Market-oriented research and development is now a pivotal part of corporate strategy at Herrenknecht, a Schwa-nau-based maker of tunnel boring machines. This involves thinking beyond national boundaries, which is now an accepted reality for the company. One example: “Tunconstruct”, a European research project which Herrenknecht has been involved in since 2005, along with 42 partners from 11 EU countries. Its aim: to investigate all aspects of modern tunnel and cavern construction. EU projects are often a huge challenge at an administrative level. Martina Siefert, who is responsible for data analysis and patent research at Herrenknecht, attended a course run by the Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum on submitting applications and project coordination. TRANSFER magazine interviewed her about the experience.
Ms. Siefert, how much experience did you have before the course on submitting applications to the European Commission?
Last year, we actually helped one of our European subsidiaries submit an application successfully. We also have an application in the pipeline under the European Commission’s 7th Research Framework Programme.
Did you meet any difficulties or face any challenges on that occasion?
The main challenges we had concerned the scheduling. There are some application guidelines that have to be adhered to, and coordinating everyone involved in the project is time consuming enough. But at the same time you have to stick to submission deadlines. Pulling together a project of this magnitude takes quite a bit a practice, especially at the beginning.
What was your main motivation for taking part in the course at the Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum?
Once you’ve made the decision to submit an application to the EU, you realise that it’s not easy picking your way through the jungle of provisions and forms. And that’s ignoring the actual work involved in the research project. Not knowing enough about application requirements can quite easily have a negative effect on the evaluation of your application. We went on the course to head off any issues in advance.
So have you been able to apply any of the lessons learnt on the course to everyday practice?
Thanks to the course I feel much better prepared to coordinate everything for submitting an application. And I’ve got a much clearer understanding of the criteria the EU places on such a kind of projects.
The course covers off all the theory, but you also did some exercises, role-play, and group tasks. Did you find you learnt as much through this interactive approach as you would have with more classroom-style lecturing?
If I think back, more than half a year later, I reckon I could describe the individual part played by each participant in the role-play, and do that in more detail than recall the learning content. Indeed, it’s more tangible. In my eyes, the experience reaffirmed the benefits of less structured teaching.