Baekeland mandate at Siemens Industry Software NV & Flanders Make
The Flemish Innovation and Entrepreneurship Agency – VLAIO – offers companies not only guidance, advice or information, but also subsidies and funding solutions such as, for instance, the Baekeland mandate. Through Baekeland mandates, VLAIO offers financial support to companies for having one of their employees working simultaneously on a PhD project. The research in question should have an economic finality and – if successful – offer added value to the company in question. As such, it meets the usual criteria for PhD research.
A Baekeland mandatary thus performs a PhD study in cooperation with a company and a university supervisor. The company is the main applicant for the project. All companies with a legal personality and an operating site in the Flemish Region can apply for a Baekeland mandate. An additional condition is that during the implementation of the project knowledge must be built up and valorised in Flanders.
The mandatary may be an employee of a company, a university or a knowledge institution. Furthermore, knowledge institutions, including research institutions such as Flanders Make, can also act as host institution for the PhD student. It is in this capacity that we would like to tell you more about the possibilities of a Baekeland mandate here at Flanders Make.
We are doing this together with André Tavares (Baekeland mandatary), Bram Cornelis (Research Manager and industrial supervisor at Siemens Industry Software NV) and Bert Pluymers (Business Developer at Flanders Make).
In practice: Baekeland mandate at Siemens Industry Software NV
As already explained above, when applying for a Baekeland mandate, you need a company, a candidate and a knowledge partner. In this case: Siemens Industry Software NV (SISW), André Tavares and Flanders Make.
SISW (established in Leuven) specialises in measuring and analysing noise and vibrations. The Baekeland mandate enables SISW to have researchers work on a high-risk research topic that is of strategic importance to the company. In this particular project, we are investigating the use of structural dynamics measurements and Artificial Intelligence (AI) for detecting damage to structures such as aircraft panels or wind turbine components.
Bert Pluymers, Flanders Make: "Together with the company, we help the candidate with the application process. VLAIO covers part of André's salary during a period of four years. The overriding objective of the Baekeland mandate is to maintain and strengthen Flanders' leading position in terms of innovation within the manufacturing industry."
Bram Cornelis, SISW: “A PhD implies that we can perform research in a more fundamental way. By investing in these strategic topics, SISW aims to strengthen its competitive position by valorising the results of its research and creating new products."
André Tavares, Baekeland mandatary: "Baekeland offers the opportunity to perform advanced and state-of-the-art research, allowing a company to innovate faster than its competitors."
INTERVIEW WITH BRAM CORNELIS, RESEARCH MANAGER AT SIEMENS INDUSTRY SOFTWARE NV
As Research Manager at SISW, Bram Cornelis is also the industrial supervisor for the Baekeland mandate of his colleague André Tavares. In the following interview, Bram tells more about how this mandate works, and about the cooperation with Flanders Make and the advantages for SISW.
- How did you get to know the Baekeland mandate?
We were already familiar with the Baekeland mandate as several colleagues performed their doctoral studies in this way.
- How did the application process go?
André had previously done an internship at SISW within the scope of his Master's thesis. Based on his performance, we felt that André would be a good candidate for PhD-level research. The subject matter of his work was also considered of strategic importance to the company, deserving a longer-term investment. We then went looking for a knowledge partner and decided to work with Flanders Make. The 3 parties (candidate, company and knowledge partner) jointly and iteratively defined the Baekeland project proposal, i.e. defined the research objectives, identified the research challenges and drafted the work programme. The whole procedure took 2 to 3 months.
- Why Flanders Make?
SISW had already established a good relationship with Flanders Make. So we knew from previous experience that Flanders Make, and in this case FlandersMake@KULeuven, would be a good partner for supporting our industrial research. Moreover, the subject matter of this specific project fits in very well with the knowledge and expertise available at FlandersMake@KULeuven.
- Role of Flanders Make?
The company drives the strategic directions of the project, while Flanders Make provides support as a knowledge partner. An important aspect for us in this cooperation is the "dual-desk" principle, which means that the PhD researcher has a desk with both partners. In this way, the researcher is immersed in an academically inspiring environment, but at the same time gains experience of what it means to bring innovation to an industrial context.
- Subject matter of the project?
André's project focuses on automated damage detection in lightweight structures (e.g. aircraft panels, wind turbine blades, etc.) based on structural dynamics measurements. In view of achieving automated detection, we are studying advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI) methods. An interesting new idea that we want to explore is the use of so-called transfer learning methodologies, which would allow training the AI methods in simulated structural dynamics measurements, thus greatly reducing the cost of the solution.
- How long has the project been running?
The project is currently running for +/- 2 years. So, we’re now in the middle of the project term.
- What about the research results? Can you tell us more about their valorisation?
As the project is still ongoing and the research has yet to be completed, it is, of course, somewhat early for valorisation of the results. Also, the further validation of the investigated methods in various industrial cases, and the effective implementation of the method in standardised software typically require follow-up projects. However, we have already achieved some partial results when it comes to automating the interpretation of structural dynamics measurements that are of direct relevance to our existing Simcenter Testlab software. So we are already discussing these results with the product management team and considering product implementation steps.
- Advantages for Siemens?
The Baekeland mandate is an ideal opportunity for us to break new grounds and perform fundamental research into a high-risk, yet lucrative topic of strategic importance to the company. Furthermore, it allows us to invest in a high-potential PhD researcher, who can then continue his/her career within the company. Finally, it strengthens the strategic relationship between company – SISW – and knowledge partner – Flanders make.