• Iris Hamelink

We’re not just tapping locally but bringing out the best of Europe here

As TNO’s representative on the Steering Board of Inside (formally known as ARTEMIS), Wouter Leibbrandt understands better than most the importance of creating Intelligent Digital Systems together. How can we enable such developments across national and industrial boundaries? Wouter shares his take on what it means to be Inside.




Taming digital beasts

“On one hand, software has vast opportunities because it’s so flexible: the possibility to configure every machine just as the customer wants it and to add functionalities on the fly while these machines still carry out their physical functions. Whether it’s delivering 300 high-quality prints per minute or creating an image of your heart while the surgeon places a stent there, these functions are enormously complicated – but the machines are, to a large extent, digital beasts. How do you tame them?” Wouter asks.

In his role as the head of ESI, an industry and academia-sponsored research centre hosted by TNO, Wouter focuses on the development of new methods and techniques for the design and engineering of high-tech (embedded) systems. “What we do is work with the big Dutch high-tech equipment companies like ASML, Philips, Thermo Fisher Scientific – you name ‘em – on their continuous struggle with the complexity of their systems caused by digitalisation. We develop methodologies together with those industries because there’s a lot of commonalities. What works for ASML works to some extent for Philips.”


Commonalities across borders

As a result of these commonalities, network collaboration and ecosystems of innovation play a crucial role in ESI’s work. And with 246 members across 25 countries in Europe, Inside is there to facilitate this. “The Dutch high-tech industry is special because we have around ten big companies that are world leaders,” explains Wouter. “And just as there are commonalities between different industries within the Netherlands, there are commonalities with the big automotive domain in Germany and with aeronautics in France, for example. There’s a lot we can learn across Europe without necessarily being competitors. In this way, we strengthen something that we have to remain very good at: our digital systems thinking and the translation of this into tangible methodologies that work in industry.”


As an example of past success in this area, Wouter highlights ENABLE S3, a project with 71 partners and a budget of over 16 million euros. By approaching cyber-physical system automation from a rigorous design perspective, this aimed to preserve a high level of quality from the outset and created a validation framework with an expected market potential of 60 billion euros by 2025. “The nice thing was that various application fields, from healthcare to automotive to aircraft, came together and exchanged methodologies,” he notes. “New methodologies rely on new and better algorithms and formalisms that are often initially developed in academia and then have to be applied in real life. What Inside offers is the combination of university research, knowledge institutes like ours and industry itself, and this virtuous circle continuously brings the field further. The benefit is that we’re not just tapping locally but really bringing out the best of Europe here.”

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