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The High Tech Systems Centre and the engineers of the future

“We need to design the next generation of high tech systems to stay competitive in the Netherlands. The machines of the future. Machines that are intelligent, precise, adaptive and ground-breaking. In order to make that happen we need highly skilled engineers who can excel in multidisciplinary settings,” says Katja Pahnke, Managing Director of the High Tech Systems Centre at the Technical University of Eindhoven (TU/e HTSC).

System engineers

In September 2014 the Technical University of Eindhoven founded the TU/e HTSC as a new multidisciplinary research centre for complex mechatronic systems. Katja explains: “Designing high tech systems involves a combination of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, mathematics and computer science, and applied science. Here at the TU/e HTSC, these different faculties all work together to allow the engineers to see past the boundaries of their own fields. They get a fresh perspective of their own knowledge and expertise within a broader spectrum of skills. A great example of multidisciplinary engineering, or system engineering as we call it, is the modern day car. Designing the modern car required a different way of thinking, because of all the different kinds of systems it now incorporates. You need to start thinking from an architectural point of view. The same applies to high tech systems. For these machines of the future, that’s the role of a system engineer.”

Working together with the industry

“Our goal is to double the number of PhD researchers who are working on high tech systems within the next four years. There are 100 PhD researchers at the moment, so we’re aiming for an extra 25 each year. That’s very ambitious. To reach this goal we are working closely with the local industry in our region – with big companies like ASML, Océ, but also with smaller companies. We are now almost one year into the programme and we already have funding for 48 new PhDs, so that’s a huge success. We also want to set up a Professional Doctorate in Engineering (PDeng) course called ‘Mechatronic System Design’. That’s a two-year postmaster course that will link the Master and the PhD. It will include interesting research assignments provided by the industry. Hopefully this will also make the TU/e HTSC even more accessible for smaller companies. We have our own roadmap, programmes and vision, but we constantly align them with the industry and the top sectors. Another goal we have is to retain a lot of this new knowledge at the university; by establishing a well structured delegation of knowledge, good collaboration between faculties and the industry and joined lab facilities.”

Technology Executive

“It’s great to be involved in setting up the TU/e HTSC. It’s not surprising that they turned to TMC Technology Executives. To do something like this in an academic environment requires a lot of entrepreneurial effort and understanding of the culture in which you operate. Those skills are necessary to create a cultural shift and set up something that is technically very valuable. Sometimes it feels like setting up a company within the university.”

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