The dean’s summer greeting 2017

“We have a strong ST, which is well prepared for the future,” says Dean Niels Chr. Nielsen, who wishes all staff and students a good summer.

2017.06.27 | Christina Troelsen

Dean Niels Chr. Nielsen, Science and Technology. Photo: Anders Trærup

Dear staff and students at Science and Technology

Another academic year is drawing to a close, providing me with an opportunity to wish you all a good summer and especially to thank you for the great efforts you have all made during the past year. A year with an abundance of events and results, in which it became increasingly clear that we are well on track with the ST vision and mission we adopted in last year’s strategy.

It was announced on Wednesday that that the government has decided to subject public sector consultancy to competitive bidding. This has great significance for ST and especially the departments that provide public sector consultancy, as well as DCE and DCA. This is obviously not something we wanted, but ST is a very strong player in this area. We have some of the strongest research environments on an international scale, and considerable experience in providing public sector consultancy. And we are well prepared for competition.

We are used to challenges, and have jointly demonstrated the strength to meet them. Since 2013, ST has faced a number of major challenges and has undergone processes that have been back-breaking at times, most recently the cutbacks resulting from the Finance Act 2016. However, the result of our procedures is that we have a strong ST with a healthy economy and a very ambitious strategy – an ST that is well prepared for the future. A future in which we will educate even more skilled graduates for our community – our talented graduates are our largest source of knowledge transfer for society. It is also a future where we will increasingly contribute to societal impact through education, research, consultancy and business collaboration.

Last month we opened the first of the seven initial interdisciplinary thematic centres that are one of the strategic initiatives we have launched at ST: the Centre for Circular Bioeconomy (CBIO) in Foulum. Via interdisciplinary research in an international class of its own, the centre will provide a strong foundation for increased business collaboration, public sector consultancy, and involvement in international cooperation.

The new Centre for Circular Bioeconomy is an example of using our strategic efforts to focus particular attention on grand challenges – the major societal challenges of our time. Circular bioeconomy is about utilising resources to their utmost and not letting anything go to waste, because we cannot afford to in the future – either economically or ecologically. The centre also shows that we are making use of ST’s unique strength, which lies in being a diverse faculty, firmly rooted in three strong pillars: classical science, sector-oriented research and engineering activities. The societal challenges are to a great extent in the area involving public sector consultancy, but the solutions can often be found in classical science or technology. The interaction between these three areas actually provides us with unique opportunities to deliver talented graduates and solutions to the grand challenges of the times.

The next six interdisciplinary thematic centres are opening after the summer holiday and throughout the autumn, and I am looking very much forward to this. The centres will provide the formal framework for both existing and strong new collaborations and synergies, cutting across the faculty’s units and different activities in the three basic areas. Exploring and exploiting these collaborations and synergies by working together rather than competing will make us strong, and I am sure that all the interdisciplinary thematic centres will make a huge difference for the faculty and our contribution to the surrounding community.

We also have other far-reaching initiatives in progress at the faculty that require significant efforts, and I look forward to working with you to achieve these in the coming years. To meet the considerable needs of society for more digitisation specialists, the Aarhus University Board decided a few weeks ago to support a new digitisation initiative with funds amounting to DKK 67.5 million. Analyses show that Denmark will lack up to 19,000 IT specialists in 2030, and it is therefore obvious that we should take the lead and further develop the already strong computer science and mathematics environments available here.

The digitisation initiative aims to double the number of graduates with strong digitisation skills by 2023. This will mean a significant boost to the academic environments at the Department of Computer Science and the Department of Mathematics, as well as increased efforts to recruit more students.

The digitisation efforts build further on the very ambitious engineering initiative we launched last year with the adoption of the AU ENGINEERING 2025 plan, which has its starting point in society’s significant need for more highly educated young people with technical expertise. The aim is to triple the turnover in the field of engineering up to 2025. The plan includes a number of new degree programmes – both Bachelor of Engineering and Bachelor of Technical Science degrees – that match the business sector’s professional requirements, thereby significantly increasing student intakes in the coming years.

This requires a massive increase in staff numbers and the work is well under way – the first twenty new researchers have already been appointed. The engineering initiative generally means a significantly stronger position for the field of engineering among ST’s activities. However, the initiative will not only benefit the Department of Engineering, but will also take place in interaction with the environments at the rest of ST, thereby strengthening the entire faculty.

In combination, the ENGINEERING 2025 plan and digitisation initiative will eventually boost the faculty’s student population significantly. This shows that we would like to educate more young people and provide them with the skills demanded by society. However, it also expresses the fact that we have a very strong focus on our students at the faculty, including a focus on admitting strong and motivated students, providing a good study environment and ensuring satisfactory completion of studies. The students are our raison d’être and they bring life to the university – and the good interaction between students at all levels and members of staff is a key quality parameter for the faculty.

We are also well under way with work on how we can be better at ensuring the usefulness of research and transforming knowledge to growth in interaction with the public and private sectors. Earlier in the year, we entered into collaboration with JB Equity, a company that is currently looking at ST’s research in the green sector. The aim is to identify research results and services that have the potential for commercialisation via investors, to thereby become new products, services or companies outside Aarhus University.

Another initiative that is still in the concept phase involves focusing on how knowledge in the areas of classical science and engineering can be brought into play to a greater extent regarding solving health issues and being integrated in them. This is a concept known globally as convergence, and here I believe that we have something to offer due to ST’s unique profile and diverse work.

The theme of the Faculty Management Team’s seminar in September is globalisation. Are we global enough? We are very global, but I think there is more to it. We must be more clearly involved in the global network if we are to be among the world’s top 50 best science and technology faculties. This applies to our research, consultancy and business collaboration, but certainly also to our students, whom we would like to prepare as well as possible for jobs in an increasingly globalised world. This requires that we reach out more. That we have greater focus on attracting students and researchers from abroad, and that we collaborate with more international companies and strong research environments.

There is no doubt that our thematic initiatives along with the changes associated with political decisions and ordinary development and management of the faculty mean a busy period. More than ever, we need the strong commitment, willingness and desire to be among the best that I fortunately experience from all sides, both the academic staff and the technical and administrative personnel at the departments and in the administration centre. I encountered this most recently on my rounds of the departments and centres in June, which will be continued in August. Your day-to-day efforts, whether they are concerned with research, talent development, education, public sector consultancy, business collaboration or administrative and technical support functions make up the entire foundation on which we can be ambitious and visionary in our targets, and mean that we can make valuable contributions to solving societal challenges. I would like to thank you for this.

Intense work is being carried out on the new financial model, which will provide greater transparency and room for more incentives at departmental level. This is a complex task, and we have decided that the current financial model will apply in 2018, and that we gradually implement the new one.

When current and new students commence their classes after the summer holiday, the quarterly structure will be replaced by the new semester structure. I know that revising the academic regulations, course descriptions and teaching programmes for all our degrees has necessitated considerable work at the departments and in the studies administration. I am very pleased with the great efforts you have made in implementing the change. I am sure that the opportunity in the semester structure for a longer academic period and more in-depth study will benefit both students and teachers.

Unfortunately, Aarhus University did not quite reach its target in the institutional accreditation, which was only conditionally positive this time. However, considerable recognition should be given to the work that a large number of employees put into the accreditation process in the past year.

I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate all of you who succeeded during the year in securing funding, ensuring the framework agreement for public sector consultancy during the next four years, publishing ground-breaking research results, signing collaborative agreements with the business sector, and achieving academic and personal targets in other ways. Congratulations on prizes and appointments, successful exam results, completed projects and other successes. These are not only pleasing for you personally, but also for the entire faculty.

ST is a very strong faculty, and we have the potential to become even stronger. Together we have established the basis for this by solving major challenges, and ensuring a sound economy and a strong strategy, and we now have a unique potential for achieving our common goal. This requires commitment, ambition and creativity in addition to the highest level of professionalism, and I know we have it. However, it also means that we must stand together and look after each other. That we all help to create a good workplace with a good work and study environment, where we acknowledge and respect each other, and where we all take active responsibility for promoting well-being and preventing stress in everyday life.

I would hereby like to wish all of you a good summer.

Dean Niels Chr. Nielsen




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