Collaboration at its very best

The ten-year, highly productive collaboration between Linköping University, ABB Corporate Research, ABB Robotics, Saab Aeronautics and Scania is to be continued and extended in the Vinnova-funded competence centre, LINK-SIC.

LINK-SIC

“This is collaboration between the academic world and industry at its very best: sustainable, efficient and productive for all involved,” said LiU deputy vice-chancellor Roger Klinth, when he opened the new phase of LINK-SIC.

LINK-SIC has been an industry excellence centre for the past 10 years, and is now being reopened as a competence centre with the same name. The centre will be funded by SEK 32 million from Vinnova until 2022, with the possibility of a five-year extension (after an evaluation). In addition, funds and resources will be provided by the parties participating in LINK-SIC.

10 remarkable years

Research groups at the centre will work, as previously, in the fields of automatic control, sensor informatics and vehicular systems at Linköping University. During the past 10 years, these groups have produced, in collaboration with industrial partners, 11 doctoral theses and 120 articles in journals and conference proceedings. Most of those who have taken a doctoral degree at LINK-SIC are now working in industry.

“These 10 years have been truly remarkable, and we have established contact with many highly qualified people during this period. An exchange of knowledge, the long-term supply of expertise, and innovation are three important components. Our expectations for the new phase are very high,” said Gunnar Holmberg, Saab Aeronautics, chairman of the LINK-SIC board.

For him, the greatest benefit is the possibility to recruit and train industry-based doctoral students. Other aspects of the collaboration that he regards as particularly valuable are the joint research projects, seminars with an exchange of experience, and the construction of proof-of-concept facilities.

Martin Karlsson, Scania, has also been involved throughout the ten-year period.
“What is important for us in the collaboration are the people, the processes, and the products. It will be exciting to collaborate with rapidly growing companies within LINK-SIC, and we are also looking forward to greater international exchange,” he says.

More companies

The new LINK-SIC will involve more companies, and the new participants are ABB Cranes, Actia Nordic, Alelion, Intuitive Aerial, Senion and UMS Skeldar, all of which have different expectations of the coming collaboration.

Svante GunnarssonSvante Gunnarsson Photo credit: Monica WestmanSvante Gunnarsson, professor of automatic control and director both the previous phase of LINK-SIC and the new one, is not anxious.

“We have our sights set high and we have set ambitious goals for the collaboration within LINK-SIC. Our partners must be able to become world-leaders within their fields: they must have access to expertise such that they can grow and develop in Sweden: we shall build a solid foundation for industry-related research: and, not least, we want to make an impression on the education of engineers. We hope to be able to increase interest among young people in general, and we also want to inspire more women to become interested in the field,” he says.

In order to increase interest among the students, LINK-SIC plans to offer exciting summer projects, degree projects within the framework of the standard courses, and degree projects in collaboration with the companies involved, some of which are growing extremely rapidly. Other measures may be used. International exchange is another aspect given a high profile.

“We have also LiU professor Nicolette Lakemond on the board, providing expertise within innovation and entrepreneurship,” says Svante Gunnarson.

Open innovation

Lars Eriksson, professor of vehicle systems, provided an example of research from LINK-SiC that has had a profound effect. The initial goal was to develop more environmentally sensitive turbotechnology for Saab Automobile. When that company filed for bankruptcy and Scania took over their investment in LINK-SIC, the ideas were further developed to include heavy commercial vehicles. They have now been adapted for the even larger diesel engines used in shipping. The research has led to technology that significantly reduces nitrogen oxides and particles (exhaust gases) from large vessels that can arise when they accelerate rapidly.

“The results have benefited society and been spread beyond LINK-SIC, due to the respect-filled collaboration and the fact that we have been able to work with open innovation. During the ten-year period we have developed many innovations that contribute to a better world,” says Lars Eriksson.

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