20 years of ITEA

The changing of the guard in the ITEA Steering Group

Double interview with Ronald Begeer and Maria de Álvaro Torán

Ronald Begeer (ESI - TNO) and Maria de Álvaro Torán (Indra) are at the end and beginning of their ITEA Steering Group membership, the former having been ever-present since the early days and the latter having joined just recently. A perfect opportunity for a retrospective from an experienced campaigner and a first impression from a fresh face to ITEA.

Former STG member Ronald Begeer
Ronald Begeer

Ronald is no stranger to new challenges. In fact, he embraces them. But because of this, he has had to bid farewell to his ITEA Steering Group colleagues. Ronald will be familiar to many as the face of Philips in the ITEA Steering Group, but recently his lust for new challenges has taken him out of the industry field and into the research domain of High Tech Systems at ESI (TNO). Given this, and the fact that ITEA is an industry-driven Cluster, it became time for him to step down.

Great opportunity

When interviewed for the ITEA magazine's Community Talk column back in 2016, Ronald was Programme Manager at Philips Research and responsible for the Philips activities in both ITEA and ECSEL. To briefly recap what he said at the time, it was during the transformation period as ITEA 1 became ITEA 2 that Ronald was asked to become the Philips representative in the Steering Group. Ronald had already been involved in CANDELA, an ITEA project that ran between 2003 and 2005, seeing this participation as a good opportunity to network and gain knowledge at the same time. “I saw the potential not only for short-term business impact but also for the development of long-term competences. It was a way to fill in your roadmap. So, in that sense, it was not extra work but an enhancement of the work I was already doing. When later on Jan Bomhof, the Philips member of the Steering Group at that time, decided to stop, I did not hesitate to step into his shoes because I really saw the benefits of becoming a community insider, as it were.”

Three main activities

The Steering Group is, of course, charged with the responsibility of steering the ITEA programme. Ronald explains how it works in practice. “Well, we start by evaluating the Project Outlines and Full Project Proposals and then provide feedback, which gives you the chance to really influence the quality, innovation and marketing of these projects. Through pinpointing these practical aspects, an idea can be turned into a project with impactful results. That's one part of the job. The other is tracking and monitoring the project via reviews and progress reports that help shape the content. It begins from a more informative perspective and gradually becomes increasingly a steering activity as the project progresses.” These are the two formal activities, but Ronald explains that the contribution goes beyond the project focus. “There is an important third activity in which I have been involved, and that is helping to formulate the Living roadmap and evaluating the State-of-the-Art (SotA) documents that are components of the Living roadmap. So, in brief that sums up the task of the Steering Group members.”

Same core values in a 'smart' new world

Over the years, Ronald has witnessed a lot of projects at first hand, “and they have taught me a lot, too! I have been able to enhance my own knowledge across a very diverse range of domains. From engineering and automotive to security and healthcare. And I have seen a lot of changes, especially in the world in which ITEA operates, from economic crisis to the emergence of a 'smart' new world and while the organisation is still relatively compact, it now has a much broader geographical reach than when I first started. But the values have changed very little. Collaboration and trust, constructiveness and commitment, informality and collegiality are still very much at the core of relationships within the ITEA 'family'.”

Family

“ITEA calls itself a family, and being part of it, there is certainly a feeling of being in a family. Work hard, play hard, and most of all, enjoy the company of the people around you. That, for me, is the main highlight. The people you get to know. People from completely different backgrounds, whether educational, professional, cultural. I have discovered how Scandinavians survive their winters and how Spaniards can still get their work done even though they take out a big chunk of the day with a siesta! I remember that my first Italian food experience came though ITEA when we had a Steering Group meeting in Milan. I like technical innovation, people and travel. It always makes me proud when ITEA project results have impact on the market. With such a broad international canopy, ITEA allows me to feast on my interests!”

Being part of ITEA, there is certainly a feeling of being in a family: Work hard, play hard, and most of all, enjoy the company of the people around you.
Being part of ITEA, there is certainly a feeling of being in a family: Work hard, play hard, and most of all, enjoy the company of the people around you.

Continuity link

Ronald joined ITEA at more or less the same time as Rudolf Hagenmüller became Chairman. “But what most people probably don't know is that when I joined, Rudolf's successor and current Chairwoman, Zeynep, was head of a company that was part of a project for which I was Programme Manager within Philips. And if I remember rightly, she and her team also won a prize. That would have been in 2006. So we knew each other well before she rose to the lofty heights within ITEA,” Ronald smiles. “Back then she already demonstrated her leadership qualities. Besides her technical contributions, she organised the project's social gatherings too. So I guess that it was inevitable that Zeynep would eventually head this family in which happiness, according to Rudolf, is such a strength.”

Inquisitive

But now, as already mentioned, Ronald has had to withdraw from his role in the Steering Group, and in many ways that is down to one of the factors that made it so special to him: curiosity. “I have always been very inquisitive,” he says. “It stood me in good stead as a Steering Group member but it is also the underlying reason why I stepped down. My curiosity to discover new things led me to look for new challenges. And when I happened to get into a conversation with a former colleague of mine on a train travelling from Brussels, I became intrigued by the work he was doing at ESI, a department of TNO, the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research. To cut a long story short, an opening appeared and I took full advantage of it. Since May this year I have been Senior Project Manager at ESI in Eindhoven supporting the Dutch High Tech Systems industry with methodologies for improved system development, and, given the nature of the beast, my job was not commensurate with my role as an ITEA Steering Group member. As ESI is also involved in ITEA as an RTO, I will continue being part of the ITEA family and be involved in future projects too. So while my inquisitive nature meant having to step outside the Steering Group as an active member, curiosity is a characteristic that every Steering Group member should have. And for all the newcomers to this role, I would say: enjoy discovery on all kinds of levels, from new innovative technology to travel, culture and, at the very top of the list, people!” It is this kind of knowledge and experience that Ronald and his more seasoned colleagues are passing on that is becoming a legacy for the process of renewal, and which is always a vital component of progress. Taking that legacy further is Maria de Álvaro Torán, a very recent 'acquisition' as a reviewer in the Steering Group activities.

In the middle of everything

New STG member Maria de Alvaro
Maria de Alvaro

Maria works as a Programme Coordinator at Indra, one of Spain's leading global technology and consulting companies and the technological partner for key business operations of its customers worldwide in specific market segments from transport to defence and from healthcare to information and digital technologies. “We have a high-value focus and a strong innovation component,” Maria explains. “Just to give you an idea of the scope, with around 40,000 employees and a local presence in 46 countries and business operations in over 140 countries, you can imagine that with all the different divisions having an R&D team to support their commercial activities, I really am in the middle of everything here! It's my job to advise our staff that wish to participate in projects to achieve specific results on what their best options are, in terms of funding, networks, domains, and so on.”

Fresh face

While Maria's contacts with ITEA began in 2009, it is only recently that she has been at the Steering Group table. “I guess I'm a pretty fresh face when it comes to the ITEA Steering Group. It was just a couple of years ago that the coordinator within Indra for ITEA changed his job and left me with the baton in my hand … so I took over the next leg,” Maria says. “My direct collaboration with ITEA began in 2016 but I was already pretty familiar with ITEA projects and their aims, acting as a kind of conduit for our researchers and others who were and are keen to join particular projects. In that sense, therefore, I was very much involved with the whole procedure of an ITEA project, from start to finish. Which is a really good way of getting to know ITEA. Nowadays, I have more contact with the people at the ITEA Office and I share these contacts with a colleague of mine who is stationed in Brussels and with whom I hold regular meetings to ensure that we are on the same page.”

Lubricating the market

“Currently we are not involved directly in any ITEA projects – that's largely a national funding issue. I hope this will change in the future. The fact that we are not participating as a company in ITEA at the moment takes nothing away from the importance of ITEA as a platform. I think it is a vital lubricant in the way companies can work together with the authorities and academia to achieve things they would otherwise not be able to do. And the fact that this is a Europe-wide, or even global, network. It means that through ITEA, there is the possibility to have an impact on the market, on society and on the goals and priorities we are setting for the future.”

I really enjoy the aspect of passing on my expertise and experience to others
I really enjoy the aspect of passing on my expertise and experience to others

Constructive coaching

“I am very happy to be contributing to this effort in my role as a reviewer in the Steering Group. I really do derive value from my work as a reviewer. It's very interesting work, seeing all the different kinds of projects being done all around the world. Working in a company like Indra where there are so many different technologies, you learn so much, not just about the technologies themselves and the innovations being generated but also about the processes, approaches and, especially, the people themselves. So the work I do in my day job, as it were, helps me in my Steering Group role to enable project partners get a Full Project Proposal off the ground, improve and keep a focus on the results. In a constructive way. That is the job of a reviewer, I believe. We coach – it's what I do anyway on a daily basis, so it's a great fit with my work. I really enjoy that aspect of it, passing on my expertise and experience to others.”

Thanks to my older brothers!

“It has also given me the opportunity to get to know a lot of contacts around Europe. You never quite know who or what you may come across. There is always the possibility of meeting potential partners with whom you can collaborate in the future. And, of course, you get to know the other reviewers. You feel like you are part of one big extended family. I remember my first Steering Group meeting. It was a bit hectic around that time for me, but I still felt I had to be present because I knew that by being there I could become informed about how such meetings go. And it was great. It was like a big family meeting where your older brothers show you what should happen and how you should behave. I felt as if everybody was there for me.”