Centre Day featured a wealth of interesting speakers, who presented many examples of fruitful collaborations between the business community and Chalmers over the past decade. It was a day for celebrating the past and looking to the future, with many personal reflections on the benefits of collaboration.
A glimpse of history
Jan Grahn (above, to the left), professor of microwave technology at MC2 and head of the GigaHertz Centre, and Staffan Sjödin (above, to the right), head of Chase, summarised the histories of the two centres.
“We’ve been fortunate enough to work in a variety of excellence centres in 20 years at Chalmers,” Grahn said. “This has truly been a joint venture, in which we’ve invested in and carried out research together. We’re grateful to Vinnova for making this all possible.”
Grahn also commented on an editorial in Dagens Nyheter on 29 November about the Swedish government’s research proposal, which emphasises collaboration and utilisation. In the article, three researchers in business economics and sociology write that “collaboration is no guarantee for knowledge development or innovative ability.”
“Today we’re going to see many examples to the contrary,” Grahn announced.
Praised Per-Simon Kildal
Staffan Sjödin summarised ten years with Chase, declaring that the excellence centre has generated 24 projects and preliminary studies, 693 conference papers, 280 journal articles and 22 doctoral theses so far.
“Chase has had an intense impact on R&D at companies,” Sjödin said.
He also praised the late Chalmers professor Per-Simon Kildal, who was a key person at Chase. Kildal passed away unexpectedly last spring, and his name came up several times during the course of the day. It was clear how much he meant to the institution.
Sjödin also wished the centre good luck with ChaseOn, the continuation of the Chase Centre for the next five years.
“But it’s not too early to think about what will happen after 2021,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll be self-sufficient by then in one way or another.”
Next it was time for Erik Ström (above), professor of communications systems at the Department for Signals and Systems – S2 – to take the stage. He is the head of ChaseOn.
“ChaseOn is the future and continuation of Chase. Both ChaseOn and the GigaHertz Centre applied for support from Vinnova. And both got it,” Ström announced, not without some pride.
He and Grahn turned their eyes to the future, commenting that their two centres together collaborate with a total of 23 companies. Both the GigaHertz Centre and ChaseOn also work closely with the SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden (which will merge in 2017 with Swedish ICT and Innventia under the name RISE). ChaseOn is also partnered with the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm and the Västra Götaland region.
Establishing tighter bonds
The GigaHertz Centre and ChaseOn are now establishing even tighter bonds for the coming five-year period. They will remain separate centres, but will make up a consortium with a common steering committee and a joint international advisory council.
“This creates many advantages in terms of technology and research,” Grahn says. “We have a golden opportunity here that will create endless possibilities for the future. It’s truly humbling to bring together such a vast array of skills.”
Ström and Grahn saw many advantages to the centres working more closely together. The collective skills of the 23 partner companies create completely new opportunities for collaboration in new projects and teams. More results will become available to everyone, the strategic impact will be greater and the centres will become even more attractive to new partners. All this will enhance synergies within Chalmers in terms of coordination and outreach.
Rik Jos (above) from the company Ampleon was an adjunct professor of microelectronics at MC2 for 12 years, until 2016. He gave a personal, sometimes humorous story about his collaboration with the GigaHertz Centre and Chalmers over the past decade.
“When I was asked to speak here today, I was struck by two things: 1. It was an honour to be asked. 2. Looking back, I realise that I’ve also aged!” he joked.
Jos listed several good reasons why he chose to work with Chalmers in the framework of the GigaHertz Centre:
- An enthusiastic and highly skilled team
- Complete coverage of the chain – from semiconductor processes to linearisation
- Project teams reach critical mass
- Research fields are jointly decided by all partners
He also had several recommendations for the future, and felt that the international advisors have an important role:
“They provide calibration with centres in other countries and a connection that shows us what direction to grow in.”
Chase is a strength
Christian Fager, associate professor in the microwave electronics division at MC2, talked about his experimentation with the MOOC concept (online courses). He ended with the observation:
“We’ve got very interesting times ahead.”
Mats Andersson was the CEO of Bluetest in 2006–2011. Bluetest was founded by Per-Simon Kildal and currently employs 35 people.
“Chase has been a strength for us,” he said, “and a key element of our ability to move from research into industry.”
Lars-Inge Sjökvist (above), CEO of Gapwaves, brought down the house when he announced that the company was listed on the Nasdaq exchange on 18 November.
“We’ve had a fruitful collaboration with Chase over the years,” he commented.
Gapwaves also demonstrated a gap antenna in the special exhibition of applications that MC2’s industrial relations coordinator Cristina Andersson set up for Centre Day.
Each of the centres has had its own international advisory council. The plan was that each of those councils would have a representative on site, but due to an airline strike, the GigaHertz Centre’s expert, Fadhel Ghannouchi from the University of Calgary in Canada, couldn’t make it to Gothenburg. Christoph Mecklenbräuker from the University of Vienna in Austria had better luck and was able to provide us his thoughts on Chase.
Erik Ström asked him to reply honestly to the question of whether he thought it was a good idea to establish closer bonds between the two centres. “Yes,” Mecklenbräuker said – after asking jokingly if he could phone a friend as in the popular television game show.
But a key requirement for success, Mecklenbräuker pointed out, is that the researchers learn to speak and understand each other’s languages.
“Chase had examples of extremely interdisciplinary projects that had a very slow learning curve,” he said by way of example.
“We in the advisory council wondered if the situation would ever sort itself out – but in the end the projects were hugely successful. But you have to listen to each other; people think in different terms. The GigaHertz people will think in S-parameters, the ChaseOn people will think in bits per second. But your efforts will be rewarded!”
Chalmers an ideal environment
Paul Häyhänen, chairman of Chase, and Peter Olanders (above), chairman of the GigaHertz Centre, thanked the organising committee for a well-planned day.
“Today we’ve seen a shining example of how this type of centre can contribute to the community,” Häyhänen said, “and also how we can create new start-ups and help big companies to grow even bigger. It’s been a fantastic day.”
Olanders described Chalmers as an ideal environment for centres such as these, which is not least confirmed by the fact that Vinnova itself chose to place two of its excellence centres at the university.
“Chalmers is definitely a dominant factor for success, but it’s also located in a region with exceptionally strong industry,” he said.
Industry gives extra shine
Vinnova was represented on site by its coordinators Jessica Svennebring and Tommy Schönberg.
“My experience of the day is that both centres presented very interesting results from the past 10 years, and while that is certainly good, what gives it a bit of extra shine is the great interest on the part of industry to continue the collaboration,” Schönberg says.
“This really confirms that this collaborative form is valuable to all involved parties: academia has the opportunity to publish excellent research results in relevant fields of the future, while industry gains key cutting-edge expertise in its technical field as well as a vital influx of skills in the form of knowledgeable future recruits.”
ChaseOn and the GigaHertz Centre have now been granted SEK 70 million in funding from Vinnova for the 2017–2021 period.
Centre Day ended with a magnificent banquet at Wijkanders Restaurang. The organising committee consisted of Cristina Andersson, Agneta Kinnander, Jeanette Träff, Erik Ström, Christian Fager, Jan Grahn and Staffan Sjödin.
Chase and ChaseOn also took the opportunity to present a very elegant informational brochure entitled “Celebrating 10 years with Chase and the future with ChaseOn”.
Text and photo: Michael Nystås
Read earlier news: