The LOEWE Zentrum AdRIA was a collaborative research center of the Fraunhofer Institut for Structural Durability and System Reliability LBF, the Technische Universität Darmstadt (TUDA) and the Darmstadt University of Applied Science (h_da) funded by the Hessen State Ministry for Higher Education, Research and the Arts from 2008 to 2016. The research work had its focus on at least four key topics: ‘active vibration and noise control’, ‘structural health monitoring’, ‘smart materials’, and ‘new manufacturing processes for functionally integrated/multifunctional materials’.
One main objective of the Center has been the allocation of relevant existing competencies of all partners to one location. Another objective has been to increase knowledge and technology readiness in all the different scientific and technological disciplines of smart structures. The integration and close collaboration of basic research with applied research and development in this unique way allowed the comprehensive preparation of relevant innovative issues on smart structures in scientific breadth and depth.
About 200 researches and staff from all partners worked together in eight interdisciplinary fields of research. Within them existing technologies haven been further improved and innovative solutions have been examined. The market potential of the technological developments have been examined within three additional integrative “model projects”. These projects represent environments with a high practical orientation and have been used as a test and demonstration facilities for the developed solutions.
Beside prototypes and demonstrators on systems and components, manufacturing processes and new or improved materials, new services and additional fields of further scientific research have been elaborated during the term of center. In addition, two new research focus, a new study course and two professorships have been established and stabilized on side of the academic partners. At Fraunhofer LBF a new department on smart structures has been established.
STAGE 1 - PREPARATION
Dealt mostly with general topics such as providing a common building, equipping the laboratories and appointing management and advisory council for the center organization.
STAGE 2 - ORGANISING INTERDISCIPLINARY GROUPS
Consisted in the organization of the different interdisciplinary research groups. To ensure the representation of all partners and all relevant existing know-how the different academic fields (materials science, chemistry, mathematics, informatics, electronics, mechanical engineering etc.) have been allocated to the eight interdisciplinary research fields.
STAGE 3 - SETTING A CO-CREATION STRUCTURE
Consisted in the establishment of the co-creation and communication structure. How the different researchers work together, how they interact, how and what they report, etc. All research work has been divided up in nine (later eight) fields of research and three “model projects” each led by a certain project manager recruited from all of the involved partner organizations. The general topics that had to be investigated during the term of the center have been broadly predefined but the work has been defined by the research groups themselves and adjusted by the coordinator and the advisory council.
STAGE 4 - RESEARCH WORK
After setting up the framework in the previous stages, which took about 6 months, Stage four includes all the research work. All teams work on their specific tasks. Beside research group specific projects also “cross research group” projects have been established. There have been reporting meetings where the leaders of the research fields and model projects present the working progress and results as well as discuss all together organizational and conception topics. Also all activities and results have been summed up in regular milestone reports. Beside E-Mail as preferred communication channel an extra intranet has been built up to exchange documents within and between the different research groups. Additionally, all public documents as status quo presentations or milestone reports have been provided via this channel. Beside this all groups held regular meetings to coordinate their work.
TOUCH POINT 1 - FACE2FACE MEETINGS AND E-MAIL COMMUNICATION
The main touch point have been the regular E-mail communication and meetings within in the different research groups.
TOUCH POINT 2 - INTRANET FOR SHARING
In addition to that, the Intranet section provided an additional channel for information and document sharing between the different fields of research respectively the different research groups and the researchers involved in the model projects.
TOUCH POINT 3 - REGULAR STATUS AND EXCHANGE MEETINGS
Beside this, the personal interaction has been supported through the regular meetings of the leaders of the research fields and model projects. During term of the center it has shown, that the restriction access was satisfying and interdisciplinary work has not been inspired as expected. To promote interdisciplinary exchange between all project participants, these meetings have been opened up for all researchers to attend and discus the presentation of working progress and results.
TOUCH POINT 4 - STAKEHOLDER ENGAGEMENT
The center has no industrial partners directly involved into research. To intensify the science to business relationship during the last third of the center works a special science to industry workshop series has been developed and established to promote the competencies and research results as well as to get direct feedback on the existing work and of additional industry needs and expectations on problems or interesting research topics to be further investigated within the center.
Though there has been a defined work plan of which topics have to be investigated, the different research groups respectively the individual researcher could widely self-directed their work. This of course was one important success factor that has led to a lot of innovative ideas and results.
Another success factor has been the common building with labs and offices that could be used by researchers from all partners temporarily or permanently. This supported informal discussions and communication as well as the interdisciplinary exchange resulting in new project ideas. This bottom-up approach has also been fostered through an incentive system that allocates additional resources for researchers to get together and work on interesting, innovative ideas.
During the last third of the operation time of the center, the science to industry contacts have been supported through special event series. On one hand, it promoted the capabilities and the achieved research results to the industry and on the other side helped to get better understanding of industry needs, which partly helps to reallocated efforts for the final phase.
To run a research center of the size and partner structure of the LOEWE-Zentrum AdRIA efficiently, there has to be a strong management leadership. Additionally, a clear work plan, report and communication structure has to be vital for the success of the center. And besides all (online) collaboration tools a common building and common laboratories are indispensable for creative and work in the fields of science addressed in the center. On the other hand, the researchers and research groups have the opportunity to self-organize their work and also should have a significant degree of freedom in research topics and in the elaboration of own ideas and projects in the overall context.
Although the center addresses basic research as well as applied research, it is important to take the industry perspective into account from the beginning to better match research and development needs. Within the center this perspective has been brought in by the experience of the partner institutions, which was a good starting point, but also a process for technology transfer and certain concepts for science to business interaction should be implemented.
- Have a strong management leadership.
- Have a clear work plan, report and communication structure.
- Have a balance between online and physical spaces and tools.
- Do not obviate the need to take industry needs into account from the very beginning to better match research and development needs.