• Published on 12 Jan 2016
  • External News

Bert de Colvenaer: Executive Director ECSEL-JU

ARTEMIS-IA cooperates with ECSEL Joint Undertaking as one of its three Public Private Partners. The 1st of January Bert de Colvenaer became the successor of Andreas Wild as Executive Director in ECSEL-JU. What is his vision and aim for the future and what will be his strategy to contribute in further intermingling the different communities from the Associations?  

Could you tell a little bit about your background and career, where you started and how it brought you to your new challenge: Being the Executive director of the ECSEL Joint Undertaking?

Well, I have been working for more than 20 years in the automotive industry, first for Volvo and next for Toyota, where I have been responsible mainly for the automotive powertrain production, from individual high precision machines to the full manufacturing and high quality assembly lines at mass production volumes. I have also established there the Advanced Technology Group, mandated for technology development on fuel cells, robotics, advanced laser and production technologies.  It was a great experience to work for one of the leading Japanese companies, where I was amazed by the continuous pursuit of higher quality, better performance and stronger commitment. When I took up my mandate as Executive director of the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking in 2010, I quickly discovered that, in order to improve the grey perception of public administration services, some of the inertia should be taken out so we could move towards a flexible, responsive and agile Program Office, much more than just a funding agency.

You have been Executive Director of FCH, since it was established. So you are fully familiar with the JU type of organization. What did attract you in ECSEL to go for the Executive Director position of ECSEL?  What differences and similarities between FCH and ECSEL do you observe?

The obvious differences are of course the technology field and the maturity of the very wide industry landscape.  Where the FCH industry is nascent and trying to walk, the ECS Industry is much more diverse, with some parts being firmly rooted in mature manufacturing experience while others branch out into new domains at breathtaking speed.  Many aspects are also similar: the industry and research (RTO) are not always on the same line; the weaker links in the full value chain from supply to applications; an overarching vision which is not perfectly clear and a foggy path on how the European Societal challenges can be pertinently addressed.  In ECSEL, the role of the European Member States is much more pronounced, both financially and operationally. This is something which also the FCH community is keen to implement to a certain degree. But what attracted me personally is the opportunity to keep on working in this same kind of mindset: to build out a European community towards a coherent, successful, cooperative and competitive sector by  applying the youngsters’ dynamic and fresh mentality, as we see actually going on with all social media for example.

What do you consider to be your main challenge as Executive Director of ECSEL?

Referring to the above breath taking speed and in an international, world-wide competitive environment, there are some decisions on directions to be taken here in Europe.  History tells a story; business as usual may not work.  Unless we work intensively together in Europe, take the best of the best to make the best, we will lose our industrial leadership position on the WW map.  This applies to the full ECS value chain, where the chain is only as strong as the weakest link.  My main challenge will be to fully implement the ‘Joint’ aspect of the ECSEL JU, in and with the whole community towards a fertile European ecosystem.  Work together, think together, pay together and succeed together: More Europe for a Smarter Europe. I believe that the Joint Undertaking is at the same time instrumental and catalytic to achieving this.

ECSEL-JU brings together many different groups with different backgrounds next to many countries. It was established from a merge of the ARTEMIS Joint Undertaking, the ENIAC Joint Undertaking and added EPoSS ETP. These three private partners have specific interests from to different member groups that do not always fully match. What will be your approach in further aligning the interests?

In this setup, in any setup, the initial agenda of the individual partners may not be perfectly aligned.  There might be some reason, for the good and the bad.  But the individual partners did initially agree to this setup as they have obviously something in common. 

To plan, show, demonstrate and implement the fruits of this sectorial cooperation in international and fiercely competitive contexts will quite easily convince participating partners towards a stronger and more coherent strategic alignment.  This process may take some time and some strong discussions, but when the industrial benefit of a sectorial cooperation is clear and obvious, commitment to achieve joint objectives may grow effortlessly.  Very simply, I want to show that 1 + 1 + 1 > 3.

To give an example, in the FCH community, we have aligned all the competing OEM’s building fuel cell vehicles to work strongly together to facilitate the roll out of the hydrogen filling stations, the so called ‘H2Mobility Europe’ activities, a model which is now followed in US and Japan.  It is all about cooperation before competition.