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Physics with Industry 2014
After the previous successful editions, FOM and STW organised the fifth Physics with Industry (PwI) workshop with five new, challenging problems, and a call for the creative minds to tackle these problems!
Aim The aim of PwI is to let physics (related) academic researchers experience how they can contribute to solving urgent industrial problems. Next to the scientific outcome of the workshop, we expect that researchers may establish new contacts or future job perspectives.
Description An international group of ca. fifty physicists (junior and senior scientists) come together to tackle industrial problems. After a thorough presentation of the problems by the companies, the scientists devote the entire week at dissecting, modelling, analysing and discussing one of these problems within their group and with the industrial representative. The scientists will be supported by senior researchers and researchers from the company itself. By Friday the groups present their solution to the companies.
Things done differently Although the workshop was organised among similar lines as the previous editions, a few actions were taken to make improvements. The most important action was to ensure a proper understanding with all parties involved regarding the ownership of results from the workshop, and what steps are to be taken in case a party is interested to commercially use these results. We facilitated this by drafting up a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) and making proper arrangements with all the universities and companies. This created a level playing-field and allowed the workshop to be started without any lingering doubts or uneasy feelings.
Furthermore, we emphasized the importance of company visits prior to the workshop and most companies indeed had the young researchers visit their lab. We also facilitated one group to have an in-house measure-ment day during the workshop.
Results and learning points Overall, the workshop was extremely well evaluated (the exit-survey filled out by 46 participants showed a 4.6/5 overall score). The company representatives were extremely impressed by the broad expertise and strong group dynamics, which really allowed for several valuable suggestions towards solving the company problems. In fact, DSM Dyneema has expressed their interest in applying for a patent for (part of) the solutions obtained during the week – a tangible result indeed! The young researchers, on the other hand, were suprised by how well they could apply their expertise to the (from their viewpoint) extremely applied problems at hand. It really showed how they are not only trained to be scientists, but how they are trained to be excellent problem-solvers.
The company visits prior to the workshop were appreciated, although not everyone was notified early enough to allow for time in their schedule - something which we will improve upon in the next PwI. Also, the visit to Deltares during the workshop week was not appreciated too much, mostly because the travel time took away too much time from working effectively at the problem. It might be better to be slightly more reserved when such visits are proposed in future workshops.
Finally, the succes of the workshop was illustrated in an article in the "Nederlands Tijdschrift voor de Natuurkunde" (NTvN), which appeared in the February issue, as well as in a letter we received by one of the academic supervisors, who stated after the workshop: "... not ever before did I witness the birth of so much goodwill, understanding and tangible results from a group of academic researchers, usually working on their own research, and industry, usually preoccupied with making money, as I did in the Physics with Industry workshop..."
That pretty much says it all!
Michiel van den Hout (Utrecht, The Netherlands)
Martijn de Jager (Utrecht, The Netherlands)
Victor Land (Utrecht, The Netherlands)
Floor Paauw (Utrecht, The Netherlands)