As part of the industry association’s management core, the Inside Board plays a decision-making and support role in steering our ambitions towards competitive and sustainable solutions to Europe’s ECS challenges. What is their vision for the future? And how do they intend to take us there? Three new members of the Board – Guido Stephan, Ronald Begeer and Mikel Lorente – introduce themselves and what they hope to contribute to Inside.
Guido Stephan: speaking two technical languages
“I was born in the former GDR when we had the Iron Curtain in Europe,” begins Guido Stephan. “The first five years of my professional life were spent in East Germany as a project manager and software developer for a project that dealt with remote control of power stations. After German reunification, it became obvious to me that it would be good to see ‘the other society’ and move to western Germany, so I joined Bosch.”
Having graduated from the Technical University of Dresden as an engineer of Communication Technology and Computer Science, Guido has spent the intervening years at the intersection of automation and communication. After working on the first generation of digital cordless phones at Bosch, he eventually arrived at Siemens and now serves as the Senior Principle Key Expert for Industrial Digitalisation. When Siemens was first invited to participate in Inside, Guido admits to feeling sceptical: the association seemed to be more focused on robotics than automation. But through a better understanding of embedded intelligence, he now feels that Siemens can deliver much more powerful products to their customers.
“The combination of industrial applications and products with communication technologies really grabbed me,” Guido continues. “This is not only a question of how to connect devices to the cloud but also of how to build devices which are able to interconnect and interact with each other without a cloud connection. I intend to help the Board with this perspective. I’m not experienced in making silicon, but I can say what the requirements are for industrial-grade silicon, for example. Siemens is a system house in a sense that we deliver industrial devices, tools, systems and solutions in many application fields. I can bring requirements for real-time behaviour and industrial IT security. And for automation and communication, I’m familiar with processes and procedures for product development but can also combine this with the latest scientific developments in these two arenas.”
The ability to speak two technical ‘languages’ is a vital skill, as those involved solely in communication or automation frequently struggle to recognise commonalties and touch points which could benefit European industry. And, as Guido notes, his experience of living in two very different societies has given him an enriched perspective on current global challenges, such as the need to improve Europe’s resilience in semiconductor technologies and applications under the Chips Act. “We have to act at a global level from a position of independence – whatever this means,” says Guido. “I’m eager to see how this will be combined with the fact that we’re living in a globalised world. Every region has to come up with a certain kind of independence, but I believe that we also need beneficial relations with the other parts of world.”
“My hope is that a strong Europe will contribute to bringing peace to the world in the future. And I hope that Inside finds its way in its new set-up and becomes part of how Europe understands what it can do better than any other area. This closes the circle to my personal life: as I said, I started my professional career in the former GDR. It was a totally different world and we don’t want it back. One way to prevent this is if every part of society can be part of a strong economy. Inside is making sure that in the next 20 to 30 years, this can happen in Europe.”
Ronald Begeer: taking charge of destiny
Like Guido, Ronald Begeer’s career began in the mid-eighties: after starting out as a software manager at Royal Philips Electronics and spending a later period at NXP Semiconductors, he moved to the Embedded Systems Innovation (ESI) Group – part of the Dutch Organisation for Applied Technologies (TNO) – in 2019. As Deputy Research Manager, he’s now responsible for research, roadmapping and competences. “Part of my job is continuing our contribution to the SRIA and also helping with the transfer from ECSEL to KDT,” explains Ronald. “Having quite some experience in the European network helped me to be elected to the Board, and I strongly think that cooperation at a European level will help Europe to become stronger in the world.”
It was at Philips that Ronald first encountered Inside, then known as ARTEMIS, and began contributing to both projects and roadmaps. “I also organised all of the European projects related to ARTEMIS within Philips,” he continues. “We had tens of projects running in parallel. And, at TNO, I am also often a project partner. I think that my long industrial background is important to being a Board member, but so is being able to bridge the gap between academia and industry. Inside is an interesting environment for such partnerships and a good platform for sharing and speeding up innovation.”
As support for Dutch industry is the main task of ESI, Ronald views participation in Inside as a two-way street through which the Netherlands and Europe can connect their policy roadmaps for mutual economic and societal benefits. And given the tripartite nature of the KDT programme, he also emphasises the opportunity for good relations between the Dutch government, the European Commission and other Public Authorities.
“We’re a small country, not a threat to the bigger ones, so we can play a good role here,” Ronald smiles. “We managed to get a lot of joint innovation and new knowledge from European projects into both industry and ESI. By contributing to the Research & Innovation Agenda, we could also steer the direction in a way that is needed in Dutch industry. But, as Board members, part of our vision is that we should also do this for the industrial community in Europe, not just for ourselves.”
Looking to the future, Ronald sees both opportunities and uncertainties for Intelligent Digital Systems, especially in activities that complement the Chips Act. Even so, he’s confident that Inside can rise to the challenge. “Digitalisation will play a major role in the future of European industry,” he concludes. “Intelligent Digital Systems will also contribute to societal challenges, including indirectly. For vehicles, it’s obvious: replacing fuel-based motors with electronic motors. For European sovereignty, it’s important to know the vulnerabilities of all the connected digital systems. What we’ve learned is that it’s not just an IT responsibility but that the entire stack of software should be safe if we want to protect our sovereignty. It’s a tough job! But Europe can position itself to stay in charge of its own destiny.”
Mikel Lorente: expertise from an automotive heritage
Despite making up only around 5% of Spain’s population, the Basque Country has an outsized influence on its industrial capacity: this autonomous region is home to around half of Spanish automotive component companies and is responsible for nearly 50% of the automotive supply chain revenues. As CTO of ACICAE-Basque Country Automotive Cluster and AIC-Automotive Intelligence Center, Mikel Lorente is now bringing his expertise from this European hub to the Board of Inside.
“AIC is a European open innovation centre for the mobility sector, working as a unique partner for companies to improve their competitiveness through cooperation. 30 companies from ten different countries and 1000 highly qualified professionals are based at the centre,” Mikel explains. “In order to encourage and consolidate cooperation, companies locate their innovation, training, R&D or industrial development activities at the AIC facilities. They work independently but also in coordination in order to come up with projects of common interest in a broad range of areas, such as electrification, manufacturing, system integration and digitisation, among others.”
Such collaboration provides benefits at all levels, from the company up to the continent, and AIC has been complementing this with active participation in many initiatives and projects over the years. In the mobility sector, a number of their key stakeholders are members of Inside, so joining the association represented a clear opportunity to Mikel. “AIC is indeed located in the Basque Country, a region with a long-established automotive heritage and one of the leading industrial regions in Europe, but we work at global level,” he says. “For the past year, we have been participating in European platforms such as ERTRAC and 2ZERO, among others. As Intelligent Digital Systems are key within the automotive industry, we considered it important to become part of the Inside community as a Board member.”
In doing so, AIC is focusing on strategic areas for the future of mobility, particularly the digital transformation of this sector. This can only be done with the support of a strong community of key players along the supply chain, which is what Inside can offer. “At AIC, we promote and develop high added value cooperation projects at a global level,” Mikel continues. “These help key players, such as OEMs and Tier 1s, to reduce their time to market, thereby minimising efforts and risks. With the help of key sectors and organisations, we can shape the future of the community on a larger scale with the ambition to support the strong competitiveness and autonomy of European technology, products and processes with highly qualified professionals.”
By bringing the specific perspective of the automotive sector and reinforcing the strategic agenda with a market-oriented approach, Mikel’s ultimate goal is for Inside to become the reference platform for Embedded Systems, Cyber-Physical Systems and Intelligent Digital Systems at a European level. And with the support of organisations like AIC, this is becoming an increasingly tangible means of boosting the impact of European industry.