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You say you are a supervisor, an interim director, a bridge builder and an "omdenker". Please explain yourself!
Indeed a mouth full. To explain I have to go back in my career. Being educated as a design engineer (TU Delft), I was driven by curiosity. Discovering, inventing and creating technical solutions like piezo- and pyro-electric sensors, displays etc. But also designing a vast array of other products and applications in many different industries had my deep interest. Trying to understand what all this specialist knowledge is about. Those years were also the start of my steep learning curve to become an entrepreneur. My first company gradually became a well-established engineering & design office in Rotterdam. But in the years to come, the clients changed, so did the work we did, so did I. Gradually I was asked to focus on a strategic level of innovation and, as you know, in business many decisions are not solely based on technology.
Multiple levels of curiosity
Collaborating on a management level with all those professionals, understanding what keeps them moving, what business is driving, got my full interest. Many years of experience and successful projects in the field of innovation did help me to gain trust and confidence with my clients to accept large scale interim director positions. Dealing with “wicked problems” in that position, I had to take responsibility and explain what I’m doing to the entire board. So that brought me again to my next level of curiosity. I followed my studies at Erasmus University Rotterdam to become a certified board member (executive/non-executive). And that brings me more or less to where we are right now. Never a dull moment.
Never a dull moment indeed! Throughout your career, you developed a leitmotief: innovative solutions for complex issues in a rapidly changing world. When did this leitmotif arise?
To be honest, that took a while. When I just started as a professional, I had no clue. Pure technology was perceived as the way to go. Most likely from within a rather confined view on the world. Only to discover that when you cling to one solution and blink an eye, that very same world has changed significantly. The solution you were so convinced of has become obsolete. Or other solutions are way better. Or the world is not ready yet for that brilliant idea. Sometimes sociology or behavioural sciences are better qualified to solve complexity. I’m convinced that mankind has to maintain a relentless innovative attitude towards the future. Maybe in medieval times or during the renaissance people were similarly confronted with a rapidly changing world. But that does not relieve us of the obligations we have nowadays for our future generations. Innovation is needed more than ever.
What is the most important lesson you learned as an entrepreneur in business about innovation?
I learned that no individual, no industry can successfully achieve relevance on their own. You have to build bridges, to collaborate, to build together and invest in flexible networks. Sometimes not easy but necessary and rewarding. Within the TU Delft community, where I was leading research programs together with the industry, smart researchers and talented students, I learned that you sometimes need to adopt a different perspective to find a way out, to add value, to construct meaningful solutions.
What is your motivation to work for PhotonDelta?
PhotonDelta is fascinating. Ambitious, yet professional. And content wise dealing with a hugely promising and challenging enabling technology. From my innovation-point of view and as I described above, simply “impossible to resist”…
Indeed, the ambitions and organization of PhotonDelta does fit your leitmotief. If we are being more specific; what is your relation to this upcoming industry in integrated photonics?
For now my relationship with this upcoming industry is rather limited. I certainly would love and will work to understand better the dynamics of the entire ecosystem. I am thrilled by the idea of a blooming industry in the years to come. But only the bigger picture. In my role as chairman of the Investment Committee I want us to maintain a truly independent, professional, positive-critical, yet unbiased viewpoint. We’re talking about a significant amount of public funded resources. The only way for the Investment Committee to look at affairs is independent and unbiased. In fact, statutory the Investment Committee operates fully independent from the Board of PhotonDelta and is bound to a very high level of confidentiality. In the distinction and the way we operate, the interest of each and every member of the industry, applicant, PhotonDelta and their funding partners is secured.
You are being appointed as the Chairman of the Investment Committee ánd the Expert Panel. What is the relation between the two commissions?
Both are very valuable instruments for PhotonDelta. The Expert Panel will operate in the same rhythm as the Investment Committee. But along different lines. Where the Investment Committee will advise, based on funding criteria, to the PhotonDelta Board, the Expert Panel will bring in specific expertise in say the technological domain, the materials, the physics, the processes etc. The Expert Panel will act as a sort of “feeder line” for the Investment Committee.
What is your impression of the Expert Panel and the Investment Committee?
We are in the process of setting up both the panel and the committee. The members are officially appointed. Truly amazing. The Expert Panel consists of 6 international top class renowned academia and specialists. And the Investment Committee brings combined more than 200 years of relevant experience to the table. All members do have different backgrounds and complementary rich experiences. You could not wish for a better start. We have developed a small effective introduction program to get us up and ready as effective teams in the upcoming months.
You look forward to exciting and challenging times ahead. What is the biggest challenge for this industry, according to you?
Real integrated photonics is in the early stages of development. To align the pace of technical developments -the technology push- with the market dynamics -the market pull- is something big. In the rear view mirror a lot is very clear. But looking through the windshield into the future we cannot completely rely on what we learned from previous big technological breakthroughs. So, aligning technology push with market pull is for this industry again an adventure.
Let’s start this adventure and see what the future brings!
© 2019 PhotonDelta