Mr. Daniele Vangone is Presidento of the International Board at EUROAVIA, The European Association of Aerospace Students.
“Over the years, the importance of the aerospace sector has rocketed exponentially, becoming part of everyday life.”
EUROAVIA will soon be celebrating its 60th anniversary. How has the relationship between the aerospace industry and the university evolved over these decades?
We cannot deny the evolution of the industry itself, turning from a mainly military background to a more commercial one. It is even true that back at the start it was quite difficult for students to take part in such a private world, especially when the European project was at a very early stage. However, over the years, the importance of the aerospace sector has rocketed exponentially, becoming part of everyday life. People are not afraid of flying anymore and curiosity about what lies beyond the moon is common. Fortunately, nowadays the industry is closer to academic life than ever before. This results in an increased number of young people who not only dream of becoming astronauts, but also engineers and technicians. The change in this tendency has been mainly driven by the interaction of universities with the sector. Nevertheless, we should ask ourselves who plays the main role in this. Several universities still do not have the resources to bring the industry closer to their students, and it is this lack of opportunities, among other things, that gives meaning to student initiatives such as EUROAVIA. In this respect, the Association aims to acquaint its members with the future working environment, developing and improving their skills through high profile academic and technical activities. Breaking down the barriers between countries, letting students meet the industry and the culture of a whole continent and thus improving mobility and boosting the European spirit are the main achievements. This is what the future relationship between university and industry looks like, steady, tighter and run by students.
What does EUROAVIA contribute to the needs of the aerospace industry of the future?
The strength of EUROAVIA lies in its wide network based on innovation, cultural awareness and international networking. Therefore, the enhancement of its community has to be considered essential on a long-term basis to train highly qualified professionals and to defend this preparation in a worldwide scenario, meaning EUROAVIA should be the bridge between universities and enterprises. Paying specific and customised attention to the standards which European industry requires, EUROAVIA members have the opportunity to develop their potential as leaders, improving their technical knowledge to become capable and competent professionals. Today, we also emphasize the importance of developing soft and management skills through dedicated learning sessions. It is unanimously recognized that great competence in leadership is the key to success in a dynamic and multicultural environment. These skills are not yet widely included in the education system. Nevertheless, our students are focused on achieving a high degree of personal development, which will facilitate them in improving their performance and efficiency in their future career.
What are the most active Working Groups and where are they addressing their research?
Working Groups are teams of motivated and enthusiastic EUROAVIA members who combine their knowledge and time to focus on specific tasks according to the needs of the Association. They accomplish most of the work and achievements at international level. Currently, nine Working Groups serve as true driving forces to really transform the vision and goals set by the International Board of EUROAVIA. As an articulate association with its foundations in the expression and enquiries of its members and external parties, it is of great importance that our teams ensure active and continuous operations. Without playing down the scale of both the operations and tasks, it is interesting to highlight the commitment undertaken by the Affiliated Societies, Company Relations and Public Relations Working Groups.
The Affiliated Societies Working Group provides a stable communication point between the main agents of the Association: the International Board and the Affiliated Society in each country. Three internal departments focus on the maintenance and interconnection of EUROAVIA local branches: the Board of Presidents, Search & Rescue and Expansions Units. The first is the backbone of the internal communication between the representatives from each Affiliated Society who can get information on local and international events, and ask for and provide further advice and help, if needed. The second focuses on local branches which may need assistance in the case of issues, problems or with whom communication has been lost. The third supports EUROAVIA expansion, reaching new countries and universities.
The Company Relations Working Group coordinates the contacts between the international level of EUROAVIA and the aerospace industry, academic institutions, research facilities and governments. It aims to actively look for professional opportunities and interesting partnerships whose nature could be of multiple origins: financial support, career opportunities or based on mutual benefits.
The Public Relations Working Group is the team working on the EUROAVIA image in order to make sure it is created, developed and spread in the best way possible, by creating the required material and finding the best ways to share it internally and externally.
How do you manage an Association that involves more than 2,000 students from over 20 countries?
Being both a non-political and non-profit association, EUROVIA is exclusively managed by volunteer students, with its various activities and projects entirely financed by membership fees and sponsorship. Therefore, it is fundamental to ensure a well-structured framework to carry out the social mission of the Association and enhance our members’ experience on a daily basis. The International Board of EUROAVIA is one of the most important and critical bodies of the Association. It is responsible for leading, assisting and bringing together the separate parts of EUROAVIA, both at local and international level. The International Board officers take on the major and privileged responsibility of laying and building the foundations for sustained growth and provide the opportunity to improve the development prospects of EUROAVIA.
During the current business year, five members from four different countries have worked to keep the bridge they form functioning. They have come together, worked as a team, shared their tasks, and delegated the functions and the achievements of their goal to Working Groups managed by a single coordinator.
Communication and cooperation between the 45 local branches is ensured thanks to the Board of Presidents. Due to the heterogeneity and extensiveness of the EUROAVIA network, we usually group the Affiliated Societies in five different regions: Eastern, Western, Southern, German and Middle.
Above all, the EUROVIA Congress represents the lifeblood of the Association and is where the midterm and the yearly performances are highlighted. Our members get the opportunity to take part in the decision making process, discuss current and future policies, decide on next steps and proceedings to take. The representatives from each local branch come together to be involved in a process that will also define the roadmap and the strategy the association throughout the business year.
Do you think that the aerospace industry is really applying the latest developments coming from the Universities or are there still some barriers to implementing them? How can the partnership between the aerospace industry and Universities be improved?
The aerospace industry has been increasing its visibility among students over recent decades. International competitions, innovative research, scholarships and training programmes have been promoted more and more within the academic environment. The core of the issue is to widely investigate the range of possible ways by which industries can increasingly improve the reach of these valuable opportunities. The resulting expectation would be that fresh-minded and creative students could benefit from them, becoming involved in the industry’s challenges and idea-generating processes. We believe that competitiveness enhances creativity. Thus, in order to strengthen this aspect, it is important to foster different students’ initiatives carried on at university, either by directly supporting the associations they belong to or the projects they work for.
What are the next challenges for EUROAVIA in the near future?
As outgoing President, my thoughts are now turning to guaranteeing a smooth transition of the Association’s leadership. International Board officers usually change and owing to the handover to a new generation, it will be necessary to prepare the experienced members in order to avoid wasting time as we re-establish an efficient working environment. Therefore, my colleagues and I will continue to be focused on a full knowledge transfer process and the acquisition of experience and know-how by the designated International Board.
The EUROAVIA organisation is inevitably changing due to the ever-accelerating global landscape and the continuous enquiries from industry and external parties. Thus, an open mind-set, combined with the conservative experience of the founders of the Association, represent the keys to maintaining a healthy and prominent position within the European aerospace community.
In order to strongly position EUROAVIA in the global network of the aerospace industry, a healthy framework is required. Then, it is necessary to consider both the attractiveness and the suitability of the Association, optimising the relationship with the environment in which it plays a role, reacting to new challenges decisively and proactively.
In addition to this, it will be important to:
– Manage EUROAVIA in a strategic and operational way among its current and prospective members, and in all the current and prospective countries where it is established.
– Understand the expectations placed upon the Association, in order to achieve a strong and established position in the sector.
– Create and define surplus value to increase overall satisfaction.
– Build up a communication network with entities, institutions and companies in order to optimise its own working environment.