Handing over the baton: the once and future Secretary Generals of Inside
The name change from ARTEMIS to Inside isn’t the only major transition this month: after 14 years as Secretary General, Jan Lohstroh will be stepping down and Paolo Azzoni will be taking his place. How did ARTEMIS evolve under his tenure and how will it continue to grow as Inside? Jan and Paolo look back on their careers and forward to their hopes for the association.
From ETP to association
Jan’s involvement with ARTEMIS and ECSEL goes right back to the beginning – to quote former European Commissioner for Information Society and Media Viviane Reding in the first ever ARTEMIS Magazine in June 2008: “I would take this opportunity to thank Jan Lohstroh from ARTEMIS-IA for his considerable help and operational support during the start-up phase of the ARTEMIS Joint Undertaking.” Such support came off the back of a long career at Philips, including responsibility for more than a thousand people as a Senior Vice President at Philips Electronics and a place on the board of Philips Intellectual Properties and Standards, but Jan still had more to give.
“My career began in 1970, when I started in the Philips Research Laboratories at the age of 24. I’m now 75, so I’ve been working for 51 years,” he begins. “Philips had a rule that higher management had to retire at the age of 60 but I still had a lot of energy and was approached for this role as Secretary General. All the contacts I’ve had in ARTEMIS have been very interesting, talking to people at the forefront of industry and making sure that we’re connected to each other in projects. Europe is facing tough competition from the rest of the world in the area we’re in and I think that all the projects we’ve done have helped. Whether it’s been enough, we’ll only know 20 years from now.”
Like his predecessor, Paolo has been with ARTEMIS/Inside since the start. His career has also largely mirrored the development of the association, starting in the area of electronic design automation and gradually shifting to the software domain. This included working with the father of the MQTT protocol, Arlen Nipper, on the creation of a software-oriented division within Eurotech Group in the transition from a pure hardware manufacturer to a provider of solutions for the edge to cloud continuum.
“This was in 2006,” says Paolo, “and we already anticipated the Internet of Things. Across my career, I’ve been able to work in all steps of the ECS value chain, including processes and materials, electronic components and devices, embedded software, integrated systems, systems of systems and applications, so I have a global view. After an exciting period in academia, I joined Eurotech Group to set up a research centre focusing on the areas of embedded and cyber-physical systems, edge computing, IoT and embedded intelligence – all the topics that ARTEMIS also focused on. It was during that period that Eurotech Group became a member of ARTEMIS-IA. You could say that Jan and I represent the living memory of the association, covering both management and technology aspects.”
The intervening years have seen constant evolution for the organisation, starting with its foundation as a European Technology Platform (ETP) by European Commissioner Erkki Liikanen in 2004. “The idea was that the ETPs would deliver strategic research agendas to improve European competitiveness,” Jan explains. “There was a discussion about whether embedded systems should have their own group, so the commissioner asked key people in this area whether they’d be interested. The answer was positive.” The ETPs were loosely organised; in 2007, the Commission’s new concept of Joint Undertakings required a legal construction for its members and ARTEMIS Industry Association was initiated. After seven years, the ARTEMIS Joint Undertaking was combined with the ENIAC Joint Undertaking to create ECSEL. Another seven years later, this will soon give way to Key Digital Technologies (KDT).
“There were many ETPs,” Paolo notes. “For example, Eurotech Group was initially in charge of the ETP for high-performance computing. The idea of ETPs generated the concept that the Commission has to dedicate some budget specifically to advancing projects with higher TRLs and a greater final impact. This can be done only by focusing on more industrially-oriented initiatives. Not all these ETPs had a further evolution into something close to an industry impact, but this did happen to ARTEMIS and later with ECSEL and the KDT.”
A central position in the value chain
Considering the demonstratable achievements during their time with the association – including, for instance, the growth of the ARTEMIS/Inside network to over 240 organisations and the triggering of multi-billion-euro investments via ECSEL – both Jan and Paolo are keen to emphasise the bigger picture over individual memories. As Paolo points out, “it is not a moment in time that differentiates us but something we developed across 15 years or more. The huge difference between this and other European initiatives is that we directly and indirectly influenced a lot of real projects that generated real impact which is documented.”
“What was striking to me,” adds Jan, “was the complicated concept of the Joint Undertaking as a tri-partite construction with funding by the Member States and the Commission together with the associations. This meant a lot of boundary conditions and meetings, but we got it working over time. That was an achievement and we could fund big projects with a lot of impact. Another interesting aspect was that policy-making by the Commission and Member States in the ECS field has taken place together in one room. What I hope is that such an approach will become much more integrated over time because there is a risk that there will be overlaps or gaps across Europe that are needed to make the whole thing work.”
This risk is part of the reasoning behind the association’s change of name and logo, which should better convey the focus on Intelligent Digital Systems – crucial, given that embedded and cyber-physical systems are hidden inside cars, planes, industrial and medical equipment and may therefore go unnoticed by both Public Authorities and consumers. The name change is also an opportunity to highlight what makes Europe unique, such as the European Commission’s drive to maintain security and privacy safeguards in sharp contrast to developments in the US and China.
“Today, we have other challenges, not only technological but also economic and political,” continues Paolo. “For sure, we can start from a solid base in the ECSEL initiative. From there, we can build a completely new initiative which will be able to address and tackle new challenges. For example, we are now aware that it is not a matter of single steps of the value chain; we need to cover the whole chain if we want to win at a global level. This is something we must consider as Inside as we are positioned at the central part of the value chain and have large visibility over it. For me, there is no before and after: Inside is the natural evolution of ARTEMIS into something new.”
The speed of technology
From this central position, Jan and Paolo have grown increasingly aware of the simple fact that modern products and services are too complex to be developed by one company autonomously; across the entire world, organisations must collaborate to provide trustworthy, adaptable, open and evolvable digital solutions. For Inside, this point is compounded by the ubiquitous presence of ECS within such products and services. These are factors which the association must continue to draw attention to if the momentum of the last 14 years is to be maintained.
“I think that it’s good for Europe that you have some platforms and ecosystems where you really meet because we are often so different – so many countries, languages and systems,” says Jan. “It’s a challenge for the associations to bring the best parties together to make sure that we have better results. I have full confidence in Paolo. He knows the area very well and will be capable of bringing parties together for this purpose.”
“It’s sincerely an honour to be the successor of Jan considering what he’s done for the association, for the role he has had for 14 years and for what I have learnt from him. As a successor, you have to do better, and this will not be easy!” laughs Paolo. “I would end on the concept that Jan already explained excellently. There is a lot of work to do in increasing the awareness of the concept of a value chain, or better yet a value network, and in creating a culture of cooperation among European players: value, business opportunities and growth come from diversity and cooperation, while isolation and fragmentation destroy them.”
“In my opinion, we should try to be practical and focus on aspects that can create real positive effects and quickly achieve what I like to call the strategic autonomy of Europe. Indeed, speed, flexibility and adaptation are key factors for European evolution towards the digital age; the association can play an important role in positively influencing the pace at which the community evolves, such as in conceiving, proposing and developing our projects more effectively. These are very frequently not aligned with the market’s speed. It is difficult to say if an association and a Secretary General can solve this, but we can certainly raise it and the first step certainly consists of creating sensitivity and awareness and letting our members believe in it.”
“Time goes so fast,” agrees Jan. “When I started at Philips, there were no personal computers. I had to hand-write my documents and bring them to the typing room. I remember one of my first visits to the United States was about a GPS system, which originated for the locating of ships. It was a huge 19-inch rack of equipment to put on a ship but now you have that functionality in your digital watch. It’s amazing what we can do today and I was lucky to experience this over a very long period. And it’s not over yet.”
Tough times, uncertainty and complex competition are ahead, conclude Jan and Paolo, but it is precisely these conditions that create a sense of urgency, increase responsibility, push us towards cooperation and represent great times for disruptive innovation. In turn, this generates exciting opportunities and brings us to a better and more sustainable future.