“PD-Eng’s might be a promising addition to TiFN projects”

In TiFN projects the research work is mostly carried out by PhD-candidates. Adding PD-Eng’s might be interesting since the PD-Eng-programme focusses more on the direct needs of the industry. Prof Menno Prins and Dr Leyla Ozkan (both TUe) share their experiences with working with PD-Eng’s in projects.

What are the biggest differences between the contributions of PD-ENG’s and PhD’s in public private research projects?
Menno Prins: “PhD’s are focussed on developing knowledge and on writing comprehensive publications. PD-Eng’s are responsible to develop prototypes and to realise something that works. So, PD-Eng’s are much more focussed on the implementation of knowledge.”

Menno Prins is developing a new sensing technology for measuring molecules continuously in industrial processes. In this project PD-Eng’s are involved. What’s the expected difference in outcome of the project by adding the PD-Eng’s to the project?
Prins: “Without the PD-Eng’s more of the prototyping and implementation work would have to be done within the companies that are participating in the project. You can work more efficiently when PD-Eng’s collaborate with PhD’s, because the knowledge development and implementation go hand in hand.”

Prins also sees another advantage: “The PD-Eng-programme attracts a different kind of personality. Combining PD-Eng’s with PhD’s in a project gives an environment where knowledge is translated into working prototypes, and vice versa, where prototyping efforts generate new ideas and new scientific questions. This cross-fertilization has great added value to the research group and to the project.”

In what ways can the industry profit from PD-Eng’s?
Leyla Ozkan: “The industry can profit in two ways. If they work with the PD-Eng’s in a project designed for the needs of the industry, it will be a fast way to get results from a scientific project. On the other hand, it is a very good way to recruit candidates. You see how this person works and communicates. You get to know the candidates in an industrial-like environment.”

What opportunities do you see when TiFN would involve more PD-ENG’s in our projects?
Prins: “Linking companies and universities is essential for TiFN. The position of PD-Eng’s may fill a gap between of these two entities. They can help to translate basic scientific understandings into practical processes and prototypes. After the project they are interesting employees for industry because they learnt to work under company-like conditions: develop something useful in a limited amount of time with a limited budget. That mindset is really valuable for companies.”