3, 2012, 2:53 pm

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