Prof. Spiros Pantelakis, Chairman of the European Aeronautics Science Networks, EASN.
“In Europe we have the research tools which are facilitating both, developing and maturing innovation.”
In 2008 the EASN was officially established, but the kick off meeting was held in 2002. How did the need to create an institution like this arise and what for?
EASN has been established in order to create a tool which would facilitate the European Academia to better respond to its indispensible role within the European Aeronautics community. This role is indispensible not only because Academia is educating the high quality scientists and in particular the engineers who are employed by Industry and Research Establishments but also for performing first class fundamental and applied research. The first aim of establishing EASN has been to facilitate academia aeronautics research in Europe through networking as well as through regional and thematic structuring. A second essential goal of establishing EASN has been to face the fragmentation of Academia. The academia voice and the academia views have to reach the decision making authorities and politicians. It is understandable that the authorities feel confused if each single Professor is presenting to them his personal, individual view. It might be valuable but it is not efficient. Last but not least aim has been to disseminate knowledge which is produced by using the money of the European Taxpayer, i.e. through European research projects, to the right recipients in the right way. Spread knowledge to the industry, to SMEs or to Academia cannot be achieved in a single manner. Therefore, you need specific policies and different tools to communicate with each of the mentioned aeronautics stakeholders or the public. EASN is offering this service.
In a nutshell, I would say that the EASN Association is the Association of the European Academia which is active in supporting aeronautics research, facing fragmentation and disseminating knowledge.
In a few months the EASN will celebrate 15 years of work in aeronautics. How have global challenges changed and what are the main goals for the coming years?
EASN was established and grown in the environment of the Framework Programmes 6 and 7, i.e. in the frame of programmes which were conceived and performed in the era of the financial euphoria in Europe. Such a political environment supports performing research which will secure European growth in the long term. Today, we are working in the era of a financial crisis. In this environment, retaining jobs is of imperative importance. Hence, I am not surprised that research in aeronautics is focused on integrating technologies and demonstrating them on ground or even on flying products. Yet, it would be a huge mistake to forget about the future. Therefore, the main goal to be reached in the coming years is to achieve a balance between research aiming to develop innovation and breakthrough technologies and more applied research aiming to integration and demonstration of technologies. I am optimistic as the European aeronautics community is mature and possesses the mechanisms to achieve this balance. EASN is ready to work on that.
How many and what kind of members integrate your network, and what is the working methodology?
The European Aeronautic Science Network has at the moment about 400 effective members Europe-wide. The effective members of EASN are individuals coming mostly from European Universities active in Aeronautics research. Furthermore, we have a number of about 50 associated members. They are entities, like Universities, University Departments or Laboratories. Associated members are represented in the General Assembly of the Association with one vote. EASN is structured geographically and thematically. Geographical structuring occurs at two levels, the national and the regional one. It means we create the network of the EASN members within a country and, at second level, within a wider geographical European region. Europe has been divided into 5 such geographical regions. Thematic structuring occurs by establishing dynamic networks of members with same, or similar, scientific and technological interests no matter where they are located in Europe. I would like to take this opportunity to underline that EASN is an open network and invite the Portuguese colleagues to join EASN. The more we are, the stronger will be the academia voice in Brussels and elsewhere.
EASN supports ongoing research projects in aeronautics that look to improve the sector. Is it easy to implement the latest developments into the aerospace industry and put them into practice?
As you know, in aeronautics the cycle from the development of a new technology or a new concept up to its implementation is relatively long and goes through a number of levels of technological readiness. Academia is usually active in research at the lower levels of technological readiness although, in recent years, there is a tendency to work also at higher levels. Yet, as research is collaborative, i.e. we are not working alone but in the vast majority of cases, in close collaboration with research establishments and industry, the further advancement of those innovations which are promising and their implementation as soon as they reach the required level of maturity, is secured. It should be underlined that in Europe we have the research tools which are facilitating both, developing and maturing innovation.
The 2016 EASN Conference took place last month in Portugal. Distinguished researchers from the industry and academia discussed technologies, products, services and processes for future research. What are the main conclusions of this annual meeting?
It was indeed a very successful Conference. We had more than 220 participants and about 200 high quality presentations. They included the most recent results of more than 20 running European aeronautics research projects as well as a big number of innovative ideas which might provide the base for prospective collaborative projects. I am glad because the works presented at the EASN Conference underline the high quality aeronautics research performed in Europe and the indispensible role of academia therein. We are also happy that Clean Sky has announced in our Conference a new tool which is the thematic calls. It will be calls for proposals which will ask for research on broader thematic topics and require for the generation of new knowledge and technologies through performing PhD Theses. We should expect the first of these calls within 2017. Very important conclusions of the EASN Conference have been also the need for a close research cooperation between academia and industry, the need to identify the proper balance between academia fundamental research and research focusing on integrating emerging technologies and last but not least the need of networking academia.