10 November 2014

Twice as many graduation projects, more summer jobs and internships, and research collaboration within new fields. This and much more are the results of a new collaboration agreement between Linköping University and ABB Sweden. The signing, on 7 november, was accompanied by enthusiastic applause and dancing robots.

Students filled lecture theatre C4 for a lunchtime lecture by Johan Söderström, CEO of ABB Sweden. The event was hosted by the section for Industrial Engineering and Management and Mr Söderström, himself a LiU alum, heaped praise on the programme. And underlined that ABB offers jobs for all sorts of graduates – not just engineers.

”This is a great chance to work with us! The agreement means we double the number of graduation projects by LiU students, from ten to twenty. There will also be more internships and summer jobs,” Mr Söderström explained, to resounding applause.

”You students rock! We need new ways of looking at things. Here in Linköping you’re good at collaboration and getting interfaces to work. Which is important at ABB, where we currently work in many teams, in over one hundred countries. We’re extremely proud to be here today.”

The lecture-hall was fullThe signing took place in Flumes, the laboratory for fluid and mechatronic systems. Employees from LiU and ABB took the stage in pairs, and presented existing research collaborations and future opportunities. This included everything from a contract education programme that leads to a master’s degree (aka ”the processing industry’s MBA”), to diagnostic methods that identify if a robot is about to breakdown, to better gripping tools for robots that were developed in a graduation project.

”In research we don’t work enough with you,” said Mr Söderström, while promising to intensify collaboration in a number of fields.

ABB’s Björn Sandberg works with university relations:

”In five years, 1200 ABB employees will retire. We have to replace them, preferably with students from Linköping University.”

LiU Vice-Chancellor Helen Dannetun compared the agreement to a marriage:

”It’s a good feeling. We have a long-standing relation to build upon. We make each other better, to quote Pia Sundhage.”

When the strategic collaboration agreement was to be signed, it was time for a little surprise. Two Nao robots – one of the best known humanoid robots – represented the two parties. Each asked the other if it wanted to enter a strategic partnership. When both said yes, they started to dance Gangnam style, to the great delight of the audience.

For Linköping University, the agreement with ABB was the first with a partner from outside the region. Previous agreements are with Saab, VTI and Tekniska verken.

The purpose of the agreement is the long-term development of education, research and innovation.  Or as Mr Söderström put it:

”This will be a good marriage with many children!”

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