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Interview of Dr. Helge Pfeiffer, Secretary General of the EASN Association

Recently, the EASN Association organized the 2nd Parliamentary Breakfast at the European Parliament, followed by an Open Workshop at the premises of the European Commission under the topic "Accelerated impact of academic aviation research for improved air transport for all European citizens". Dr. Helge Pfeiffer, Secretary General of the EASN Association, was the coordinating person for the organization of this dual event. We are happy to share with you his view on the result of this EASN initiative.

Q1: You were in charge of the organization of these two events of the EASN Association. What were the targets set at the beginning of this initiative? 
Our target was to bring together a couple of the most important stakeholders, and via an appropriate selection of speakers - especially for the workshop - all stakeholders should also have an active role at the events. 
A basic target was to show that academic institutions contribute on large scale and in a very positive way to what is called "impact". But we also wanted to discuss about "lessons learned" from the past that might lead to improvements. Finally, at such occasions, also new ideas are developed.
The moment for organizing such an event was also important as we are in the deciding phase for shaping the new funding programs in "Horizon Europe", and at this occasion it is important that the vision and the interest of the academic world is visible. To reach that target we had indeed a "dual event" at the European Parliament and at the facilities of the European Commission.
Another very important target was the presentation of our idea to establish "open access" flying unmanned demonstrators (e.g. for more-electric aircraft, high-speed aircraft, rotorcraft) that could be understood as specific "open innovation test beds" for aviation. In contrast to the demonstrators available at other stakeholders, these technologies should be accessible for all entities eligible to participate in European projects, and participation should be enabled by a dedicated call system with respective funding rates. 

Q2: What is your impression about the impact on the European Aviation sector? Did you accomplish the targets set?
I think so, we have heard impressing testimonials on "impact" achieved by academia; both on commercial side, but also when impact for society and citizens is concerned.
But we also learned about the correct balance in the "eco-system of aviation". Academia is not a commercial entity and bringing economic impact requires the consideration of some boundary conditions laid down in corresponding competition rules. For social impact, things are sometimes easier. But dedicated competition rules also hold for the industry and any subsidized activity must in essence not exclude or penalize eligible stakeholders. 
All by all, based on the positive feedback of our guests, we can say that the targets that were guiding our events were reached. A certain point of concern was the time frame of our event, as it was not always easy to keep the agenda on track. This is definitely a "lesson learned" for a potential new edition.  
Finally, no need to say that interactions were not only possible during the sessions, that were - to be honest, quite (too) densely packed - but also informally during the different breaks, especially at the network drink.

Q3: I guess organizing such a dual event is not a small task. May I assume you had sufficient support on that?
First of all, we need to consider that when you invite people to offer one whole day for a business trip in Brussels, you must provide an event that is really well-organized.
The support was great, first of all by the European Parliament; especially the offices of MEP Dietrich Leberecht Koch and Monika Hohlmeier did their best to enable a seamless hosting of the Parliamentary Breakfast. Also the colleagues from the European Commission did a perfect job, not only by providing excellent infrastructure and administrative support but also by a range of excellent speakers that even came from three different DG's. 
Last but not least, especially for the sometimes tedious organizational framework, from online registrations until catering, we can always trust on the services of EASN-TIS that really did a great job, which is by the way not always easy if you consider the different deadlines, the limited seats we could offer for the Parliamentary breakfast, cancellations, new "last-minute" registrations, and the requirement to register in time due to the security rules within the European facilities.
For me, the most important aspect was that there is always a personal "point of contact" for all involved persons and to give especially the speakers the certainty to be well-informed on purpose and targets so that all speakers finally present a "coherent story" at the event. 

Q4: Shall we expect in the future similar events or other initiatives by the EASN Association?
Fortunately, participants from different stakeholders have encouraged us to repeat such an event at a later moment, probably even targeting a bigger scope with much more participants.
I think there is a natural interval for such events depending on the actuality, the current political situation, achievements etc. The previous event was organized two years ago, and this might give an idea when we might start organizing something new. 
 Finally, to ensure continuity in the dialogue, we should not forget that also other organizations have their similar events, and in an optimum situation, there are always options to interact with other stakeholders. 

Date posted: June 29, 2018, 11:08 am

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